Terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida and Da’esh, and their affiliates, have intensified their attacks across the continent.

By Staff Reporters

On 28 May, the African Union held its 16th Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Wonie Bio, who is also the chairperson of the African Peer Review Forum of Heads of State and Government led discussions on “Unconstitutional Changes of Government – Consolidated Actions to Strengthen Constitutionalism and Democracy”.
The Summit adopted the Malabo Declaration and Decisions on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government. The Assembly reaffirmed that the African Peer Review Mechanism is a diagnostic tool for early warning for conflict prevention on the continent. The Assembly also directed the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA) Platform to remodel the Third Africa Governance Report 2023 (AGR 23) to reflect issues related to unconstitutional changes of government on the continent.
African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat told the summit that terrorism increased on the continent from 2011, with the Libyan crisis. This, he said, opened the way for the arrival of foreign mercenaries in the Sahel and an influx of terrorist organisations defeated in the Middle East.
“Terrorism has since spread to other parts of the continent. From Libya to Mozambique, Mali, the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, Somalia, the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and eastern DRC, the terrorist contagion continues to grow,” he said.
He also said Africa did not wait to react. He said the African Union established joint forces to fight terrorism, such as AMISOM/ATMIS in Somalia, the Joint Multinational Force in the Lake Chad Basin, the G5 Sahel Joint Force, the SADC mission in Mozambique (SAMIM) and bilateral initiatives in Mozambique.
“The Union also reactivated legal instruments to combat terrorism, such as the Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism adopted in 2002, the operational framework of the OAU Convention on Combating Terrorism adopted in 1999 and its Protocol adopted in 2004, the Joburg Declaration on the initiative to silence the guns, and the AU Roadmap on Practical Measures to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2030,” said Faki.
He pointed out that in spite of these initiatives, terrorism has continued to flourish, due to a lack of inter-African solidarity with the countries fighting terrorism, and “because we do not honour our own commitments”.
He gave the example of the African Standby Force that has not yet become operational since its inception and added that provision of the necessary means to existing armies, among others, would mean Africa would not depend on foreign forces to fight terrorism.
He also observed double standards that are applied by the international community in confronting challenges of terrorism in Africa vis-a-vis other parts of the world.
Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism said terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida and Da’esh, and their affiliates, have intensified their attacks across the continent, promoting chaos, killing innocent civilians, exacerbating intercommunal tensions, contributing to humanitarian catastrophes, undermining state authority and upending development.
“In West Africa and the Sahel, they continue to exploit limited governing capacities, socio-economic fragilities and local grievances.
“This challenge is further compounded by the intricate relationships between terrorists, armed groups and criminal networks and the political upheaval caused by the recent wave of coups d’état,” Voronkov said.
Alex Vines Obe and Jon Wallace writing for Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, an independent policy institute based in London, have warned that the fight against terrorism in Africa was a complex one.
They say the term ‘terrorism’ is problematic in Africa because “on many occasions it is the right description for obscene acts of violence perpetrated against civilians, such as the June 2021 attack in Burkina Faso. But it is also true that, throughout the 20th century, weak, corrupt and colonial regimes branded opponents ‘terrorists’ as a way to delegitimise their objectives.
Thy say the term is often applied by western policymakers in an attempt to impose order on fluid, highly-factionalised situations.
“This habit can create problems as designating insurgent groups as ‘terrorists’ makes it harder for governments to de-escalate conflict and negotiate peaceful settlements with insurgent groups.
“There are no easy, universal reasons for the roots of terror in Africa, the world’s second largest and most populous continent. The causes of violence against civilians in one African nation differ greatly from another – just as in Europe the UK’s history of sectarian and religious violence is different to that of Serbia’s,” they said.
Last year, in its forecast of 2022, the Peace and Security Council Report, which analyses developments and decisions at the African Union Peace and Security Council, warned that terrorist acts were likely to be on the rise in Africa this year.
“Amid ongoing war and political strife, urgent action is needed to avoid disaster in Africa’s worst-affected countries.
“In 2022, Africa will also continue to face the threat of violent extremism and terrorism in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions, East Africa and the Horn, and Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado. The menace will also hover over the coastal countries of West Africa,” the report stated.

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