Coventry graduate named African of the Year

Work against terrorism sees former university student win accolade.

A Coventry University graduate who dedicated his career to helping young people turn away from terrorism has been named African of the Year 2017.

Mutaru Mumuni Muqthar will be presented with the prestigious honour this month in recognition of his exemplary work to de-radicalise scores of would-be extremists across West Africa. The 35-year-old from Ghana set up the West African Centre for Counter Extremism after graduating from a Masters in Terrorism, International Crime and Global Security at Coventry University in 2013.

The organisation works to deepen understanding of violent extremism and radicalisation as well as promoting the support available to vulnerable people – hoping to help those at risk reintegrate into society, find work or return to education. Mutaru and his team have already helped more than twenty young people turn against radicalisation, including a 21-year-old man who was prevented from travelling to Syria to join ISIS with just hours to spare.

Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana who chaired the award jury said Mutaru’s extra-ordinary advocacy will help deepen the understanding of violent extremism and radicalisation of youths across the continent. The seven-member jury also noted the effectiveness of his engagement with dozens of would-be terrorists, including the man dissuaded from joining ISIS.

Mutaru Muqthar, who lives in Accra, said: “I am truly excited and honoured to have won this award. And certainly my education at Coventry has helped me on my journey in so many ways. Working in an area that is highly unpopular and challenging, especially for young people, there is no greater testament and validation of our work than this noble award.

“West Africa is one of the deadliest regions for terrorism and continues to serve as an epicentre for radicalisation and violent extremism. My team and I receive this with great excitement and gratitude and are confident that this will forever serve as a motivation to continue to do more. I dedicate this to all the vulnerable youths I have worked with including the man whom we helped to stop travelling to Syria, the WACCE team, my university professors and to all the innocent victims of terrorism.”

Mutaru Muqthar was born into a family of farmers in Salaga in Northern Ghana in 1982. He graduated from an undergraduate degree in Business Administration in his home country before coming to study at Coventry University in 2012 and was inspired to set up WACCE in 2014 and fight extremism after his family fell victim to the horrors of conflict in Northern Ghana which left over a thousand people dead and more displaced.

The African of the Year award will be presented in Abuja, Nigeria on January 17th. It was launched by Nigeria’s Daily Trust newspaper in 2008 to recognise ordinary Africans for their extra-ordinary contributions to the continent in any field of human endeavour in a given year.

John Latham, Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University, said: “We extend our warmest congratulations to Mutaru for this highly prestigious achievement. “Our students and alumni make a significant contribution to their communities, be they in the UK or internationally, and Mutaru’s is among the most significant and important. His team’s work has shaped many young lives and spread a message of peace and I am delighted that his journey began here in Coventry.”

In recognition of his work, Mutaru was also elected as a Mandela Washington Fellow for Young African Leaders in 2016.