Ministerial Session on Countering Extremist Ideology and Radicalization in Africa

Terrorism and Organised Crime

Date | 15 November, 2021

Tomorrow (15 November) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1048th session at ministerial level on countering extremist ideology and radicalization in Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Sameh Hassan Shoukry, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. Representative of Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism, Representative of the Egyptian Money-Laundering and Terrorist Financing Combating Unit (EMLCU) and the Director of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) are also expected to deliver statements.

The report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on ‘Continental efforts in preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism in Africa’ which was considered by the PSC at its 1040th session convened at the ministerial level indicates the growing rate of extremism in the continent manifested through terrorist attacks, kidnappings for ransom (KFR) and other transnational organised crimes. As captured in the report, in central Africa, over 595 attacks leading to 1758 deaths were recorded, whereas in western Africa, 253 attacks were recorded which have resulted in 1538 deaths, only during the first half of 2021. So far into 2021, there have also been 82 recorded cases of KFR throughout the continent. The attacks carried out during the same period also demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of the targets of terrorist acts are civilians. This concerning trend has prompted Council’s much needed attention to tomorrow’s session which aims to explore means of countering radicalism and extremist ideologies which are at the bottom of the spread of terrorist acts.

The AU Commission Chairperson’s report further highlights that international terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and Daesh (the Islamic State) continue to seek alliances with domestic terrorist sects in Africa, battling for dominance over one another. As these groups fortify efforts to spread and establish strongholds, radical and extremist ideologies serve as their main weapons for mobilising and recruiting local communities. As various examples of counter-terrorist missions demonstrate, efforts aimed at preventing and fighting against radicalism and extremism fail to go beyond security responses and military approaches which are ineffective in addressing underlying root causes of the problem. In that regard, Council’s note at its 749th session that member States need to adopt holistic approaches, which address root causes of terrorism, and violent extremism has been significant in emphasising that military responses alone cannot achieve the needed success in counterterrorism efforts.

As studies into trends of terrorism and violent extremism in various parts of Africa indicate, local grievances due to inequality, marginalisation, poverty, injustice, corruption and poor governance, lack of socioeconomic opportunities and high rate of unemployment, oppression and subjugation of minority groups, and violations of human rights and freedoms are widely manipulated by terrorist groups to convert and recruit local communities, particularly the youth. To some extent, the very formation of extremist and radical ideologies is also the result of such socioeconomic challenges which are left unaddressed, prompting affected and aggrieved members of society to explore less than peaceful means of seeking their societal quests. The misuse and distortion of political opinions and religious and cultural identities and the lack of proper and timely management of resulting disputes in society also lay a fertile ground not only for the radicalisation of affected individuals and their manipulation into joining existing terrorist groups, but also for the creation of extremist ideologies. However, most of the conversation regarding terrorism and violent extremism is centred around radical religious and cultural ideologies and security-centred measures to counter them, while the background and underlying causes for the creation of such ideologies is mostly ignored. This curtails the prevention and effective response to radicalism and violent extremism.

Understanding the unique contexts under which extremist ideologies develop is also important as opposed to adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. The factors and circumstances that make individuals vulnerable to radicalisation may vary considerably from one geographic location to another. To prevent, mitigate and ultimately eradicate violent extremism therefore, identification of the specific local causes and dynamics and engaging with community members in an all-inclusive manner to find solutions to these causes is essential. The importance of early education of children and sensitisation of youth and adults on the culture of peace, peaceful resolution of disputes and respect for diversity should also not be overlooked or underplayed and should be supported with concrete government policies.

The growing linkage between terrorism and transnational organised crimes including human and drug trafficking could also be considered as factors significantly contributing to the spread of radicalism and extremist ideologies. Particularly, with poverty and lack of employment serving as push factors, individuals, especially the youth, are driven to identify with extremist ideologies and to join groups that advance them, in hopes of making a living and supporting themselves and their families. Therefore, in addition to strengthening national efforts aimed at creating economic opportunities and ensuring inclusive development, member States should also reinforce local, regional and continental initiatives designed to address transnational organised crimes in order to stem the finances it provides to advance radicalism and extremist ideologies. It is also to be recalled that at its 1040th session, Council underscored the need to expedite the establishment of an African list of persons, groups and entities associated with terrorist acts, including those sponsoring terrorism. This, followed with appropriate action from concerned member States and the international community such as freezing accounts of persons sponsoring terrorism, will also contribute towards reducing the spread of radicalism and extremist ideologies.

