AfREC Advisory Board Member Ms Lisa Sharland and Postgraduate Coordinator Mr Muhammad Dan Suleiman attended the West Africa Mining Security Conference (WAMS) in Accra, Ghana on 11-12 June 2019. The WAMS conference was hosted by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in partnership with the Australia-Africa Minerals and Energy Group (AAMEG) and MS Risk.
The conference was convened in the wake of the expansion and intensification of violent extremist groups in many Sahelian countries and subsequent cases of terrorist attacks and kidnapping targeting foreign nationals and business interests. These developments raise concerns for both human security and foreign investments in the region and follow an AAMEG breakfast roundtable on Pillars of Positive Peace and their application to security in Africa, also attended by AfREC Postgraduate Fellows Seth Appiah-Mensah and Muhammad Dan Suleiman, held in Perth in May 2019.
Ms Sharland, Head of International Program at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in Canberra, presented on global trends and developments in violent extremism. Her presentation served as a background to the conference which aimed at providing senior executives, operations and security managers with important information to inform future security and investment decisions.
On his part, Mr Dan Suleiman attended the conference in preparation for a new project on Australia’s commercial interests in West Africa. He is a completing PhD researcher in the School of Social Sciences at UWA and the first AfREC Postgraduate Fellow to submit his PhD thesis since the Centre was established in August 2018. Mr Dan Suleiman’s PhD thesis investigated the fundamental cause(s) of jihadist rebellion in West Africa, focusing on the regions around Mali and Nigeria.
The WAMS conference brought together 200 participants including academics, security practitioners, subject matter experts and the mining industry to discuss strategic security trends in West Africa, and acknowledges Australia’s growing interests in and important connections to West Africa.
Whereas Australia does not have forces on the ground in West Africa, Canberra contributes significant amount of funds to peace and security in the region through UN peacekeeping operations such as MINUSMA. The Australian government also announced AUD 75,000 support towards the running of an inter-agency counter-terrorism training at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra.
The announcement was made by Ms HK Yu, DFAT’s First Assistant Secretary in charge of Africa and the Middle East, and Mr Andrew Barnes, the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana. The Australian High Commission in Ghana also has accreditation to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
According to the announcement, the financial support is to help build the capacities of the security agencies to share intelligence information and promote clear communication channels to efficiently deal with the threat of terrorism in the sub-region.
AfREC congratulates DFAT, the Australian High Commission in Ghana and all the sponsors on a successful conference. The Centre looks forward to working with DFAT, Australian mining companies operating in Africa, and African stakeholders towards achieving sustainable security and prosperity in the region.