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The challenges of the fight against terrorism in Africa

UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL

Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

13 May 2013

 

I would like to thank Togo for its leadership in convening this important debate, and President Gnassingbe and you Minister for your presence today. Thank you also to the Secretary-General and to Dr Shehu (Director-General, Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa, GIABA) for their briefings.

There is no doubt that Africa is the new theatre in the fight against terrorism.

In the last week alone, we have seen stark reminders: suicide attacks targeting Malian and Nigerien soldiers in towns in northern Mali; coordinated attacks by alleged Boko Haram militants in north-eastern Nigeria; and a suicide car bomb by Al Shabaab against a convoy carrying a Qatari delegation in Mogadishu, Somalia.

The terrorist threat in Africa poses new and particularly complex challenges. Terrorist groups are showing greater skill at forming alliances and manipulating grievances or insurgencies, and taking advantage of ungoverned spaces.

Terrorist groups continue to develop their sources of financing, arms and recruits. They are well connected with the trafficking of people, drugs and arms across Africa. This is one of the reasons why terrorist groups in Mali have been able to access rifles and rockets from Libya 2,500 kilometres away. And we are seeing the rapid growth in kidnap for ransom and hostage-taking as financing and negotiating strategies for terrorist groups.

Terrorist groups are increasingly working together, across borders, regions, and continents. Australian terrorism investigations have revealed African terrorist groups have influenced Australian youths through radicalisation.

Terrorists groups in parts of Africa are exploiting vulnerabilities in some States: including institutions with limited capacity to deal with the threat; porous borders which allow arms, explosives, funds and people to move largely unchecked; existing grievances; poverty and unemployment. Terrorist activities then exacerbate these conditions.

To break this vicious cycle we need to tackle the threat on three levels: through capacity, prevention and coordination.

First, capacity. Many African States want better law enforcement capacity and training. Stronger policing and intelligence, and closer cooperation with prosecutors, defence counsel and judges nationally and regionally is needed to develop an effective criminal justice approach. We have learnt from experience, for example in Indonesia, that one of the most powerful tools in this fight is actual prosecutions – and convictions – some based on joint investigations.

This requires effective laws and dedicated regional training facilities in Africa which strengthen relationships and information sharing including intelligence between officials, and foster regional solutions. Drawing on the experience of the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC), Australia is supporting the creation of the Eastern African Regional Counter Terrorism Centre, as well as supporting CTED workshops for police and prosecutors in East Africa and Nigeria on effectively bringing terrorists to justice. Australia has also just finalised a handbook on Criminalising Terrorism for the African Union to assist African policy makers to develop effective criminal laws to combat terrorism. This is part of a series of six transnational crime guides produced by our Attorney General’s Department for the AU – the final guide on Combating Terrorism Financing will be ready in coming weeks.

The Rabat conference on border control cooperation in the Sahel and the Maghreb in March identified that many African States need customs training, technology to track goods and people, and stronger networks to enable better coordination nationally and across borders. The international community should support the Rabat framework of assistance, and look to replicate this strategy in other parts of Africa.

Second, equal efforts must be made to prevent terrorism and extremism from emerging, arming and recruiting. Prevention is a complex and difficult task often without measurable results, but a decisive component of a comprehensive strategy. There is no excuse for terrorism, but governments need to actively counter the negative drumbeat of terrorist messaging and close opportunities for narratives of injustice or exclusion to resonate and radicalize. According to a World Bank survey in 2011, 46% of those who joined ideological militant movements in Mali said they were motivated by a sense of injustice and revenge and thus belief in the cause, while 21% were motivated by unemployment. The pathways to terrorism are specific to individual and country circumstances, but key prevention strategies include:

a) building resilience in communities, including ensuring they promote values of tolerance, understanding and dialogue within and between religions and cultures, and respect for diversity. Mali’s new Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission will have a critical role to play in this regard. Effective programs involve a cross section of government agencies and civil society, including women. In Nigeria, for example, one women’s NGO is facilitating dialogue, and training community members to spot warning signs of violent extremism in order to trigger a timely response from community leaders.

