Activating PSC mechanisms to fight terrorism

On 24 July 2014, the Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a meeting on its sub-committee on counter-terrorism. Although it was decided to establish the sub-committee more than three years ago, like many other sub-committees of the PSC it has not been fully operational.

The recent escalation in the frequency and scale of terrorist attacks on the continent has elevated terrorism to the top of the continental peace and security agenda. In its decision at the Malabo Summit, the Assembly of the African Union (AU) emphasised the gravity of the threat in the Sahelo-Saharan region; the Horn of Africa, including Somalia, Kenya and Djibouti; and the Central African region. The summit called for scaling up the fight against terror and proper implementation of the AU anti-terror regime, and asked the PSC to hold a summit-level meeting devoted to the issue of terrorism.

 Recent terrorist acts, notably the abduction by Boko Haram of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in northern Nigeria, have raised expectations for the AU to play a more active and leading role  

Recent terrorist acts, notably the abduction by Boko Haram of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok in northern Nigeria, have raised expectations for the AU to play a more active and leading role. Against this background and with the necessity of discharging its mandate in this respect, the PSC, in its first meeting on Boko Haram's recent terrorist acts, took a decision ‘to fully operationalize its counter-terrorism sub-committee’.

Establishment of the sub-committee

Since 2010, terrorism has emerged as one of the standing thematic agenda items of the PSC. In this context, the PSC receives an annual comprehensive report from the AU Commission on the prevention and combating of terrorism in Africa. The report it received from the Commission at its 249th meeting on 22 November 2010 recommended the establishment of a committee on counter‐terrorism in accordance with the relevant provisions of the PSC Protocol, to enhance its capacity and exercise the powers it is mandated by the PSC Protocol and other AU instruments.

Acting on the recommendation of the Commission’s report, the PSC decided to establish as a subsidiary organ a sub-committee on counter-terrorism within the framework of Article 3(d) of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) and in line with Article 8(5) of the PSC Protocol.

Mandate and composition of the committee

Among other tasks, the committee was mandated to present regular updates on terrorist activities in Africa and the AU’s efforts as part of the report on its activities and the ‘State of Peace and Security in Africa’. The committee serves as the focal point for facilitating and catalysing prompt PSC response to and action on acts of terrorism on the continent. It was also mandated to ‘ensure the implementation of relevant AU and international instruments, [and] prepare, publicize and regularly review a list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts’ as stated in the 2002 Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism. The Plan of Action was adopted by the AU High‐Level Inter‐Governmental Meeting on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in Africa, held in Algiers from 11 to 14 September 2002.

The sub‐committee on counter-terrorism is envisaged to consist of five members of Council representing the different geographical regions of the continent.

Efforts for operationalisation of the PSC sub-committee

On 30 November 2011, the AU Commission presented a proposal to the Council detailing the functions and operational modalities of the sub‐committee. The PSC in its meeting on 8 December 2011 PSC/PR/COMMM.2 (CCCIII) took note of the proposal made regarding the sub-committee’s functions and modalities of work and requested the speedy finalization of the document. Subsequently, the PSC at its 341st meeting PSC/PR/COMM.1(CCCXLI), held on 13 November 2012 decided to operationalise the sub‐committee on counter-terrorism on the basis of the document on the mandate, composition and functions of this organ.

The increasing need to have robust collaboration between member states of the AU, particularly in the areas of intelligence sharing and coordination of responses, is also an important area of interest

Although the PSC continued to receive reports from the Commission on efforts in countering terrorism and made commitments for the operationalisation of its sub-committee, it is only following its decision on 23 May that concrete action is being seen to get the committee up and running. A clear illustration of this action is the meeting scheduled by the committee for 24 July 2014.

Issues for the meeting

Apart from discussions on how to ensure that the sub-committee functions on a regular basis and discharges its responsibilities to enable the PSC to respond to developments promptly and effectively, other issues of interest at the meeting include following up on the implementation of the decisions of the PSC, including establishing close working relationship with the African Center for Study and Research of Terrorism (ACSRT), the AU’s technical arm on counter-terrorism based in Algiers. Similarly, a consideration of additional measures such as sanctions and the possibilities and modalities of designing an AU-led counter-terrorism operation may also be of interest.

In the light of recent events, the coordination of responses to the threat of terrorism in Africa and strengthening collaboration with regional organisations and global actors, particularly the UN, are also issues of particular interest to the meeting of the PSC sub-committee. There is also strong interest in discussing strategies or mechanisms for ensuring the effective implementation of existing instruments and decisions on counter-terrorism and for encouraging AU member states to ratify and implement AU treaties on counter-terrorism. The increasing need to have robust collaboration between member states of the AU, particularly in the areas of intelligence sharing and coordination of responses, is also an important area of interest.

The meeting may also consider preparations and plans for the convening of the summit-level PSC meeting that the AU Assembly requested in its decision at the Malabo summit.

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