Another concerning factor which could further exacerbate radicalism and extremist ideologies in Africa is the existence of substantial number of foreign terrorist fighters in the continent, particularly in Libya and the Sahel region. At its 1035th session, Council addressed the growing security concern the projected withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya imposes upon the Sahel region and the rest of the continent and stressed the importance of developing and implementing a plan for their withdrawal. In addition to the direct security consequences, a mismanaged withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya also entails the possible spread of extremist ideologies to the rest of the continent. Therefore, in addition to disarming these forces, it is also important to develop withdrawal and relocation plans with an element of deradicalisation.

The manipulation of modern technologies and misuse of the cyber space to spread extremist ideologies, motivate and radicalise targeted groups, as well as to recruit and incite violence has also been a concerning trend. Hence, while ensuring and respecting freedom of expression, the right to privacy and other relevant rights, it also important for member States to regulate the use of social media and cyber space in general to restrict the flow and dissemination of inflammatory content.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communiqué. Council may express grave concern over the growing rate of violent extremism and terrorist attacks in the continent and emphasise the need to strengthen existing response mechanisms while adopting measures to address underlying root causes of radicalism and extremist ideologies. It may call on member States and Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) to enhance collaborations in securing and managing borders in order to effectively control the illicit flow of weapons and to combat transnational organised crimes, which serve to finance the spread of radicalism and extremism. The PSC may reiterate the decision of the 14th extraordinary session of the Assembly on Silencing the Guns and its previous decision on the development of a comprehensive strategy for countering terrorism in Africa; the urgent need to operationalize AU Special Fund on the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa; the establishment of a special unit on counter-terrorism within the African Standby Force (ASF); and the reactivation of the Council’s sub-committee on counter-terrorism. Council may also highlight the need to update relevant AU instruments on counterterrorism, including the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and its 2004 Protocol, to ensure that the issue of extremist ideologies is also well reflected.


Consideration of the Report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Continental Efforts in Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in Africa

Terrorism and Organised Crime

Date | 22 October, 2021

Tomorrow (22 October) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1040th session at a ministerial level to consider the report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on continental efforts in prevention and combating of terrorism in Africa.

The session is expected to have two segments, an open and a closed session. In the open session invited guests will deliver their statements. Following the opening statement by Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mozambique and PSC Chair for October, the Chairperson of the AUC Moussa Faki Mahamat is expected to deliver remarks. The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is scheduled to deliver a presentation. Ramtane Lamamra Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Algeria and Champion in Combating Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa is also expected to deliver remarks. The Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) as well as the representatives of the European Union and the United Nations are expected to present their statements. During the closed segment Bankole Adeoye will present the report of the Chairperson of the AUC on continental efforts in the prevention and combating of terrorism in Africa. The Secretary General of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) is also scheduled to present its statement.

The report of the chairperson is in line with the Assembly decision (/AU/Dec.311 (XV)) during its 15th Ordinary Session, held in July 2010, which requested the Commission to submit regular reports on the status of the fight and cooperation against terrorism in Africa. During its 249th meeting held in November 2010, it is to be recalled that the Council also requested the AU Commission to submit reports and briefings on the state of terrorism in Africa and the efforts made at continental and international level to address the scourge. Since then the Chairperson of the Commission has been reporting to the Council regularly, on the challenges related to terrorism in Africa and on continental efforts being undertaken towards combating the problem. The Council thus far held three of its sessions on the theme at the level of Heads of State and Government (455th, 571st, and 749th meetings). This makes the thematic issue the most addressed at a summit level.

On the state of terrorism and trends, the report underscores persistence of Africa’s vulnerability to the threats of terrorism and violent extremisms despite the progress achieved by member states in preventing and combating the scourge. Citing African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) data, the report provides that, from 1 January to 30 June 2021, the continent witnessed a total of 950 terrorist attacks resulting in 3,883 deaths—showing a 10 percent increase in the number of attacks as compared to the same period in 2020. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of terrorist attacks. On a positive note, the report indicates that counter terrorism operations neutralized 1,943 terrorists. Recently, major successes have been also registered in neutralizing top ranks of terrorist groups operating in Africa though its implication in reducing their lethality remains to be seen.

