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ECOWAS Enhances the Skills Of Imams and Teachers of Koranic Schools in Burkina Faso to Counter Violent Extremism and Radicalisation in West Africa

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Ouagadougou, 13 January 2020. The Department of Education, Science and Culture of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) initiated a training session for imams, preachers and teachers of Koranic schools in Burkina Faso, from 23 December 2019 to 10 January 2020. The training, with the theme: “Prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation in the ECOWAS region”, took place at the Islamic Centre for Education, Research and Training (CERFI) in Ouagadougou. The purpose of the training was to build the capacity of imams, preachers and teachers of Koranic schools to counter violent extremism and radicalisation in the Community, while improving the educational content of teachings and sermons.

The training ended on 10 January with a number of recommendations being made by the participants. These concern the inclusion of other social stakeholders (women, resource persons and religious leaders) in future training activities and the extension of the training to other imams, Koranic and madrassa teachers. Participants also called for a mechanism for duplicating the training for other important community stakeholders, while ensuring the involvement of already trained persons.

Speaking on behalf of His Excellency Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission during the closing ceremony of the training, Leopoldo Amado, Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture, stated that the training is a programme set up by ECOWAS since 2017, with the aim of contributing to peace building in West Africa. Commissioner Amado expressed ECOWAS’ gratitude to the government of Burkina Faso, the trainers, supervisors and imams who worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the training.

In his closing remarks, the Minister of State for Territorial Administration, Decentralisation and Social Cohesion, Siméon Sawadogo expressed his country’s gratitude to the ECOWAS Commission for initiating the training at a time when the issue of violent extremism is more topical than ever. “Burkina Faso has been experiencing an increase in terrorist attacks against our Defence and Security Forces (DSF), State representatives, officials of decentralised authorities, and increasingly against civilians since 2015. The security context concerns us all. However, we will only be able to respond to this challenge if we each embrace tolerance, solidarity, inter-religious coexistence, fraternity, in a nutshell, social cohesion,” he added.

The closing ceremony was attended by the Minister of State for Territorial Administration, Decentralisation and Social Cohesion, Siméon Sawadogo, Minister of African Integration and Burkinabè Abroad, Robert Tiendrebeogo, ECOWAS Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture Leopoldo Amado, Mr Tièna Coulibaly, Resident Representative of ECOWAS in Burkina Faso, and Mr Aminou Ouédraogo (President of CERFI). The Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism of Burkina Faso was represented by Mr Adiouma Soma, Director General of FESPACO. It should be noted that the training programme was set up to cover four ECOWAS Member States, namely Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Prior to the training in Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria had already benefited from it in 2018 and 2019 respectively.