President Macky Sall of Senegal and his Gambian counterpart, Adama Barrow, called for greater cooperation among African nations to fight the threats of terrorism across the continent at the Dakar International Forum for Peace and Security on Monday.
In front of an audience of more than 600 participants and 150 journalists at the Centre International de Conference Abdou Diop (CICAD), President Sall said that African countries must ensure the security of lives and property in order to sustain the confidence of their citizens as well as development partners.
“We’re all exposed, nobody is secure and each country is potentially under threat of terrorism,” President Sall said. He said that cooperation among nations is important in curbing terrorism while declaring that climate change and desertification are responsible for the increase in cross-border crimes and the growth of human trafficking mafias.
He also harped on the need to provide higher cybersecurity in the face of threats that could destroy the fabric of societies. “We’re ticklish when we talk of freedom online but the risks online are real. Cybercrime can become a weapon of mass destruction of communities and their values,” he declared.
In cooperation with France, Senegal will launch a National School of Cybersecurity (Ecole national de Cybersecurity) on Tuesday, November 6.
Gambia’s President Barrow said that West Africa had become more vulnerable to the threats of terrorism as countries need to improve the establishment of opportunities for citizens.
“Cross-border crimes and human trafficking have become worsened due to poverty and increasing youth unemployment,” said President Barrow. “We have to prioritise the creation of opportunities to address the security threats that we face.”
In its fifth year, the Dakar International Forum is an avenue for policy makers from across the continent and beyond to meet and discuss about the security issues facing the continent. With growing insecurity across the Sahel Region and the threat of Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Dakar Forum was founded five years ago in Paris when the former French President Francois Hollande met with African Heads of State about proffering solutions to the challenges in the continent.
French Minister of the Army, Florence Parly, said that France was continually interested in the peace of the continent but noted that the fight will be fought by Africans themselves.
“Peace is in the hands of Africa and Africans,” Parly said. “We cannot combat terrorism if the states that are concerned sit idle. France has supported the joint (Sahel Alliance) forces. We have assisted some of our partners with funding pledges up to 400,000 euros,” she said.
Former Burundian President Paul Buyoya, who represented the African Union, said that the body is providing advocacy and will try to operationalise the forces of the Sahel Alliance in order to be able to more effectively secure the countries around Mali and Niger, frontiers of the war against the incursion of small arms and militia fighters.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, is expected to present a paper about Nigeria’s progress in the fight against Boko Haram at plenary.
The Dakar Forum will run until Tuesday, November 6.