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The idea that wars, conventional or otherwise more often than not, end on a table of discussion other than the battlefield cannot be farther from the truth.

However, this narrative of discussion or negotiation is multilayered. It could be a negotiation between the government and rebels or terrorists, depending on the scenario. Or between the government and superpowers who control the arms sales.

In West Africa, for example, no member nation is advanced in manufacturing military hardware, and these wars are fought with modern weaponry. To this end, all the nations in the sub-region are dependent on the superpowers for their supply of the latest military weapons, the same way the non-state actors are also relying on these same manufacturers to stock their arsenal.

Unfortunately, there are instances where nations are denied access to the arms market to tackle terrorism or insurgency in their countries on account of human right violation by state forces.

 This is even when these criminal elements have unrestricted access to some of this modern weaponry though through unconventional methods or what is popularly known as black market or back door channel.

To prevent a scenario where nations are denied access to the needed military hardware to suffocate these terrorists under the guise of human rights abuses, diplomatic negotiation becomes imperative.

It is, nonetheless, on the premise of the foregoing that serving and retired foreign relations practitioners under the aegis of Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria (AFRPN) chose “The Role of Diplomacy in Combating Terrorism and Insurgency in West Africa,” as the topic for its 2021 annual lecture/conference.

Delivering the lecture in Abuja, Africa’s famous diplomat and immediate past Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas tasked the ECOWAS Member States to as a matter of tactics look beyond the surface in tackling terrorism, insurgency, and banditry in their domains.

He said that member states need a renewed commitment to look beyond terrorism as a tactic and address the underlying conditions and drivers that enable it to sustain and spread.

Dr. Chambas who was the Guest Lecturer also noted that while nothing can justify violent extremism, it does not exist in a vacuum.

“As stated in the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, ‘narrative of grievance, actually perceived injustice, promised empowerment and sweeping changes become attractive where human rights are being violated, good governance is being ignored and aspirations are being crushed’.

“The use of diplomacy as a counter-terrorism effort must therefore include efficient and effective negotiations skills that do not solely focus on forcing conflicting parties into accepting and signing peace packs.  Enhancing sustained peace and conflict resolutions aimed at combating terrorism and insurgency through diplomacy is therefore improved when the negotiations’ table provides the ground for the potential of socio-economic and conflict transformation to the benefit of grassroots communities,” he explained.

He said that the manifestation of diplomacy as a resilient tool in the mitigation of terrorism and insurgency in West Africa is consolidated in the strenuous efforts adopted by several peace actors.

These actors he noted include the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the United Nations, and a number of bilateral partners who have contributed to the development and introduction of several strategies to counter and combat rising threats of terrorism and insurgency in the Sahel.

Earlier in his remarks, the Chairman of AFRPN, Ambassador Tijjani Muhammed Bande said that fighting insurgency in Nigeria without addressing the same in Niger or Chad would amount to act in futility.

The Commandant, National Defence College Rear Admiral OB Daji that Non-state actors and terrorist groups across West Africa, especially in Nigeria, the Lake Chad region, Mali and Burkina Faso represent a sustained challenge to the authority of the various States in West Africa as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their countries.

Quoting UNDP data, Rear Admiral Daji disclosed that Boko Haram has killed some 350,000 people in Nigeria between 2009 and 2020, with 3 million people displaced and 310,000 refugees in various camps during the same period.

He further revealed that this is in addition to properties, both private and public, that have been destroyed in Nigeria.

“The twin scourge has also led to mass disruption of economic activities, including farming (crops and animal husbandry). Other countries badly affected by terrorism and insurgency in the region have suffered a similar experiences in varying degrees. Against this background, any forum that is devoted to finding solutions to the twin scourges of Terrorism and Insurgency, as of today’s event, must be applauded. This is why I am very pleased to be here to make these few remarks from the perspective of the National Defence College (NDC), Nigeria as far as the role of diplomacy in combating terrorism and insurgency in the West African region is concerned.

“It is our firm belief that the menace of terrorism and insurgency in West Africa and, indeed, other parts of the world cannot be effectively tackled unless governments combine both kinetic and non-kinetic measures in such a manner that guarantees sustained action. The two challenges have also assumed cross-border, international dimensions, such that no one country can solve them alone without collaborating with others. Diplomacy is an essential element of national power, in addition to Information, Military, and the Economy (DIME) which can be deployed to address these challenges. Diplomacy as a tool for negotiation and the use of peaceful means of resolving conflicts through engagement has therefore become a sine qua non for finding lasting solutions to the challenges,” The Commandant explained.

Earlier in a pre-conference press briefing, the President, Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria (AFRPN) Ambassador Gani Lawal said the annual lecture/conference is designed to interrogate issues of the moment by experienced Foreign Relations Practitioners.

He said that the Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria (AFRPN) is made up of retired and serving Nigerian diplomats and all stakeholders in the business of Foreign Relations.

The President also explained what the association is set out to accomplish, “our aim is to impact the foreign policy of Nigeria in a positive way from the perspectives of reasoned options emanating from the synergy and brainstorming exercise of experienced practitioners through lectures, workshop, and publications as well as mentoring of upcoming diplomats’.

“Nigeria and indeed other West African countries had been plagued with the scourge of terrorism, insurgency, and other trans-border crimes, hence the relevance of the topic of this year’s lecture which was designed to proffer diplomatic solutions to the identified scourge”.

He also explained that “This topic has been carefully selected to create an opportunity to listen to the perspectives of diplomatic professionals who have been in the front line of combating terrorism and insurgency. The guest lecturer is no less a personality than the former chairman of ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Ibn Chambas and the chairman of the occasion is current Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof Tijjani Muhammed Bande”.

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