Peace and security in Africa - Security Council, 9147th Meeting

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06-Oct-2022 02:52:32
Stronger regulation, cross-border coordination key to stopping terrorism across Africa funded by illegal trafficking in natural resources, speakers tell Security Council.

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Crisis Due to Inaction, Not Lack of Tools, Says Speaker for Security Institute, Delegates Stress Natural Resources Shouldn’t Be Continent’s Curse, But Its Blessing

A holistic approach, combining enhanced regulatory policies and law enforcement mechanisms, greater supply chain transparency, support for counter‑terrorism frameworks, as well as cross-border coordination and information-sharing, is required to clamp down on the illicit trafficking of natural resources and its fuelling of terrorism and violent extremism by armed groups and terrorists in African continent, speakers said during a debate on the issue, one of the signature events of Gabon’s presidency.

Ghada Fathi Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), noted that terrorism and organized crime pose a great threat to Africa, particularly in the Sahel, which is acutely affected by the activities of active and deadly terrorist groups. Outlining UNODC’s research, which sheds light on such activities, she stated that work conducted between 2019 and 2021 in the region into border areas of Gabon, Cameroon and Congo, as well as Chad and the Central African Republic, on the illicit trafficking of minerals as a source of funding for terrorist groups, established that illegally mined gold and other precious metals are being fed into the legitimate market, providing huge profits for traffickers. Such criminal exploitation strips the people of Africa — almost 500 million of whom live in extreme poverty — of an important source of revenue, she said, adding that it also jeopardizes development and severely undermines Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

Detailing the work of UNODC, which “goes far beyond border seizures”, she said it supports member countries to put in place policies and legislation to better address terrorist threats, as the guardian of the main international instrument in the fight against such crimes, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. UNODC also organizes training workshops in the Sahel with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, to strengthen the understanding and skills of criminal justice officials aimed at bringing down terrorist networks and their funders.

Bankole Adeoye, African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, pointed out that transnational organized crime networks are instrumental in the illicit trafficking in weapons and ammunition that sustains the operations of terrorists and violent extremist groups, and also support natural resource‑related crimes, such as illegal mining exploitation, particularly gold, and the illicit trade in wildlife trophies, such as ivory. He emphasized the need for a multifaceted approach, including the prevention of terrorist financing, to eliminate terrorism on the continent and globally. To this end, he highlighted African Union initiatives, such as the establishment of national counter-terrorism fusion centres, national financial intelligence units and law enforcement at the national level.

Also briefing the Council was Paul-Simon Handy, Regional Director for East Africa and Representative to the African Union of the Institute for Security Studies, who pointed out that the failure to clamp down on the illicit activities of armed groups and terrorists represents “a crisis of inaction, not a lack of instruments or tools”. UNODC and research centres have outlined such measures; however, bolstered State apparatus and greater international cooperation is required to operationalize them, given the cross-border nature of such crimes, he noted. Turning to sanctions regimes, which are “fashionable to criticize”, he pointed out that they have nonetheless enhanced knowledge of the financing of terrorist groups and networks. However, given the ability of protagonists to bypass popularly used tools such as travel bans and asset freezes, such measures should target networks, not just individuals.

In the ensuing debate, Council members and other States’ representatives called for more sustained, collaborative efforts to tackle the scourge of financing of terrorists and armed groups, and to foster the sustainable management of resources so they can fuel development and growth rather than conflict and instability in the African continent.

“Natural resources should not be a curse for these countries,” the representative of China said, adding that, instead, they should “become a blessing for regional development”. In this regard, he commended the work of the Office of the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the African Union in helping countries manage their resources and stressed that while the Council and international community should help African Governments develop their capacity to manage natural resources, those Governments’ management of such resources is a sovereign right.

Kenya’s delegate underscored the need to close the gaps that enable illicit financial flows from natural resource sales in Africa through effective legislation, sectoral risk assessments, rules against conflicts of interest and making corporate structures more transparent, among others. Supporting national and regional military actions must be accompanied by State-strengthening campaigns based on national priorities, he said, urging the Council to consider additional ways of supporting affected countries to ensure that under-governed spaces are properly controlled by States, and to strengthen its commitment to dismantling terrorism networks in Africa and apply its counter-terrorism architecture against terrorist groups and their affiliates.

The representative of France spotlighted an effort undertaken by the Panel of Experts on Somalia, in cooperation with Somalian authorities, which managed to prevent charcoal export in violation of an embargo, which used to be a major source of income for Al-Shabaab. Such illegal exploitation of natural resources allows armed groups to remove themselves from peace processes, she added.

Meanwhile, several representatives, including those of the United Kingdom and France, expressed concern about the activities of the Wagner Group in the continent, with the United States’ delegate stating that the ill-gotten gains from the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group, which exploits the natural resources of the Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan, are being used to fund Moscow’s war machine in Africa, Middle East and Ukraine. “We have the power to go after those who exploit natural resources and fund armed conflict and terrorism, and we have to wield that power effectively and with urgency,” she stressed.

The representative of the Russian Federation countered that African countries had not yet recovered from the damage inflicted by the colonial Powers who turned them in to “one huge quarry”. The local population gained almost nothing, while the “Western metropolis” profited and continues to date, she said, adding that combating illegal activities in mining is, first and foremost, the duty of the Governments who own the natural resources.

For his part, the representative of the Central African Republic said that, since 2013, his country has been experiencing conflicts involving armed groups, such as the Coalition of Patriots for Change, which exert full or partial control over strategic trade and transhumance routes in the north of the country. They generate considerable revenue by levying taxes and custom duties along these routes, by which they “prey on the economy and keep the conflict going”, he said. He went on to point out that the Central African Republic managed to dislodge armed groups and restore control of a few mining areas with the help of the Russian Federation, among others. He called on the Council to completely lift the arms embargo imposed on his country, as it impedes his country’s ability to restore State authority in some areas.

Also speaking today were ministers, senior officials and representatives of Gabon, Ghana, India, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Ireland, Norway, Albania, Brazil, Egypt, Morocco and Equatorial Guinea, as well as the European Union.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:56 p.m.

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