Security Expert cautions going hard on illicit cyber activities

The Executive Director of West Africa Center for Counter Extremism, Mumuni Mutaru Muqthar has explained that Ghana and other African countries are enjoying the positive benefits of the huge illicit cyber economy.

“There is some positivity in negativity. We’ve seen the pervasive youth unemployment that we are dealing with; the technology, the online space and the ‘Sakawa’ (internet fraud) we are dealing with for a very long time.”

“I can tell you that if we begin to get too hard to get these criminals away from the cyber space, they will take the criminal activities from the cyber space to the physical space and that is going to get more dangerous for everyone. So we are dealing with a very complex security issue for all of us”

Mutaru Muqthar asserts that Youth Unemployment creates a very dreadful future for all of us. There is a pervasive sense of insecurity among the youth because of youth unemployment and it is compounded by the reality of a phenomenon spearheaded by technology, social media and youth aspirations.

“Young people’s situation today is a very vulnerable situation. Young people know that all you have is yourself and not the state. To get a job is about how much you can pay.

“If you want to get a job today, it is not by your own qualification or capacity to deliver. It is about who you know. It is about how much you can pay to get the job. It is something we all know and we get approached on a daily basis by families, friends and people who know us and they send us messages looking for jobs and some are even asking for money to buy jobs. We have taken away merit base interactions or engagement in our society and that is big danger,” he alluded.

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The security expert opines that Youth Unemployment has driven a lot of young people into cyberspace. Now we are having a huge illicit economy in the cyber space, sakawa of all forms involving graduates and non-graduates engaging in all forms of criminal activities in the cyber space in the urban centers and in the rural areas and everywhere.

According to him, Social Media has exaggerated young people’s expectations of their countries which has amplified their aspirations, looking at what their colleagues in Hong Kong, London, New York and other parts of the world are enjoying and they want to enjoy the same. Yet they don’t have the same level of quality leadership in their space.

He shares the view that this comparison being enabled by social media, has exaggerated people’s aspirations and expectations of their state. Democracy has come under siege in the last two years especially in West Africa. People are asking questions about the capacity of Democracy to guarantee citizens their entitlement of citizenship such as job opportunities, health care, education and social amenities.

Extremists groups have exploited the vulnerability in these grievances because Terrorist Groups seem to understand the youth better than the state and so they are filling the void in young people’s life left by the state. Mutaru Muqthar revealed that “In some places they give a young guy a motor bike, $ 200, and gun and this young guy becomes internally loyal to terrorist groups and their ideologies. Elsewhere they provide micro lending to women that allows them to buy their goodwill and support. So they volunteer information to these extremist groups willingly because for them, they are entities that are there for them” he revealed on 3FM Sunrise Morning Show.

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He drew attention to the danger of having an ungoverned space or limited governance presence in some part of the country since it allows the extremist to establish their Ploto State where they establish their own form of leadership and governance.

He emphasised the reason why the government should escalate its commitment to dealing with the threat of violent extremism and dealing with the threat created by youth unemployment. “We need to deal with it in a manner that is sustainable, robust and adequate.”

The Executive Director commended the National Security for formulating a National Framework for Countering and Preventing violent extremism. “This is one of the significant policies we have received from the National Security Ministry. It is a good document and it is very difficult criticize this document”

He admonished the government to mobilise the local communities and civil society organisations to be part of its implementation and not to oversecretize the response to national security to the neglect of governance and social vulnerability.

“We have to look at it wholy both a government centric security perspective and the social economic situation to address the vulnerabilities that make violent extremism rife” Muqthar recommended. He is cautioning the government of Ghana to intensify public education and increase investment in counter-extremism in the face of rampant attacks on Ghana’s neighboring countries.

Muqthar asserts that “one’s perception of threats determines the direction of response. Government raising the alarm is good but not enough. We need the role of government, it is good to raise the alarm but it is important for the government to show leadership. Public must be educated”

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He observed that it was a remote possibility for extremism attacks in Ghana some few years back but now it has become palpable that Ghana is a potential victim of terrorism attack with what is transpiring with her neighbors in Togo, Burkina and Benin. Therefore, the Government must intensify investment in counter extremism especially when the country has not been attacked.

Unresolved conflicts are vulnerable factors for terrorism. In recent times, the majority of countries that have suffered extremist attacks are countries with already existing conflicts.

 By Samuel Afriyie Owusu||Ghana


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