MONROVIA – Against the backdrop of the havoc being wrecked on the lives of many people in Africa by terrorism and violent extremism, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor has challenged ECOWAS parliamentarians to take firm and concrete actions to combat the menace while also expressing deep solidarity with African Countries that have suffered “these barbaric attacks that shock the core of our existence and revealed the total disregard for human life.
Speaking at the “High-level Parliamentary Conference on Youth Engagement in Counter-Terrorism and Prevention of Violent Extremism in Africa taking place in Lome, Togo and organized by the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, Madam Howard Taylor who had asked the participants to stand up to observe a moment of silence in honor of all those who have lost their lives and their inner peace; as a result of terrorism across our region and Continent told the audience that “this fight must be executed concomitantly; with all sides playing their crucial Roles and Responsibilities, the relevant components include Parliaments; the Executive; the Judiciary; Civil Society Organizations and most importantly the Family Units and Structures”.
“Some years ago, this fight against Terrorism and Violent Extremism; seemed to be just a fight for National Security actors; not taking cognizance of the key roles and responsibilities that the entire spectrum must play. Thankfully there is now a new mindset which requires all hands on deck.
“Parliamentarians – are in a crucial position as they have law and policy-making prerogatives; WHICH include Resource-Allocation, Implementation and Accountability across the spectrum of preventive response and sanctioning mechanisms. Their empowerment and sensitization can also lead to a transformational shift towards Democratic Governance, which can address some of the grievances feeding violent extremism.
“In a collective manner, they can work to bring about a critical mass of concrete political actions enhancing and cementing the existence of a Global Parliamentary Constituency in support of efforts preventing and countering violent extremism, including stabilization programming, strategic counter-messaging, preventing the recruitment of foreign fighters, stopping the financing of those violent extremist groups and, as required and permitted under International Law, taking proportionate military action”, VP Taylor said.
While identifying conditions which propel terrorism and violence, VP Taylor said truthfully, nothing justifies terrorism and violent extremism, but the leaders must also acknowledge that they do not arise in a vacuum, adding that narratives of grievance, actual or perceived injustice and promised empowerment become attractive wherever human rights are being violated, good governance is being ignored and aspirations are being crushed.
Madam Taylor, who said she was thoughtful about the outcome of the conference, urged the participants to also consider all the conditions which form the basis for extremism and do their best to engender new conditions which propel peaceful coexistence.
“These conditions include but are not limited to ill governance, lack of transparency, corruption, impunity, economic underdevelopment; inequities, inequalities, marginalization, lack of youth inclusive policies, lack of proper educational policies which propel innovation and commerce, national authorities’ failure to deliver basic, affordable and accessible public services; porous borders; fallout from frontline states in the Global War on Terror; the export of Islam’s deadly Sunni-Shia (Saudi-Iranian) rivalry into West Africa; terrorists’ plundering of natural resources; and climate change-induced farmer-herder conflict, lack of strong family structures, lack of positive role models, hopelessness, injustice, promised but delayed empowerment, exclusion, abuse and violence against women and girls, lack of education and poverty and abuse of power, amongst other issues”, she said.
The Vice President further said that it is clear to see that radicalization, terrorism and conflict cannot be resolved through enforcement alone; but through a holistic, well-funded inclusive campaignat all levels; underpinned by respect for human rights and backed by strong political will at all levels “including the family level. for the peace, development and security of all of Africa must remain our top priority; especially as the continent’s population is set to explode in a few years. It is therefore imperative that this conference addresses the drivers and enablers of violence which are conducive to terrorism”.
“As we search for the strategies and plans to defeat this menace on our doorsteps; I believe we must also consider African Solutions to this menace; as our forefathers dealt with problems of their day; so much so that they were able to manage all threats to the person, community and society. Madam Speaker, Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; please permit me to say without fear or favor; that in formulating processes to eliminate violence and extremism, 2groups must be mobilized:
“Women must be fully engaged and empowered; especially as economic drivers, as influences, as agents of peace and leaders, thus circling back to the center point of -gender equality as a sine qua non to sustained peace and security.
“We must find practical ways and means to harness the creativity, energy and the power of our young people; to strengthen resilience against terrorism and to help build a more just and inclusive societies”, she said.
Proffering some solutions to the problem, Madam Taylor noted that keeping in mind that 1.3 billion of the African youth are under the age of 35 and nearly half are under the age of 15, there was a critical need to make strategic investment in the young people through increased access to strategic education which helps Africa harness its vast natural and human Resources and provide training and employment opportunities in the private sector.
“Indeed, job creation for young people must be at the center of any strategy for the elimination of violent extremism. Especially with the rise of misinformation on social media and the Internet, young people also need information and empowerment in order to denounce manipulative narratives, xenophobia and hate speech, which can all lead to online radicalization.
“We must never lose focus on the fact that if these strategic and targeted policies are not implemented; we run the risk of losing our future. The young men and women of Africa are alert and vibrant. This generation of young leaders is the most advanced and educated in human history. We must work and empower them to become a “FORCE” of positive and transformational “CHANGE”!!
“Madam Speaker, Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen; it is my prayer that as this forum seriously considers the ways and means to eliminate violence and extremism across our Continent; that it will seriously consider the inclusion of a platform which will put into place legislation and financing for the support to victims and survivors of terrorism, including victims of sexual violence and children exploited by terrorist groups. Thus putting a humane face to those who continue to be harmed and helping to reduce the damage done to suffering communities and families and individuals.
“In closing Madam Speaker; may I add another angle to this debate… the need for all AFRICAN Parliaments to ensure the ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement which is a strong framework for enhanced cooperation and industrialization across our Continent. This is a real framework for job creation and enhanced economic opportunities for the youth of Africa. It is an opportunity which I believe provides real, tangible, sustained solutions which Africa needs”, she concluded.