Countering Violent Extremism in West Africa and the Sahel

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Violent extremism is fueled by factors including transnational drug trade, arms trade and human trafficking. H.E. Dr. Jerome Bougouma insisted that communities and civil society as a whole are indispensable to preventative measures against violent extremism. H.E. Dr. Bougouma recommended societies engage with religious leaders and traditional chiefs, who have local influence, to reach larger groups of people with messages of resilience and human rights. Rather than reacting to violent extremism the international community must approach terrorism with preventative initiatives to ensure the safety and security of every citizen. H.E. Ambassador Peterson agreed that the struggle against terrorism cannot be met simply through military means; it also requires understanding and dialogue between peoples, state actors and stakeholders.

Mr. Khan encouraged a focus on those socially and politically excluded within a community, particularly the youth, as inclusive governance transforms societies and unites them. Reaching out to the marginalized promotes dialogue amongst differing cultures and this communication eliminates the fog of hate and misunderstanding that leads to violence. Mr. Bombande expressed the dire need to close the generational gap surrounding misconceptions of extremist ideology amongst the youth. Mr. Bombande discussed the European role as aid providers to engage the attention of the youth in West Africa and the Sahel through activities such as the sports and arts. Mr. Millar criticized the international community for waiting as situations completely deteriorate before intervention and action; evidenced through the terrorist abduction of hundreds of girls in Nigeria. The lack of effective response demonstrated in Nigeria makes the region vulnerable to emerging criminal groups who have witnessed this weak governance in West Africa. Dr. Loada suggested that divisions amongst societies are due to powerful leaders surpassing their constitutional term limits. Leaders were encouraged to resist the power temptation for constitutional term amendments, which create volatile political disputes and divides citizens.

Meeting Title: Countering violent extremism and promoting community engagement in West Africa and the Sahel: Strengthening multilateral engagement
Speakers: H.E. Dr. Jerome Bougouma, H.E. Ambassador of Denmark Ib Petersen, Mr. Jehangir Khan, Mr. Alistair Millar, Mr. Emmanuel Bombande, Dr. Augustin Loada, Mr. Jesper Steen Pedersen
Location: United Nations HQ, Conference Room 5 NLB, New York
Date: 12 June 2014
Written by WIT representative: Sophia Griffiths-Mark

Preventing Another Rwanda in Our Future

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 15 January 2014

Key figures that were involved in the genocide in Rwanda twenty years ago have gathered to seek further prevention and change towards future atrocities. The Ambassador from Rwanda began by inviting, “the world to remember,” the significance of lives that were lost during the genocide. She then discussed the positive change that has taken place in Rwanda since the time of genocide, such as an increased life expectancy among civilians and a total of 1 million making their ways out of poverty. The Deputy General of the United Nations, Mr. Jan Aliasson, pointed out that Syria is in a similar situation that Rwanda was placed in twenty years ago and continued to warn for another possible genocide event in Syria.

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The Force Commander of the UN Mission for Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire, gave an inspiring speech reminding everyone that children cannot and should not be used as an instrument for war. He pointed out the irony, that he was back in the same room that he had been in twenty years ago, remarking on the same genocide event, except back then, there was a much smaller audience and less interest in the issue. Ms. Eugenie Mukeshimana, the Founder and Executive Director of the Genocide Survivors Support Network, shared her own childhood experience during the years of genocide. She emphasized the security she felt by having the Belgian soldiers by her side, and went on to state the importance of educating the next generation about the cruelty of crimes so that a child born today can look at the world differently twenty years later. The speakers came to agree that a genocide should not be in anyone’s future, and that we must do everything we can to prevent the upcoming generations from having to experience such crime.

Meeting Title: Special Event on Understanding Early Warning of Mass Atrocities Twenty Years after the Genocide in Rwanda (co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Rwanda, the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, and the Department of Public Information (DPI))

Key Speakers: Representative from Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Ambassador from Rwanda, Deputy Secretary General of UN (Jan Aliasson), Force Commander of UN Mission for Rwanda (Romeo Dallaire), Founder and Executive Director of the Genocide Survivors Support Network (Eugenie Mukeshimana)

Written by WIT intern: Yoo Jin Erin Kim