RFBF president, Brian Grim, shared the platform with several ambassadors from West African countries facing a terror threat from Boko Haram militants at a conference at the University Square Stratford (USS), of University of East London.
Grim spoke about the foundation’s planned initiative to counter radicalization, Empowerment+, which will use integration and empowerment to help those at risk of radicalisation to follow a different course.
The ambassadors and Grim were joined by other dignitaries, guests and members of the security industry to explore solutions to radicalisation and address concerns raised by African community leaders and parents who are worried about the increasing number of youngsters being influenced by the ideology of Boko Haram and ISIS.
The conference, “Radicalisation – The African Heritage Connection”, was organised by UEL alumnus David Otto, who works in counter-terrorism, intelligence and security.
As UEL is in the heart of an area known for its diversity, Otto felt that UEL was the perfect venue to analyse and address the issue of terrorism.
“Our work in Africa and Europe has led us to question the extent to which current policy understands this African connection,” said Mr Otto. “In terms of looking at preventing radicalisation not only within the African heritage communities but in all communities in the United Kingdom, east London is actually placed at the foundation of our diverse UK community and in a good position to tackle the issues.”
The conference aimed to increase understanding and develop pro-active solutions to this African connection, building from and challenging existing deradicalisation and disengagement policy and practice.
UEL will continue to play a crucial role in spreading awareness and facilitating these solutions to the terrorism crisis. Otto confirmed that the conference was just the beginning of a process where the security industry and other role players could work with UEL to make sure that the African heritage communities and the Black Minority Ethnic communities get a solid foundation in the means against fighting radicalisation in the UK and abroad.
“We’ve become concerned at the neglect of communities of African heritage and recognise the real danger of waiting until this connection comes into focus.”
Otto believes that students can help each other and their communities by being aware of violent extremism.
“When you look at violent extremism, you have to look at the source. Most of the students who come to the university are particularly vulnerable because they sometimes stay at the university for four years without having any parental control or guidance.”
Andrew Silke, Director of Terrorism Studies at UEL, believes that focusing on Nigeria, Boko Haram and extremism in Africa is very topical, not only internationally but for UEL too.
“In terms of our teaching and our research we’ve had a long interest in terrorism and extremism,” said Professor Silke. “With a lot of our students coming from Nigeria there has been a strong interest in the rise of Boko Haram, much more so than you might find in other institutions.”
Other speakers included the Cameroonian High Commissioner H.E NKwelle Ekaney, Dr Leroy Logan MBE, Janet Hills, Metropolitan Black Police Association Chair, and Boko Haram peace negotiator Aisha Wakil.