In terms of geographic distribution of terrorist attacks, the report highlights that Central Africa registered the highest number of attacks with 595 attacks resulting in 1,758 deaths (constituting 45 percent of the total death registered in the continent) while North Africa recorded the least both in number of attacks and deaths (11 attacks and 32 deaths). West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa come second, third and fourth, respectively. Mai-Mai groups, Allied Democratic Front (ADF), Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Al-Sunnah Wa Jummah (ASWJ) were the most active terrorist groups during the reporting period. Among these, ADF that operates in eastern DRC is the deadliest while Boko Haram remains the most lethal terrorist group in Africa.

The report attributes the spread of terrorism in Africa to several factors. First is the surge in the influx of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) from outside the continent. Despite the military defeat of ISIL and its affiliates in Iraq and Syria, its spillover effect has continued to reverberate across Africa and elsewhere. On one hand, the return and relocation of FTFs pose a huge security risk by enhancing the operational capability of local terrorist groups and affiliates, particularly in the area of using and manufacturing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). On the other hand, the threat posed by ISIL and Al-Qaida has morphed into a ‘less visible network of autonomous individuals and cells’, which makes efforts of combating terrorism more challenging. Growing trend has been also witnessed among terrorist groups operating in Africa in terms of pledging allegiance to ISIS and Al-Qaida though there is little evidence suggesting strong link between them. It is against this context that the PSC, during its last session on FTFs (957th meeting), requested the AU Commission, African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL) and ACRST to ‘develop a comprehensive “guideline framework for countering FTFs”, as well as to expedite the development of a “database” of persons, entities or organizations involved in or supporting, in any form, the activities of terrorist organizations…’.

The second factor is the intricate linkage between terrorism and trans-national organized crime where not only illicit economies have become major source of financing for terrorists but also its profitability has become financial motivation for them to continue with their activities. Hence, as noted by the report of the Chairperson, depriving terrorist and violent extremist groups of their sources of funding should be a central element of any counter terrorism strategy. Terrorist groups also derive their funding from kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR), which showed a dramatic rise in 2021 as compared to the same period last year. Proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the rise of mercenarism—phenomenon particularly aggravated by the instability in Libya and Sahel—are also mentioned as factors contributing to the spread of terrorism in the continent. It is also worth noting that terrorists have taken advantage of the porous nature of African borders and ungoverned spaces in some of African countries due to weak national institutional capacities in this regard.

On the continental efforts to address the scourge, AU has made strides in building strategic partnership with UN and other stakeholders including through the launch of Coordination Committee between the AU Commission and UN Office of Counter-Terrorism on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism. The AU has also continued its support to RECs/RMs and member states to strengthening their capacity in countering terrorism through the available mechanisms notably ACSRT, AFRIPOL, and CISSA. The ACSRT, for instance, have been providing assistance in the areas of developing/reviewing their respective counterterrorism strategies and plan of actions, building technical capacities, as well as sharing information and analysis. AFRIPOL, on its part, is also working to assist member states in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism and transnational organized crimes through training and technical expertise. The establishment of the African Police Communication System (AFSECOM), which is intended to facilitate easy and security communication and sharing of information and data among police agencies of member states is a positive step towards the operationalization of AFRIPOL. The establishment and functioning of the 55 AFRIPOL National Liaison Offices (NLOs) within member states is another notable development having an impact on the functioning of AFRIPOL as well as its linkage with police agencies of member states. Financial, human and infrastructural issues however remain huge challenges in effectively discharging their mandates.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. Among others, the Council is expected to express its concern over the surge in influx of FTFs into Africa and its implication on the peace and security of the continent, and in this regard, the Council may reiterate its warning to ‘name and shame’ all those involved in sponsoring FTFs. In addition, the Council may recall its 1035th session that emphasized the need to expedite the implementation of the establishment of an African list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, including FTFs. Towards strengthening continental mechanisms to counter terrorism, the Council may follow up on its previous decisions as well as the decision of the 14th extraordinary session of the Assembly on Silencing the Guns including the development of a comprehensive strategy for countering terrorism in Africa; the urgent need to operationalize AU Special Fund on the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa; the establishment of special unit on counter-terrorism within the ASF; and the reactivation of the Council’s sub-committee on counter-terrorism. The PSC may also stress the need to strengthen the capacity of the specialized agencies including CISSA, ACSRT and AFRIPOL to fulfill their mandates effectively and to enhance their horizontal cooperation to create more synergy. The Council may reiterate its previous decision on the need to address the root causes including poverty and marginalization, which provide breeding ground to terrorism. Drawing on the recommendation of the report of the Chairperson, the Council may also highlight the need to mainstream counterterrorism and prevention/countering of violent extremism in the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA).


