ReliefWeb Press Release: Countering Terrorism in Africa


Countering Terrorism in Africa Requires Preventive Approach Including Respect for Human Rights, Law, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Security Council



Several Delegates Underline Need to Review Sanctions Regime, Mission Mandates Urging support for regional organizations and sustainable financing to counter terrorism in Africa, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed that the spread of terrorism is a concern for the entire international community and requires a preventive approach that includes respect for human rights and international law, as the Security Council held a high-level debate on counter-terrorism in Africa today.

Speaking on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, Amina Mohammed emphasized that nowhere has terrorism been felt more keenly than in Africa, underscoring that terrorists and violent extremists, including Da’esh, Al-Qaida and their affiliates have exploited instability and conflict to increase their activities and intensify attacks across the continent.

“In today’s hyperconnected world, the spread of terrorism in Africa is not a concern for African Member States alone. The challenge belongs to us all,” she underscored. Countering international terrorism requires effective multilateral responses that address concurrent and converging threats, such as the worsening climate crisis, armed conflict, poverty and inequality, lawless cyberspace and the uneven recovery from COVID-19.

“We must strike a better balance and ensure coherence and complementarity between preventive and militarized responses,” she said, highlighting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 as crucial tools. The numerous regional initiatives to counter terrorism in Africa, including the Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad Basin and the joint force of the Group of 5 for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), need the international community’s full support and durable commitment. The Security Council must ensure predictable funding for African Union operations it authorizes, including to counter-terrorism, she urged. 

Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, said African initiatives, such as the Accra Initiative and the Peace Fund, demonstrate that the continent can mobilize its resources and its men and women in the fight against terrorism. However, the traditional means of responding to threats to peace, peacekeeping and peacebuilding no longer correspond to new menaces. The mandates of United Nations missions should be revised to make them more effective. The Union stands ready to work with the United Nations and the Council to initiate a new approach to counter the scourge, and its direct and indirect causes, he said.

Benedikta Von Seherr-Thoss, Managing Director for Common Security and Defence Policy and Crisis Response, European External Action Service, said that in September, the European Union assumed the role of co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and made the threat of terrorism in Africa a key priority for its two-year tenure. Detailing the European Union’s various counter-terrorism efforts, she stressed that women and girls must be actively included in the international community’s prevention approach. Empowering them to be active members of society will make them, and their societies, more resistant to extremist influences in the long run.

Comfort Ero, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, warned that conflicts involving non-State armed groups — including jihadist groups — will be a source of instability in Africa for a while. Although African-led missions are well positioned to counter such threats, they can only be effective if they are properly and reliably resourced. A political strategy for counter-terrorism missions must also encompass projects to provide basic services and better governance in areas where non-State armed groups have gained influence. Moreover, stakeholders must contemplate engaging in dialogue with non-State armed groups — often seen as a taboo — to resolve both humanitarian and political issues.

In the ensuing debate, many Council members underscored the crucial need to address the drivers of instability and adopt a preventive, holistic and inclusive approach to counter terrorism in Africa. Several speakers called for the international community’s strengthened support to regional organizations and initiatives, while others urged sustainable funding for African-led operations. Delegates also pointed to the need to review the sanctions regime and United Nations mission mandates.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana, which holds the Security Council presidency for November, speaking in his national capacity, stressed that international support to countering terrorism must be pre-emptive, rather than reactive. The Council and the wider international community must address the underlying drivers of instability through resilience-building in conflict prone regions, including in the areas of promoting democratic values, development and State services.

Gabon’s representative, on that point, called for a more urgent response from the international community to support Africa’s own multiplying regional counter-terrorism initiatives, including the G5 Sahel, the Accra Initiative and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). Such support must be lent through adequate financial, logistical and material means, while also helping to dry up the sources of financing of terrorist groups.

Kenya’s representative, in a similar vein, stressed the need for adequate and predictable funding, including through United Nations-assessed contributions. As well, the Council must review the sanctions regime for Somalia to ensure that the Government is empowered to use its full sovereign will to defeat Al-Qaida and Da’esh affiliates in its territory, while tightening sanctions that are most clearly targeted at those groups’ ability to raise and send funds, assemble explosives, and recruit and transport foreign fighters.

Ireland’s representative also emphasized that Council-mandated measures to counter terrorism, including sanctions, are crucial to deter and address terrorist threats, but can have unintended negative humanitarian impacts. To address this, his country, together with the United States, introduced a draft resolution providing for a humanitarian exemption across all sanctions regimes, he said, urging all Council members to support that initiative.

China’s representative said that supporting Africa in combating terrorism is an important responsibility of the Council, which must prioritize resources to help the continent address the most pressing challenges it faces. He called for countries’ sovereignty to be fully respected and for no other political conditions to be attached to support. In this regard, the arms embargo against Sudan, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have had a negative impact and must be adjusted or lifted.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the necessary counter-terrorism mechanisms have already been developed within the United Nations, primarily in the Council. States have specific obligations to counter terrorism, which if strictly implemented, will produce the desired results. It is not productive to impose additional counter-terrorism obligations on United Nations missions in Africa. Such an expansion of their mandate is not in line with the specific nature of the Organization’s presence and diverts valuable resources, he stressed.

Norway’s representative said that United Nations missions in Africa are not set up to tackle the threat of terrorism due to various factors. However, such missions — both peacekeeping and political — are complementary to national and regional counter-terrorism efforts and can help contribute to stability and protecting civilians, evident in the partnerships between the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNISOM) and ATMIS