ADDIS ABABA – African Union officials say the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government, expanding threat of terrorism and violent extremism across Africa have continued to negatively impact the peace, security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of African states.
Their occurrence particularly is increasing with the influx of foreign terrorist fighters, private military companies and mercenaries, the proliferation of armed groups, as well as transnational organized crime, the Union said on Saturday.
To stem the upsurge of “the increasingly worrying situation,” governments and heads of states of the AU member countries held an Extraordinary Summit on May 28, 2022, in Malabo.
“The leaders assessed the persistent threats and current response mechanisms, as they sought to strengthen the collective security of Member States facing terrorism and violent extremism, as well as unconstitutional changes of governments,” said the pan African bloc today.
Addressing the summit, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat noted that terrorism increased on the continent from 2011, with the Libyan crisis.
The ongoing instability in Libya started with the Arab Spring protests in 2011, and was later aggravated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or NATO’s regime change intervention in the country.
The crisis opened the way for the arrival of foreign mercenaries in the Sahel and an influx of terrorist organizations defeated in the Middle East, according to the Chairperson.
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, said the AU.
But Africa did not wait to react.
The AU 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, and the AU Roadmap on Practical Measures to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2030.
In spite of these initiatives, Moussa Faki noted that terrorism has continued to flourish.
This is due to the lack of inter African solidarity with the countries fighting terrorism, “because we do not honor our own commitments,” said the chairperson, giving the African Standby Force that has not yet become operational since its inception as an example.
The Chairperson 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.
While underlining the nexus between terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government, the Chairperson observed, “We have all recently witnessed with consternation and concern, the return in force of military coups in some of our member states.”
”We are witnessing the resurgence of a practice that we thought was gone forever with the advent of a new age, which promised a democratic era… The stability of democratic institutions is a guarantee for economic and social development,” he said.
“Conversely, breaks from democratic processes bring about the problems on the continent. Consequently, we need to analyze the causes of the resurgence of military usurpation of power and determine the appropriate therapy.”
Between 2012 and 2020, terrorist attacks on the continent increased four-fold, according to the AU’s Algiers-based African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT).
In 2012, there were 508 terrorist strikes across the continent that resulted in 2,563 casualties.
The number has increased to 2,034 in 2020 resulting in 8,631 deaths, thereby representing 400% and 237% rises in attacks and deaths respectively.
“Women, children and the youth often suffer the consequences of terrorist attacks, as victims and sometimes as perpetrators,” the Union said.
– ‘Structural Factors‘ –
Several structural factors are responsible for the spread of the threat, ACSRT’s research shows .
Chief among these are transnational organized crime and financing of terrorism; proliferation of arms, and resurgence of the role of foreign fighters and mercenaries.
The factors also include political instability; chronic governance deficits and the resultant worsening poverty and inequality; deliberate misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion; weak law enforcement response capacities.
Joao Lourenço, President of Angola and Vice Chairperson of the AU, highlighted poverty, unemployment, and lack of socio-economic development as part of the missing link to finding a sustainable solution to peace and security in Africa.
At the same time, he underscored the importance of effectively protecting borders to deter the ill activities that take place in porous borders, making them a conducive environment for terrorists.
“We must look at internal reasons that lead to instability and make our people vulnerable to exploitative ideologies,” the president told the summit.
“We must find political and economic solutions because terrorism is compounding the issues of hunger, poverty and displaced persons,” he said.
“There’s a need for firmness not only in condemning but in taking actions against those who take power through unconstitutional means.”