Members of the Inter-Party Dialogue Committee (IPDC) in the Offinso Municipality were engaged by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) on 19th October 2021 at the Offinso Municipal Assembly Hall to stand up and empower Ghanaians on National Cohesion and inclusive participation in governance.
The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) in collaboration with the Ministry of National Security is embarking on a series of community sensitization activities including Inter-Party Dialogue Committee (IPDC) meetings under the theme ‘’ Empowering Ghanaians to stand for National Cohesion and Inclusive Participation.
As important stakeholders, political parties have an important role to play in forging national cohesion, peace, and security in the municipality.
Mr. Emmanuel Oduro, Municipal Director of NCCE in his welcome address expressed his infinite appreciation for the time taken off their busy schedule to attend the meeting in their numbers. He informed the participants on the broad theme of the Commission for the year as ‘’We are one, Ghana first’ which is calling on Ghanaians to the fact that they are one people with a common destiny and that national interest must supersede ethnic and all other forms of personal sentiments.
The Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) Ashanti Region Mad. Margaret Konama addressed the participants on the position of NCCE in organizing such programmes.
According to her NCCE is undertaking community awareness creation activities in identifying early warning signals of extremist violence, peace-building mechanisms, and measures to counter radicalization among the youth. She again said that the engagement was partly meant to address the tensions being created by the activities of violent extremist groups and prevent the likelihood of democratic relapse. She cited examples like Boko haram, ISIS among others in the neighbouring countries like Nigeria, and others terrorising innocent people, culminating in the death of countless souls day in day out.
Mad Konama again said if care is not taken the same could happen in Ghana. She quoted article 41 (c) of the 1992 Constitution which talked about peace and said without national integration peace cannot work. She stressed on the importance of security as a prerequisite for national development. She later advised the participants not to rest on their oars but rather work hard to ensure peace and security for development to have its way.
The chairman, Nana Osei Bediako (Dwenedabihene II) in his opening remark welcomed members to the meeting and urged them to cooperate with him to make the programme a successful one. He said as a committee it is imperative to meet often to discuss issues facing the Municipality and to look for ways the majority of the people would be reached with the education. He hammered on unity and cooperation among the various political parties for peace and progress in the municipality and the country of Ghana as a whole. He also conveyed to the participants the compliment of the Offinso Paramount chief, the Queen mother, and all the elders of Offinso stool. He accepted the chairmanship position and sought for cooperation of the entire members to enable him to carry on with the task entrusted to him.
Assistant Superintendent of Police in the Offinso District (ASP) Joseph Tei educated the participants on violent extremism. According to him, violent extremism refers to the activity of individuals or groups conducting acts by any means to express views that justify terrorist violence. This includes people who encourage people to engage in terrorist acts. Eg of such groups are; Al shabab, ISIS, Tailban, Boko haram.
He went on to say that no nation can progress without security. He said individual security should be their first responsibility before the national one. He said Terrorism and Violent Extremism remain an increasingly high threat to the economy, and that the military operations and security measures alone are not enough to defeat terrorism and extremism attacks.
He went on to say that politics is one of the major causes of violence and admonished the participants to tolerate each other’s views especially the politicians. He then talked against vigilantism saying that it is now a criminal offence punishable by law.
He asked the participants especially the politicians to stick to the Public Order Act 1994, Act 491 and to stop defacing opponent’s posters. He went on to say that chiefs should try and involve the police in their major activities like enstoolment of chiefs while simultaneously alerting the police of any criminal activity or anybody suspected to be a criminal in their community. He also advised the media to be circumspect in their reportage as it can also inflame passion.
ASP Joseph went ahead to talk about the preventive measures of this violent extremism. These measures are; Community surveillance, Awareness creation at worship centers, possible signs of radicalization, Neighborhood watch/community patrol, and what to do during an attack.
According to him, community surveillance is an active process of community participation in detecting, reporting, responding to, and monitoring events in the community. It also includes a process to report rumors and misinformation of unusual public events occurring in the community.
On awareness creation at worship centres, ASP Joseph said, that leaders of various worship centers should let their members know the current security situation in their communities by inviting police from time to time to give security talks to their members. He said they also create networks to offer an opportunity to members to learn about issues and actions that impact the environment and security.
On possible signs of radicalization, ASP Joseph said, are when one becomes increasingly argumentative, refusing to listen to different points of view, unwilling to engage with different people, becoming abusive to others who are different, and embracing conspiracy theories. These people always like to distance themselves from their friends, convert their religion, become secretive and reluctant to discuss their whereabouts, sympathetic to extremist ideologies and groups, and indulge in drugs and alcoholism. He advised them to be mindful of such people in their community.
On neighborhood watch and police patrols, he said the community members should link up with the police to form a team that would counter and attack these extremists. He said they should put their eyes on the ground and report any activity they suspect to trigger violence for the police to act swiftly.
ASP Joseph brought his presentation to a conclusion by informing the participants on what to do when attacked. He said that one can call the police on toll-free numbers like 191/18555, fire service line 192/193, National Security line 0299014552, and the call will be responded to accordingly.
If all these measures are put in place, Ghana would be able to reduce the occurrence of violent extremism and terrorist attacks