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Uniting against terrorism: strengthening the police's role in West Africa
4 August 2016

In April 2016, the ISS and the INTERPOL Regional Bureau for West Africa convened a high-level workshop for Chiefs of Police/Inspectors-General of Police of the 15 ECOWAS countries, and Mauritania. The focus of the workshop, funded by the United States Government, was to improve police cooperation across the region and strengthen joint responses to terrorism.  

‘Terrorists are organised and police should be too’, says Martin Ewi, ISS Senior Researcher. ‘This workshop was the first opportunity for leaders of police organisations in West Africa to share experiences and develop better strategies for responding to terror attacks both nationally and regionally’.

Mali’s Director-General of Police agreed. ‘We have really appreciated these past five days. I met colleagues from neighbouring countries dealing with the same concerns and had important exchanges on how rapid sharing of terrorist information can be done.’

The workshop demonstrated the ISS’ ability to facilitate stronger cooperation to respond to terrorism, and to bring together key support organisations to assist the region to improve its responses, including the ECOWAS Commission, INTERPOL Headquarters, the African Union Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering and the West African Police Information System.

Terrorists are organised and police should be too
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Chiefs of Police used this forum to reflect on the state of terrorism in the region, to evaluate current regional responses to the problem, and to agree on more effective strategies for regional cooperation to fight terrorism. Training was also provided, focusing on key issues such investigative techniques, collaboration among intelligence agencies, suppressing terrorist financing and improving counter-terrorism strategies in the region. 

The workshop did more than build skills for tackling terrorism cases. It provided a platform to develop coordination between the West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) and the Central African Police Chiefs Committee (CAPCCO). This is critical given that Central African states such as Cameroon and Chad are now at the frontline of terrorism in West Africa.

Due to the success of this workshop, the ISS received a joint formal request from WAPCCO and CAPCCO to undertake similar events for both institutions to help strengthen cross-regional cooperation. The ISS has also received five further requests for national training from West African countries.

An important result of the workshop was the adoption of a set of recommendations by the Police Chiefs, which charts a plan forward for regional counter-terrorism cooperation, including mechanisms for stronger intelligence and operational cooperation.Participants also stressed the need for further capacity-building programmes to enhance efficiency in the fight against terrorism and urged ECOWAS to finalise its counter-terrorism training manual and standard operating procedures for operational responses to terrorist acts.

This workshop is just one of several initiatives by the ISS to strengthen counter-terrorism skills and strategies in West Africa and the Sahel. Among these is an ongoing partnership with ECOWAS to help implement its counter-terrorism strategy. 

For more information contact:

Martin Ewi, ISS: +27 76 079 1075, mewi@issafrica.org

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