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Ghana's Susceptibility to Radicalism and Recruitment of Muslims by Radical Groups
Recent news about Islamic State (IS) recruitment in Ghana not only speaks volume of the organization's growing global network and influence, but the vulnerability of Ghana to the infiltration of radical groups and their ideologies. Ambassador D.K Osei of the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy once asked me what I think about Ghana's susceptibility to the activities of radical groups, considering the fact that West Africa and the Sahel now constitute a fertile ground for such groups. I opined that, Ghana though has a significant Muslim population and economic challenges, recently discovered oil and geography places it close to Nigeria, Mali and Niger, operational factors required for radicalization of Muslims and recruitment by radical groups do not exist. Over the years the Government of Ghana has demonstrated a strong commitment to bridging the economic differences among its citizens and ensuring regional development balance through good governance and policies like Savanna Accelerated Development Programmes, Capitation Grant, Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty, Millennium Development Goals, National Health Insurance Scheme and many more. Ghana has also enjoyed a relatively peaceful political atmosphere in what is largely referred to as a theater of violence (West Africa).
The activities of militant groups like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram have raised serious security concerns in West Africa. The geography of West Africa makes governance and effective policing of the region difficult. The poorly administrated Sahara desert does not only provide an ideal platform for the practice and spread of radical and violent ideologies, but it also makes fighting radicalism very difficult.
The nature of borders of West African countries, guarded by corrupt officials makes it easy for the movement of radical groups. There is high level of corruption at immigration points and police barriers in West Africa. Many borders in West Africa are informal and unmanned. Therefore radical groups could use porous borders to ignite insurgency in other countries.
A number of studies have linked poor political and resource governance to insecurity in West Africa. Bad governance is reflected in the challenge of utilizing natural resources for the benefit of all and the inability of government to provide basic amenities for its citizens. Most states in West Africa are weak and fragile, and lack the capacity to provide sufficient security to deter the activities of extremists. Making the region a strategic ground for terrorist organizations to mobilize and recruit members. In Nigeria and Mali for instance, bad governance largely accounts for violent campaigns by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and the Tuareg rebels.
But understanding radicalism must go beyond economic marginalization and the dominance of Muslims within a particular geographical territory to include other factors as the quest to establish an Islamic state or impose Islamic values by a group and other political and historical factors. Also, though radicalism and violence in Ghana over the years have remained sectarian and not directed to the state and its institutions, it cannot be concluded that is Ghana is immune to radicalism and violence in the future. Radicalization and recruitment by radical groups has assumed a different dimension with the development of technology. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Whats App have enabled radical groups to easily reach a gargantuan number of audiences at a goal. Breaking the economic, security and geographical challenges these radical groups face on the one hand while making it easy to access the teachings of these groups on the other hand. This is the state in which Ghana and many other countries find themselves.
The Process of Radicalization
Silber and Bhatt (2007) identified four stages in the process of radicalization.
The pre-radicalization stage is where individuals are attracted to radical thoughts. According to Silber and Bhatt, very often people who live, work and pray in Muslim communities of common ethnicity dominate this stage. What may account for their vulnerability to radicalization may vary from gender, age, social status, as well as psychological factors.
The self-identification stage often involves individuals who are socially, economically or politically marginalized in their societies. At this stage, individuals are exposed to a plethora of teachings and interpretations in his inquiry. Vehicles for these exposures may include family ties or old friendships, social networks, religious and political movements, or extremist-like discussions in shops and cafes.
At the indoctrination stage, there is a progressive intensification of the beliefs of an individual. Here, jihadi ideologies are wholly adopted and concluded. An enquiry of the conditions and circumstances which requires the application of these views is not important here.
The last stage is the jihadi stage. Here, an individual is regarded as a holy warrior and readily accepts the duty to participate in jihad.
Fighting Radicalization in Ghana
Ghana's intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies must be resource and empowered to be able to monitor cyber activities that constitute a threat to security of the country. Cybercrime has become a resort for most unemployed youth and it is the most significant platform for spreading radical ideologies and recruitment by radical groups.
Parents, schools and other civil society organizations have a role to play to ensure that, people under their guidance do not have contact with groups of organizations with radical groups.
Ghana must pay a critical attention to the economic development if the fight against the radicalization will be achieved. While the issue of youth unemployment must be given urgent attention by the government, economic opportunities must be created for the marginalized population especially the poor in order to make them resilient to the influence of radical groups.
Ghana must work to ensure the proper implementation of anti-terrorism frameworks such as the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Act meant to address such security threats. Fighting radical Islamist groups must necessarily involve depriving them of their funding sources and financing networks.
There is also the need for cooperation and coordination between intelligence and law enforcement agencies of other West African countries especially on border issues. This will help deny radical Islamist the opportunity to propagate their ideologies and establishing links in areas where they do not exist.
The influx of educational and charitable institutions from the Gulf States should be a matter of concern for both government and the office of the National Chief Imam. Links with such groups can expose an individual to a plethora of violent and fanatical views on the doctrines of Islam.
Finally, in fighting radicalism it is important to eschew the thinking that a particular religion, culture or civilization is a hot bed for extremist terrorist ideology.
By Mohammed Mubarik
A former student of the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy
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