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Build trust between security agencies and citizens to combat violent extremism

Mr Jeroen Verheul, Ambassador of the Netherlands Embassy in Ghana says security agencies must work at winning the full trust of citizens to enhance their fight against violent extremism.

‘If there is mistrust between citizens and security services, they won’t?report suspicious behaviour they notice within their communities. If you want to have an effective campaign, you need to enhance the trust between the population and security services,’ he said.

The Ambassador said this on Wednesday during the launch of the second phase of the Prevention of Violent Extremism through Social Accountability (PoVETSA) Project in Accra.

PoVETSA II, the follow-up of PoVETSA I, will continue to respond to threats of violent extremism and terrorism in Northern Ghana by addressing the fundamental causes of these issues while encouraging social cohesion and inclusive peacebuilding among civilians and security actors.

A key finding of the PoVESTA I project was the continued mistrust between citizens and security agencies in the
districts studied.

The study found that 41 per cent of males and 21 per cent of females have mistrust of security agencies.

The second phase of the project is being carried out by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in collaboration with the National Peace Council (NPC) and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), with funding from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

It will place a major emphasis on fostering trust between civilians and security personnel ahead of the December 7, 2024, parliamentary and presidential elections.

It will also target the Fulbe tribe to enhance social cohesion among host communities and trust in national security actors.

The project is part of a long-term effort to develop social accountability systems and create inclusive dialogue towards peace in Ghana.

Mr Verheul urged stakeholders to work together to prevent terrorism from becoming a reality in Ghana.

He expressed worry over the presence of political vigilante groups, saying this suggested that polit
ical parties or election candidates had doubts about the country’s security apparatus.

According to the Ambassador, 62 politically related vigilante groups exist in the Savanah region alone.

He stated that the existence of those vigilante organizations created an opening for Jihadist infiltration, which must be addressed urgently.

In a speech read on his behalf, Major General Richard Addo Gyane, Commandant of KAIPTC, said the Centre recognised the crucial importance preventive measures played in ensuring peace and security.

He said that KAIPTC had a long history of commitment to capacity building, research, and collaboration in the fields of peacekeeping and conflict resolution and that it would assist the initiative by offering specialised expertise and assistance for comprehensive capacity building.

The Commandant said the Centre would also contribute to tailored courses that equip defence and security actors and community leaders with effective conflict resolution strategies.

He said no single organi
zation can adequately manage the complex challenges of violent extremism and terrorism, and that alliances would benefit entities in combating emerging threats.

Source: Ghana News Agency