Ministerial Session on the Consideration of the Projected Impact of Withdrawal of Foreign Forces and Mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel and the rest of Africa

Terrorism and Organised Crime

Date | 30 September, 2021

Tomorrow (30 September), African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1035th session at a Ministerial level on the projected impact of withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel region and the rest of Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Chadians Abroad of the Republic of Chad PSC Chairperson of the month, Ambassador Cherif Mahamat Zene, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a presentation on the AU Paper on the projected impact of the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel and the rest of Africa. Representatives of concerned countries and neighbouring countries as well as Regional Economic Communities (RECs), namely, Libya, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are expected to deliver statements. The Special Representative of the Secretary General to the AU and Head of the United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU), Hanna Tetteh, and the Head of the European Union Delegation to the AU, Ambassador Birgitte Markussen, may also make statements.

Cognizant of the risks posed by the departure of foreign forces on the peace and stability of neighboring countries and the wider Sahel, it is to be recalled that African members of the UN Security Council and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (A3+1) initiated two events at the UN Security Council on the theme—an informal interactive dialogue on 29 April and the Arria-formula meeting on 18 June 2021. The Arria-formula meeting sought to address, among others, the threat that the ‘unsupervised departure’ of foreign forces from Libya poses to the stability of the Sahel region and how international and regional organizations could best collaborate to tackle this threat. Tomorrow’s session therefore brings the broader discussion held at the UN to a regional level and presents the PSC the opportunity to, among others, deliberate on the threat posed by withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya to the Sahel region and the continent at large and explore ways and means to address the danger posed by the withdrawal of foreign forces and ensure a well-managed and orderly withdrawal.

It is estimated that there are some 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya mainly coming from Syria, Russia, Sudan and Chad. Though the October 2020 permanent ceasefire agreement reached by Libya’s 5+5 Joint Military Commission clearly envisages the withdrawal of all foreign forces by January 2021, eight months later, translating this commitment into action remains elusive. As the UN Secretary-General captured in his latest report on Libya issued on 25 August, the continued presence of foreign forces in the Libyan soil posed a significant threat ‘not only to the security of Libya, but also to the whole region’. Given that the departure of foreign forces constitutes a critical step for sustainable peace and stability of Libya and the broader region, the international community, including the PSC through its communiqué adopted at its 997th ministerial meeting on Libya, has intensified its call for the ‘immediate and unconditional’ withdrawal of these forces from Libya. The issue of withdrawal of foreign forces had been also at the centre of the 23 June Second International Berlin Conference on Libya, co-organized by Germany and the UN that drew significant number of participants including AU. One positive sign towards the withdrawal of foreign forces as a follow up to the Berlin Conference is the reported discussion between Russia and Turkey, to pull out 300 Syrians from each side.

While the discussion around withdrawal of Syrian fighters and other private security companies in Libya is indeed a step forward towards the stability of the country, little attention seems to be given to the foreign fighters and mercenaries who hail from neighbouring countries, which have become a particular concern for countries in the Sahel region. These countries have been also drawing attention to the other dimension of the withdrawal process by raising the alarm about the implication of the withdrawal of foreign forces in exacerbating the security situation of the already volatile region of the Sahel. Pursuing the agenda of withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya without a clear strategy to steer the process is a threat to the stability in the Sahel and the rest of the continent. In this connection, the representative of Niger, during the 21 May 2021 UNSC briefing on Libya, captured the link between Libya conflict and the security in the Sahel stating that ‘we fear that the arms being silenced in Libya may resound again in the Sahel’. It is also in recognition of such danger that the PSC, at its last session on Chad (1016th meeting held on 3 August 2021), requested the AU Commission to expedite the finalization of the ‘AU Policy Paper on addressing the potential impact of the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya on Central Africa region and the Sahel’.

A clear illustration of the danger is events unfolded in Chad that led to the death of late President Idriss Déby Itno. Chad rebel group the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which has been reportedly fighting in Libya’s conflict since 2016, launched attacks from Libya on the same day of the Presidential election (11 April 2021). Chad’s military announced the death of Déby on 20 April due to the injury he sustained while fighting FACT rebels, which sparked the fear of destabilization to a country widely seen as key partner in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in the region. It is to be recalled that the PSC, during its 996th meeting convened on 14 May 2021, attributed the security situation in Chad to the activities of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya in addition to its call for the ‘unconditional and expeditious withdrawal of all mercenaries, and foreign fighters from Chad’ based on the 1977 OAU Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa.

