West Africa Center for Counter Extremism – National Security Dialogue – Remarks by Ambassador Sullivan

Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan together with other speakers at the event. Photo credit: GBCOnline

Ambassador’s Remarks at the National Security Dialogue

West Africa Center for Counter Extremism

Ghana Broadcasting Corporation

Friday, September 10, 10:50 a.m.

Good morning!

I’d like to start by thanking GBC and WACCE’s Executive Director, Mr. Mutaru Muqthar, for the invitation to speak this morning on this important topic.  I want to recognize Mr. Muqthar as a 2016 alumnus of the prestigious U.S. government Mandela Washington Fellowship, that is part of the Young African Leaders’ Initiative, or YALI, for which we do annual competitive recruitment for young leaders age 35 and under in entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and public administration. For more details on this and other opportunities, please see the U.S. Embassy website or social media pages.

Mr. Muqthar was selected for his proven leadership and positive contributions to his community, and we’re so pleased to see how he’s continued to shine.  Thank you, Mutaru, for your dedicated work through WACCE to empower youth and inspire leadership in peace, human rights, and good governance in Ghana. I’d also like to thank all of the distinguished speakers and participants present, as well as those who are watching on GBC. I also join in my thanks to the Chair for the minute of silence. I appreciate the incisive remarks made by today’s speakers so far.

Tomorrow, we mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and mourn the nearly 3,000 lives taken too soon.  More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, including Ghana, which lost two Ghanaians and two Ghanaian Americans.  The people who perished in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the field in Shanksville, PA – including the heroic first responders who rushed to trouble and gave their lives to help others – left behind loved ones and communities who were never the same.  We honor their lives and their memory on this solemn occasion and mourn what we all lost on that terrible day.

I had just returned to the United States the month before, from my previous assignment in Ghana, and had started my new job at the Department of State only days before.  In the midst of the surreal silence of the skies, when all air traffic suspended for several days, what really heartened us as Americans was the global outpouring of goodwill and solidarity.

Today we gather in that same spirit of solidarity and collaboration to address a common threat to our shared peace and stability.  Violent extremism threatens our democratic institutions, our collective security, and our economic prosperity.  Together, we must prevent this global scourge and counter violent extremism where it has already taken root.  Building on the lessons of the last 20 years, we know we need to employ a sustainable and agile approach that includes sharing intelligence, building global partnerships, and most importantly, investing in inclusive development – and that means inclusive of the youth as well –  accountable governance, preventive diplomacy, and professionalism in the security services in ways that make it harder for terrorists to recruit and operate with impunity.

Ghana is a regional leader in peace and security, especially through its contributions to international peacekeeping missions and as current chair of ECOWAS. But as the earlier speaker noted, Ghana can’t take peace for granted, and I’d like to add that Ghana shouldn’t export all its peace!

The United States is deeply committed to collaborating with Ghana to maintain peace and security.  We recognize that a multifaceted approach is fundamental to prevent and counter violent extremism. To that end, we are partnering with Ghanaians in a number of areas ranging from: working with the public sector and civil society organizations, supporting vulnerable communities, to engaging in traditional military-to-military activities.

Ghana’s National Framework for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and Terrorism in Ghana guides our programs, which are aligned with Ghana’s strategy to Prevent, Preempt, Protect, and if necessary, Respond, and with Ghana’s new National Security Strategy.

The most important programs are those that support Ghana’s efforts to prevent violent extremism from taking hold.  Through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we are helping to reduce extremists’ ability to radicalize, recruit, mobilize, and inspire violent acts.  USAID supports the development of early warning indicators from communities, engagements with regional security councils, public education on non-violence, and other activities aimed at Preventing Violent Extremism. As my grandmother often said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

We also have a number of projects aimed at enhancing the value chain to improve economic opportunities, such as supporting the Global Shea Alliance and Mobilizing Finance for Agriculture, to name just two.

When it comes to preempting violent extremism in Ghana, the United States is working closely with the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) to identify risks and uncover threats.  Our programs are designed to help enhance a sustainable capability within the GAF to process, analyze, and disseminate intelligence to decisionmakers so that they can rapidly respond to emerging threats.

We believe the best results can be achieved when civilian and military institutions work together to prevent and counter violent extremism.  At Ghana’s request, the United States has dedicated a Civil Military Support Element to work alongside Ghana Armed Forces leaders in that effort.  Here, let me stress that the professionalism of the security services is of vital importance. The 2017 UNDP report called “Journey to Extremism in Africa” found that 71 percent of those recruited and radicalized in Sub-Saharan Africa had become that way after they, or someone close to them, had had a serious negative interaction with government security personnel.

In terms of protection, the United States is working closely with the Government of Ghana to assist security services with protecting vulnerable areas and populations.  Paramount among these activities is our partnership with Ghana through the Security Governance Initiative or SGI, which I co-chair with my fellow panelist National Security Coordinator Major General Adu-Amanfoh.  SGI focuses on supporting Ghana’s interministerial efforts to improve the management, accountability, and sustainability of security sector institutions and strengthen border security to prevent violent extremism from spilling over Ghana’s borders. SGI also has a maritime security, cybersecurity, and underlying administration of justice focus.

Finally, as a last resort, it is important that Ghana be prepared to respond to violent extremist or terrorist attacks.  To that end, the United States is partnering with Ghana to provide training on crisis response and counterterrorism operations. Ghana has been invited to participate in Exercise Flintlock in 2022 and to host the exercise in 2023.  Exercise Flintlock is a U.S.-led exercise that includes participants from more than 30 African countries and partner nations to strengthen their ability to cooperatively counter violent extremist organizations, protect their borders, and support regional stability.

None of our work would be possible without collaboration from committed partners and stakeholders like all of you joining this forum.  Today’s event is a significant step in our collective efforts to address root causes and find solutions to preventing extremism.  I look forward to the insights from the panel and the discussion.

Thank you for your kind attention and for this 20th anniversary commemoration of the horrific attacks of 9/11 that changed the world for all of us.