b) opening up opportunities for economic and social advancement – particularly by providing access to education with strong curriculums, and access to work. Particular effort needs to go towards engaging youth, which account for more than 60 percent of Africa’s unemployed, with around 10-12 million youth entering the workforce in Africa each year. Youth unemployment can be a decisive vulnerability. The average age of terrorists is getting younger. Africa needs jobs generating investment and development assistance. Australian development assistance, which has almost quadrupled since 2007, focuses on expertise where we can add value including agriculture, food security and human resource capacity building.

c) strengthening governance, democracy, the rule of law and security sector institutions. This includes good service delivery and the extension of state authority to regional areas. The new UN mission in Somalia has a strong mandate to assist the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts in this regard. We should stress the importance of proactive efforts on security sector reform and physical security of state weapons arsenals to prevent arms from leaking into the hands of terrorists – one of the key lessons of the Mali crisis.

Third, responding to the magnitude and complexity of the challenge in Africa demands greater coordination – at the national and regional levels, particularly through the AU, and at the international level.

Today’s Presidential Statement rightly highlights the important role of the UN, the AU and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in this regard. These organisations can improve coordination between each other, and with sub-regional efforts. We also need to coordinate with other sources of expertise, like the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which has developed good practices in criminal justice, kidnapping and prisons. Some of these have been developed with leadership from African States through the GCTF Sahel working group, while others resources can be usefully adapted for the region.

The long-awaited integrated strategy for the Sahel should provide a strong template for coordinated activity across the Sahel region, encompassing security, governance, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance. We look forward to the dedicated CTC special meeting on the Sahel later this year and taking forward a comprehensive and coordinated approach, tied in with the Sahel integrated strategy.

There are other areas where the UN and the Security Council could be doing more on coordination.

The Council’s sanctions regime targeting Al Qaida has enormous potential to assist African States turn the tide against Al Qaida affiliates in Africa. To be effective, the Council and African states need to work together to target these entities, their leaders and, most importantly, their enablers that provide arms, funds and recruits. We need to keep pace with the fast changing dynamics of terrorist groups and their supporters.

To this end, the 1267 Committee has taken a focused look at the threat posed by AQIM, MUJAO and Ansar Eddine and is moving forward with a plan for outreach to countries of the region, with a view to providing assistance to effectively implement the sanctions measures, but also to encourage partnership with those States to identify the right targets that will deliver the maximum impact. Dr Shehu told us clearly this morning that we need to improve performance in targeting and implementing our sanctions in West Africa.

We need to mainstream the analysis of terrorism, its causes and measures to address it, into the UN’s peace and security agenda, including mandates – and field missions as the Permanent Representative of Pakistan suggested.

The Council and UN system should also be proactive in coordination to prevent the spread of terrorist conflict and pressures in Africa. Too often, we focus our response and peacekeeping and stabilisation efforts on a country, when we know the threat can transcend borders and materialise elsewhere. We need to consider ways the UN system can buffer the impact of the threat and the response on the immediate region.

The Council and the UN can, for example, work in partnership with neighbouring countries, and strengthen dialogue with them to better understand the threat and risks, and to mobilise the necessary support from subsidiary bodies, the rest of the UN system and partners to counter the spread of conflict, extremism, arms and funds. Support, for example, is often needed in policing, securing borders, securing arms stockpiles, and addressing counter terrorism financing. Stronger coordination between political missions, country and regional offices and panels of experts will also improve the effectiveness of missions and help identify early emerging threats.

In concluding, Mr President

It is vital that the Security Council sends a message today that the international community will cooperate across borders to defeat terrorists and their criminal supporters who are undermining progress and prosperity in Africa. And terrorism in Africa is an international problem. It has significant security and economic repercussions for the international community.

Australia itself remains committed to help combat this acute challenge, in our capacity as a member of the Council – which can and must do more – and through our ongoing bilateral and regional cooperation.

I would also like to express condolences to the people and Government of Turkey at the terrorist attacks it suffered over the weekend.

Thank you Mr President.

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