One starting point to ensure an orderly departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries is perhaps to assist Libyan authorities to implement the terms of October 2020 ceasefire agreement including the one that requires to ‘immediately start identification and categorization of armed groups and armed entities on the entire Libyan territory, whether they are integrated into state institutions or not’. This step would be critical particularly to venture on the task of the dismantlement of armed groups and entities in Libya. The other available avenue is through an effective support to a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process both in Libya and neighboring countries where foreign fighters and mercenaries originate. For DDR to succeed and bring the desired outcome, however, it must form part of a broader political and security reforms aimed at addressing root causes of instability such as security sector reform (SSR), national reconciliation, and peacebuilding programmes. A positive development worth highlighting in this regard is Chad’s interim president invitation of opposition armed groups to participate in the upcoming national dialogue, which is due to be held before the end of the year.

A related challenge of interest to the Council is the continued violations of the arms embargo established by UN Security Council Resolution 1970(2011), which contributes to the illicit transfer and destablising accumulation of weapons in Libya. This, coupled with the porous borders of the region and high mobility of armed groups, is affecting the stability of countries in the Sahel and beyond.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The Council is also expected to express its concern over the impact of unsupervised withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries form Libya to the peace and stability of the Sahel region as well as the rest of the continent. The Council is likely to stress on the importance of undertaking the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries in an orderly and carefully designed manner to ensure that the peace efforts in Libya do not negatively affect the peace and stability of the Sahel region. The Council may further stress on the need for close coordination and complementarity of efforts between the sub-regional, regional and international actors including ECOWAS, the G5 Sahel, ECCAS, the Community of Sahel-Sahara Countries (CEN-SAD), Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), AU, UN, and other international partners with the view to effectively manage the withdrawal process. In relation to addressing the multiple challenges facing the Sahel region in holistic manner, as indicated in the Concept Note prepared for tomorrow’s session, the Council may call for the need to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategy by the AU, ECOWAS, ECCAS, UN, EU and neighboring countries for the Sahel region. In light of the growing threats posed by the departure of foreign forces from Libya, the illicit flow of arms and high mobility of armed groups in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions, the Council is expected to urge member states of the regions to effectively utilize the existing security arrangements in the region including the G5 Sahel Force as well as the Multi-National Joint Task Force, as well as AU’s Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA).


Discussion on the Impact of Foreign Terrorist Fighters on Peace and Security in Africa

Terrorism and Organised Crime

Date | 20 October, 2020

Tomorrow (20 October) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold its 957th session to discuss the impact of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) on Peace and Security in Africa.

After the opening remarks by the Chair of the month, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Cergui is expected to deliver a statement. The Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) are scheduled to brief the Council. Moreover, Emmanuel Mouya from the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) and Tarik Sharif from the AU Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL) are also expected to brief the Council.

Initiated under the Chair of the PSC for October, Egypt, the agenda of this session focuses on the implications of FTFs on peace and security in Africa and more particularly on the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. The session among other issues envisions discussing mechanisms of identifying and locating FTFs as well as measures to improve the collection and sharing of information and evidence. The session is also expected to address issues related to measures aimed at strengthening relevant prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration strategies and to deliberate on the gender aspect and child rights issues in relation to FTFs.

The AU PSC has addressed the issue of FTFs in Africa at its 749th session held under the theme ‘Towards a Comprehensive Approach to Combatting the Transitional Threat of Terrorism in Africa’, which was held at the Heads of State and Government level under Egypt’s Chairpersonship in January 2018. The PSC has expressed its concern on the return of FTFs back to the continent. The communiqué issued following the meeting stated the possibilities of FTFs seeking ‘refuge with other terrorist groups on the ground’. Thus, it requested ‘the AU Commission and partners to continue to assist Member States in building and further strengthening their national capacities’. Moreover, the Council called on its subsidiary body, the Sub-Committee on Countering Terrorism, once operationalized, to prepare in close collaboration with the AUC ‘an African watch-list composed of a database of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, including FTFs, for use by law enforcement, border security, customs, military, and intelligence agencies in addition to AFRIPOL’.

