Peace and Security in Africa - 8743rd Security Council Meeting - Part 1

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11-Mar-2020 03:06:14
Security Council issues presidential statement calling for greater efforts to help Africa fight terrorism, as delegates denounce ‘insufficient’ current approaches.

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Nigeria Cites Weak Criminal Justice Responses, Law Enforcement Woes, with States ‘Hard Pressed’ to Handle Disengaging Fighters

Terrorism and violent extremism pose a significant and growing threat to peace and security in Africa and the international community must redouble its efforts to strengthen the continent’s ability to fight back, delegates in the Security Council said today as it issued a presidential statement and heard briefings by senior United Nations officials.

In a statement (document S/PRST/2020/5) issued by Zhang Jun (China), Council President for March, the 15-member organ underlined the importance of prompt and effective implementation of its resolutions dealing with terrorism, including sanctions aimed at Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida and their affiliates.

“The Security Council calls on the international community to strengthen its political commitment and to consider mobilizing more sustainable and predicable resources and expertise to strengthen the capacity of African countries in countering terrorism and violent extremism conducive terrorism,” the statement said.

To that end, the Council specified areas in which the international community can support African countries, including through stronger inter-agency cooperation, the sharing of good border security practices, developing fair and effective criminal justice systems, preventing the acquisition of weapons by terrorists, and both developing and implementing plans to respond to terrorist attacks on critical infrastructure.

The Council emphasized that Member States must ensure that counter-terrorism efforts comply with their obligations under international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, as a failure to do so contributes to radicalization.

In her briefing, Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, warned that Al-Shabaab poses the most persistent threat to security in Somalia and East Africa, despite recent military operations launched against the group. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant meanwhile continues to carry out activities in Libya and empower affiliates in eastern, southern and central Africa. The result is the terrorizing of local populations, especially women. “Just as misogyny is at the heart of so many terrorist-group strategies, so must women be at the centre of our responses,” she said, calling for greater multilateral cooperation, notably the sharing of best practices and resources.

In similar vein, Fatima Kyari Mohammed, Permanent Observer of the African Union, said terrorism and violent extremism are assuming unprecedented scales of expansion and intensity. In addition to the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and Horn of Africa, terrorism is now spreading to parts of Africa that had been spared that menace. “We cannot ignore the fact that these regions are at war today — a real war in which dozens of soldiers and civilians die almost every week,” she said. A greater focus must be placed on prevention, root causes and understanding why young people join terrorist groups or espouse extremist views.

On that point, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Special Adviser to the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said his office invests heavily in research and evidence-based programming in order to help prevent the rise of violent extremism. UNDP has interviewed hundreds of former members of terrorist and extremist groups to better understand what drives recruitment and found that over half of them were dissatisfied with their economic situation. More than three quarters of those interviewed said they had “zero trust in politicians or in law enforcement institutions”. Addressing these root causes would bring dividends, he assured, noting that funds directed at prevention are more effectively spent than simply responding to crises as they happen.

In the ensuing debate, delegates underscored the significant threat posed by terrorism on African communities and institutions. Efforts to date are insufficient, several speakers warned.

Nigeria’s representative described African anti-terrorism efforts as fragmented, military-oriented and incommensurate with the scale of the threat. The criminal-justice response remains weak, law enforcement agencies face capacity constraints and courts in many countries are hard-pressed to deal with the number of persons disengaging from terrorist groups, he said, emphasizing: “Simply restoring social, political and economic structures to pre-conflict levels will not lead to sustainable long-term solutions.”

Eritrea’s representative similarly described regional and international responses as “inadequate and incoherent”, arguing for more robust coordination mechanisms. A “narrative of hope” is also needed to counter extremist ideologies perpetuated in the darkest reaches of cyberspace in hopes of ensnaring the hearts and minds of young people, he added.

Several delegates called attention to the effects of climate change on extremism, with Guinea’s representative noting that if left unchecked, global warming could foster a fertile breeding ground for terrorism.

Tunisia’s representative, speaking also for Niger, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, pointed out that terrorists exploit local differences and grievances. Foreign terrorist fights are often drawn to conflict zones where government presence is weak, he said, pressing States to adopt strategies that target root causes and the links between terrorism and transnational organized crime.

Sudan’s representative took the opportunity to highlight the 9 March assassination attempt against his country’s Prime Minister, saying it would have “torpedoed” the delicate peace and stability, noting that an investigation is under way to identify the perpetrators.

Sierra Leone’s representative cited his country’s communications strategy to counter radicalization through radio and television programming, recalling that it recently hosted a workshop for religious leaders, some of whom are now working to debunk misconceptions linking Islam, a religion of peace, to terrorism.

Estonia’s representative, meanwhile, added that the building of resilient communities often starts at the level of a local village or a town neighbourhood, and grows from there.

Partner countries, for their part, called attention to their own efforts, with France’s representative pointing to gains made at a 13 January summit during which leaders of the Group of Five (G5) Sahel countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger — and international partners launched a Coalition for the Sahel to more effectively coordinate efforts.

The European Union’s delegate cited its support for addressing the full spectrum of challenges, with most of its €465 million portfolio to counter and prevent terrorism and extremism directed towards Africa.

Japan’s delegate added that his country supports peacekeeping training centres in nine African countries, including Mali, and will continue to cooperate with joint efforts among the Security Council, the African Union and its subregional organizations.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Dominican Republic, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Germany, Viet Nam, Belgium, United States, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Algeria, Kenya, Angola, Senegal and Togo.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and suspended at 1:10 p.m. Resuming at 3:04 p.m., it ended at 4:02 p.m.

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