African Union should lead the continent's response to terrorism

An ISS seminar organised ahead of today's AU Peace and Security Council summit recommended that the PSC should set the agenda for an African response to terrorism.

Nairobi, Kenya – The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) should set the agenda for Africa’s response to terrorism to ensure an approach based on collective and multilateral actions. This was one of the recommendations of a seminar organised by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) yesterday, ahead of the PSC summit on terrorism on Tuesday 2 September in Nairobi, Kenya.

The key question for today’s PSC summit – the first of its kind dedicated to terrorism – is how the AU and its member states can achieve a stronger and more effective response to terrorism.

Recommendations from the ISS seminar include the immediate activation of the PSC sub-committee on counter-terrorism. A mechanism is also needed to enable monitoring of progress and ensuring compliance with PSC decisions.

These steps are long overdue considering the threat that terrorism poses to the continent.

‘Terrorism is now a major security challenge for Africa with over 10 000 acts being committed between 1970 and 2014,’ said Martin Ewi a senior researcher at the ISS and one of the speakers at the seminar in Nairobi. ‘But in the last 10 years the Peace and Security Department of the AU Commission has devoted only five substantial sessions to terrorism. More needs to be done’ said Ewi.

Outgoing chairperson of the PSC, Ambassador Alian Aim’e Nyamitwe from Burundi, outlined some of the challenges facing the AU in its task. ‘There is a difficulty in defining terrorism and not all African countries have counter-terrorism laws, which makes collaboration difficult at times’. Nyamitwe stressed that member states do nevertheless consider terrorism as a major security concern.

The ISS seminar aimed to review terrorism trends on the continent and examine pan-African responses at the AU and regional levels, with a focus on the PSC’s role in anticipation of today’s summit. Among the participants was Ambassador Francisco Madeira, the AU’s Special Representative for Counter-terrorism and Director of the Algiers-based African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism.

There was general agreement among seminar participants that collective and holistic responses to terrorism are needed to deal with the socio-economic and governance dimensions of the problem. ‘The scale and sophistication of recent attacks, along with the regionalisation of terrorism by Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab, demand a more robust collective response both at the regional and continental level’ said Solomon A Dersso, leader of the ISS’ Peace and Security Council Report project in Addis Ababa.

African states also need to act decisively. Existing counter-terrorism instruments and laws must be implemented and governments should commit to protecting civilians while undertaking security operations and ensuring that anti-terrorism efforts are not used to stifle political opposition.

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