Moreover, the PSC’s 812th meeting, held on 23 November 2018, recognized the role of ACSRT, CISSA and the AU Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL), in compiling ‘the list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, including FTFs’. The Council has also urged the international community ‘to share with AU Member States, the lists of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, including their nationals identified as FTFs’.

Various AUC Chairperson’s reports have addressed the issue of FTFs within the broader context of terrorism and violent extremism in the continent. While not addressing the phenomenon of FTFs in detail, the AUC Chairperson’s Report on Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa – presented at the 455th meeting of the PSC convened on 2 September 2014 – made reference to the phenomenon. The report identifies the instability in North Africa as one of the factors contributing to the spread of terrorism in Africa. In this regard, it is stressed that North African youths that have been recruited and radicalised constitute a large group of foreign fighters in terrorist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq and anticipates their return as a security threat not only to the North African region, but also to the whole of Africa.

In a more recent report by the AUC Chairperson on AMISOM and Somalia presented at the 865th session of the PSC in August 2019, references have also been made to FTFs. The report indicates that Al-Shabaab remains a serious threat to security and stability across Somalia given its capacity to continue its recruitment, training and deployment of fighters, both local and foreign.

At the international level, the scale of the phenomenon became apparent and concerning following the international community’s observation that terrorist groups such as Al-Qaida and ISIL/Da’esh (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), were attracting an estimated amount of 40,000 individuals from 110 countries who travelled to join them at various territories under their control. FTFs generally impose a threat to peace and security in the State of destination, transit and neighbouring States, and upon their return, they become security threat to their State of origin. Some FTFs also relocate to third States instead of returning to their State of origin, thereby being a risk to peace and security in such States.

African countries including Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and recently, Mozambique have been particularly affected by the operation of terrorist elements which include FTFs. In the African context, certain factors are closely inter-linked with the phenomenon and require serious attention. Among these, the lack of strict maritime regulatory rules at the continental and sub-regional level is worth mentioning. Weak maritime regulations have highly contributed to terrorism in general and opened the way for free movement of FTFs as well as their criminal activities such as smuggling of goods and people, drug and arms trafficking. I n this regard terrorism has been intimately linked with organized crime particularly when there are natural resources and strategic points such as ports, which can be easily controlled due to government’s limited capacity.

Coastal African States with weak maritime governance including Somalia and Mozambique have been particularly vulnerable to these activities. For instance, in Somalia, IS-Somalia continues to import weapons and fighters from IS-Yemen through the northern port town of Qandala. In Mozambique, Ansar al-Sunna coordinated its attacks against government forces by first controlling the north-eastern cost of the country, Cabo Delgado. These trends clearly indicate the need for African States, particularly costal States, and the AU in general, to strengthen maritime safety and security.

At the level of the UN, the UNSC has adopted various resolutions directly addressing the threats and risks of FTFs. UNSC Resolution 2178(2014) and 2396(2017) focused on halting the flow of FTFs attempting to travel to conflict zones by requesting Member States to strengthen screening procedures including collection and analysis of travel data. It has also made a decision for States to ensure that their domestic laws and regulations establish serious criminal offenses sufficient to provide the ability to prosecute and to penalize their nationals that are directly involved or financially support FTFs.

In addition, the 2015 Madrid Guiding Principles on FTFs and its 2018 Addendum were adopted by UNSC following the UNSC Counter-Terrorism Committee’s deliberation and identification of principles imperative for guiding States in their efforts to stem the movement of FTFs.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may underline that the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in the continent requires addressing root causes of conflict and crisis. It may reiterate its previous calls and urge Member States to strengthen the data collection and analysis capacity in terms of compiling the lists of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, including their nationals identified as FTFs. It may urge Member States to increase their capacity in border control and security and to work closely and in coordination with neighbouring countries through information and intelligence sharing. It may also request institutions such as AFRIPOL, CISSA and ACSRT to enhance and support efforts around the development of a database of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts. The conclusions of the meeting are expected to be presented to the Assembly in February 2021 as part of the PSC report.


Briefing on Transnational Organized Crime and Peace and Security in Africa

Terrorism and Organised Crime

Date | 24 April, 2019

Tomorrow (25 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to have its 845th session on Transnational Organized Crime and Peace and Security in Africa. The briefing is expected to be conducted jointly by the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA), AU Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL) and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
The session is expected to highlight the need for enhanced cooperation for police agencies and other relevant law enforcement agencies in fighting all forms of organized crime with the aim of promoting peace and security in Africa. The session also presents an opportunity to elaborate on the nature of the threat of transnational organized crime in the continent and highlight the ongoing efforts by AFRIPOL, INTERPOL and CISSA in providing support to member states to fight organized crime in Africa, particularly due to the growing linkage between transnational organized crime and terrorism.

