Ghana is hosting a combined military and law enforcement training for about 1,300 personnel from 29 countries to test and strengthen the ability of the participating countries to collectively combat violent extremism and to protect their citizens.
The operation, which started on March 1, 2023, is scheduled to end on March 15, 2023, with Côte d’Ivoire as co-host.
Dubbed: Flintlock 2023, the United States Special Operations Africa Command-sponsored exercise is to strengthen partnerships between Africa, US and other international military and police organisations to enhance interoperability during crises and to increase security and stability in the African region.
Flintlock is an annual exercise which started in 2015 with an objective to increase the ability of key partners in the region to collaborate across borders, combat violent extremist groups and protect their citizens while upholding human rights and building trust among civilians.
The participating African nations include Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroun, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia.
Other international participants include Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The operation will have a joint multinational headquarters in Accra with four bases located near Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, one in Tamale in the Northern Region, another in Daboya in the Savanna Region, and a marine training base at Nutekpor in the Volta Region, all in Ghana.
At a brief event to launch the operation in Accra, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Harriet Thompson, said as the participating nations would share expertise, knowledge and best practice to strengthen peace and security across the Sahel and coastal West Africa “because we know that a safer, more secure continent means a safer, more secure and ultimately prosperous world”.
Although Flintlock was a core military exercise, Ms Thompson said this year’s operation would have temporary medical and dental clinics working with communities to support healthcare provision, among other activities.
The Deputy Commander for the US Special Operations Command Africa, Colonel Robert Zyla, commended the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire for hosting Flintlock 2023 and offering their facilities for critical training.
He said the exercise was the US Africom’s premier special operations exercise, and had over the years grown from a tactical event to cover other areas.
Additional features in this year’s exercise, he said, included an expansion of the multinational headquarters facilities to strengthen the ability to share information among the personnel, incorporation of legal and engagement operations, intelligence and evidence collection and common procedures to ensure persons taken into custody were properly tried in the judicial system and to enforce the rule of law.
He also explained that the operation was focusing on engagement with communities to emphasise the importance of honest and accurate accounts of the military and law enforcement activities in order to build trust with the public.
“This training allows participants to collectively work together to solve the security challenges that pose threat across the region. Violent extremism threatens the stability of not only Africa but our partners around the globe,” he said.
The Commander of the Flintlock 2023 joint multinational headquarters, Colonel Richard Mensah, said Ghana was excited to co-host it for the first time with plans to solely host it in 2024.
He said recent developments in the Sahel called for concerted effort by all nations to ensure the peace and security of all citizens.
Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, he said, stood to benefit from hosting the operation as it would help to build and increase interoperability of different agencies, build competencies to ensure that troops were ready to deal with all threats and build infrastructure.
“Global threat to terrorism is real, and the need to be ready is now.
You cannot create special operation forces during emergencies; we must be ready now.
We need to train and get ready by building the capacity of our troops and strengthen partnerships,” he said.
Colonel Mensah said apart from the military, personnel from the police service, the Ministry for the Interior, National Security, legal officers and medical staff, among others, were involved in the operation and would work with the troops on how to win the hearts and minds of the communities to support the fight against violent extremism and “to say something when they see something”.
As part of the activities, high level officers of participating countries would meet in Accra to discuss common threats, and strategise for the way forward.
On March 14, 2023, they would witness their troops taking part in exercises.
Côte d’Ivoire hosted Flintlock 2022.