The Director General, State Intelligence Service of the Republic of The Gambia, Mr Ousman SOWE, also the Chairperson of the CISSA West Africa Regional Bureau, has said that while conflict might be the major cause of food insecurity in the sub region, others such as poverty, natural disasters, climate change leading to drought and water scarcity as other causes of food insecurity and when combined with conflict, tends to exacerbate the extent of the humanitarian crisis.
Mr Sowe was speaking in Gaborone Botswana at the recently concluded 18th Ordinary Session of the Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA).
As Chairperson of the CISSA West Africa Regional Bureau, DG SOWE stated that looking at the trends and patterns of the situation of food security, peace and conflict in our sub region and in the continent at large, their related challenges may likely be rolled over in the short and medium terms
He stressed that as intelligence services/agencies, it is imperative that they provide strategic policy recommendations and guidance to their respective national governments and impactful regional analysis as a block, through ECOWAS, to come up with well-informed policies aimed at addressing food security and conflict in our sub region as well as harness the dividends of peace.
”Food security is linked to the economic and developmental strength and capacity of our countries. And given the vulnerabilities of West African economies which are largely dependent on external factors, there is need to design national, regional and continental mechanisms that would be resilient enough to mitigate the challenges of food security and conflict as well as guarantee sustainable peace,” Mr Sowe told the meeting.
He emphasised that in as much as ‘we must address the root causes of conflict that inadvertently impact of food security, we must also revisit our policies relative to food security because food insecurity alone, even without conflict, has the potential to fuel conflict’.
In a similar call for action, DG Sowe posited that the West Africa region must also endeavour to remove excessive trade barriers relative to duties, taxes and other restrictions as well as protectionist policies to ensure the free movement of people, goods and services aimed at promoting regional trade between and amongst member states as envisaged in the ISRT Convention. ”In this spirit therefore, he called on the region and the continent to give its full support to the operationalisation of the African Continent Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) so as to enjoy its benefit by all,” he said.
In conclusion, the Gambian intelligence chief referenced the slogan “African solutions to African problems” and stated that if the spirit of African unity were still to be relevant, then the continent needs a strong, firm and decisive voice to advocate for fair trade that takes into account fair price for disadvantaged African farmers for their produce and workers with better wages for their labour with a view to eliminating poverty as well as an end to global conflicts/wars especially the Russia – Ukraine one. This he said is premised on the fact that what happens in one part of the world, affects all of us, again citing the Ukraine war as a vivid example.
DG Sowe seized this opportunity to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to H.E. Mr. Adama BARROW, President of the Republic and his Government as well as security sister services and stakeholders for the support rendered in carrying out its national security mandate especially in its on-going and continuous reform agenda during the past six years.
On this note, he reported with satisfaction that for the first time ever since February 2017, the SIS has paid its due arrears and full contribution to CISSA for the year 2023. Such a remarkable payment avails the SIS in particular and The Gambia in general, the right to vote and enjoy the application of positions available at the Secretariat of CISSA which was an anathema due to owed arrears.
It is also worth mentioning that The Gambia handed over the Chairmanship of the CISSA West Africa Bureau to Cabo Verde. The Chairmanship is usually held on a yearly rotational basis but The Gambia, through SIS, held the position for the past three consecutive years demonstrating the trust and confidence reposed in the SIS by the sub regional member Services.
The meeting took place from 29th January to 4th February and was officially opened by President Dr. Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe MASISI of Botswana as special guest.
The conference was also attended by top personalities including Ambassador Bankole ADEOYE, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union Commission; Dr. Hameed NURU, Africa Regional Director, World Food Programme (WFP) and Ambassador Zainab Ali KOTOKO, Executive Secretary of CISSA.
It was held under the theme; “Food Security, Conflict and Peace in Africa,” and attracted some Forty-three (43) Heads of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa, CISSA strategic partners such as The African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT/CAERT), the Liaison with CISSA Unit of the African Union Commission (AUC), the Directorate of Conflict Management, Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security (AUC), and Interpol.
There were also invited guests from Bahrain, China, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Qatar, Russia, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.
Given that Conflict remains the biggest driver of hunger and starvation leading to unprecedented levels of food insecurity in the African continent, the week-long consultative Session, availed the opportunity to the Heads of Intelligence and Security Services of the African continent to deliberate on the general food security outlook of the continent, the intersection between conflicts and food security, including the factors that drive food insecurity in conflict settings and explore the different measures that need to be taken to address the alarming situation in the continent. It also offered perspectives from different conflict-affected countries and how intelligence services of the African continent may provide insights into potential measures that Member States and peace actors can take to prevent and mitigate the impact of conflict on food security and vice versa.