During the 731st meeting held on 8 November 2017 the PSC underlined ‘the direct linkages between terrorism and transnational organized crime particularly in situations where state institutions are weak and lack the necessary capacity to effectively discharge their constitutional mandates’. Among others, organized crime has enhanced the ability of terrorist groups to finance their activities and this has contributed to the proliferation of violent extremist groups in the continent.

Similarly the INTERPOL-ENACT (Enhancing African capacity to respond more effectively to transnational organized crime) report released in December 2018 concluded that crimes are increasingly converging in Africa, underlining how transnational threats cannot be treated in isolation by particularly highlighting the interconnectedness between transnational organized crime and violent extremism. Criminals, terrorists and armed insurgents have benefited from diverse illicit activities and profits, through drug and arms trafficking, people smuggling and wildlife crime. The rapid technological development in Africa including its e-commerce and mobile technologies has come with the inadvertent consequences of the rise of cybercrime and illicit online activities.

Geographically as well organized crime is increasingly interconnected across the region and globally, hence in order to respond effectively to the threats the efforts by member states need to be more coordinated and move beyond national boundaries. In this context, the establishment of AFRIPOL, as a technical body for cooperation among the police agencies of the AU member states play a critical role in providing systematic and structured cooperation among police agencies in the continent. This has also been recognized by the PSC 731st session which underlined the importance of ‘collective security approaches in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime… and the core need for information and intelligence sharing among the relevant security agencies of the member states’.

Towards fostering regional cooperation the PSC, at its 687th meeting held in May 2017, requested the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), CISSA and AFRIPOL in partnership with other stakeholders to develop a five year strategic roadmap for the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism. This is expected to advance synergies and coherence among partners and mandate holders, by preventing duplication of efforts. Tomorrow’s session will also offer an opportunity to discuss ongoing efforts and coordination among the various institutes towards the common goal of fighting organized crime the interrelated activities of terrorism and violence extremism. In line with the PSC decision, AFRIPOL and CISSA may provide update on the development of the roadmap.

Similarly these efforts of coordination can be further enhanced by following up on the PSC decision that has requested the Commission to urgently prepare and submit to the Council, an updated matrix of status of implementation of all decisions adopted by Council including on transnational organized crime. The PSC may also recall this previous decision and follow up on the activities of the Commission.

The evolving nature of transnational organized crime requires that member states continue to review and update their responses in line with the changing environment. In this regard the briefing is expected to provide an overview of how INTERPOL and AFRIPOL work closely with member states towards strengthening the capacities of the national police agencies in adopting a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the transnational nature of organized crime. The agreement signed between the AU and INTERPOL in January 2019, is also in recognition of the borderless nature of organized crime and to enhance cooperation between INTERPOL and AFRIPOL in areas of common interest, including in the exchange of data and information, technical cooperation, and training and capacity building.

It is also worth noting that transnational organized crime and illicit economy have become extremely complex and continue to evolve. The overlaps between the licit and illicit economies are significant, and it becomes increasingly difficult to draw distinction between them. Hence this requires coordination beyond law enforcement authorities by also building close cooperation with financial institutions, legal entities performing legal and financial services and financial intelligence offices. In this regard, the 749th PSC session that was held at heads of state and government level have called on ‘member states to take the required measures to dry up the flow of terrorism financing, by cutting the links between terrorist organizations and organized crime, including trafficking, smuggling and illicit trade.’

The situation is even more intricate with the increasing trends of criminal networks operating in Africa but with the support of criminals from outside the continent engaged in the various forms of crimes of trafficking and smuggling of illicit products and resources. The continent is becoming more entangled in a global network of illicit economic networks. This key aspect necessitates the shift from traditional responses towards organized crime that are designed to operate within national borders towards evidence based and coordinated approach at regional and global level.

The expected outcome is a press statement. The PSC may provide strategic guidance to member states, Regional Economic Communities/ Regional Mechanisms, and the AUC on ways to strengthen the capacities of the police authorities and agencies in combating transnational organized crime and deter its impact on the peace and security of the continent.