Mr Emmanuel Bombande, Executive Director, West African Network for Peace building (WANEP) on Wednesday called on government to immediately equip the Ghana Navy and the Armed Forces with the necessary training to effectively protect the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s territorial borders from any form of attack on the oil wells when they become fully operational.
He warned that countries with oil had gone through continuous attacks on their oil wells and therefore the need for government to put in place the necessary measures against intruders and attackers on GhanaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s oil wells.
He said there was also the need for communities, especially chiefs and opinion leaders in oil rich communities, to be involved in the decision-making processes to make them part of the whole process and also educate the entire community of its immense benefits.
Mr Bombande, speaking at the opening of the 10th Annual General meeting and 10th Anniversary celebrations of WANEP in Accra, said currently West Africa was breathing some level of peace as a result of peaceful settlements of differences among conflicting factions.
He said WANEPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s role in peace building in Africa needed to be lauded as it had freed most countries from repeating the mistakes of others.
The celebrations, under the theme: Ã¢â‚¬Å“WANEP Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Consolidating 10 years of Peace Building in West AfricaÃ¢â‚¬Â is to reflect on the new frontiers of building and consolidating peace in West Africa, elect a new Board, launch a new project dubbed Ã¢â‚¬Å“WANEP our StoryÃ¢â‚¬Â and appraise the work of the network and identify new priorities for collective engagements.
The celebrations have brought together WANEPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s network members, peace building practitioners, local and regional organizations, in addition to government officials and representatives of international organizations operating in the region.
Mr Bombande said the organization currently had about 460 member organizations from community-based groups through national to international NGOs which had been working towards the achievement of peace in the entire continent.
He said apart from the achievements of WANEP over the years which included the management and resolution of communal strife in Bawku, Dagbon, Nkonya and Alavanyo, it was also playing a role in the democratic consolidation and national reconciliation process.
It also played an underground role in ensuring peace during the 2008 general election and the run-of among others.
Mr Bombande said challenges such as getting people to talk freely about issues and settling differences had been very difficult tasks as sometimes factions had proved intransigent.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Trying to dialogue with chiefs and leaders of factions have been a challenging task, but in all these we have tried out best to make peace and I believe Africa has made a great headway as far as conflict resolution is concerned,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
Mr Bombande said as WANEPÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s visibility in the region was growing and its expertise being sought at all levels in West Africa, it had become imperative to reposition itself to remain a leading and effective peace building civil society organization in the sub-region, consolidate its successes, sustain its visibility and become financially secure and sustainable.
Mr Awinador Kanyirige, Director, Africa and AU Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in his keynote address lauded WANEP for its mediating role over the years, saying it had freed most countries from repeating the mistakes of others.
He said through its pioneering roles in peaceful dialoguing most countries and communities could now talk freely about issues which otherwise could have spark civil wars and conflicts in the past.
Mr Kanyirige said human rights issues were now being upheld by governments, while communities and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) were also awake to their task of playing watchdog roles to leaders and individuals in their respective communities.
He encouraged CSOs to be up to the task of networking and ensuring that human rights issues were prioritized, saying with the level of development in West Africa where two-thirds of countries were considered among the poorest in the world the need to redouble efforts to empower economies of these poor countries was urgent.
Mr Kanyirige also urged CSOs to pay critical attention to capacity enhancements to ensure effective service delivery, saying WANEP was already demonstrating this through its partnership with ECOWAS in the area of conflict prevention and early warning.
He said West Africa still had a long road to travel to prevent conflict and build peace.
He noted that although it had no active conflict, it still had to contend with fragile states, the fact that the Sahel-Saharan belt had suddenly become a destabilized zone not only for Niger and Mali, but also for the entire region and the fact that its resources especially oil, could pose a danger to stability and security.