Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during a dialogue with civil society organizations focused on youth and gender empowerment, women leadership, prevention and countering violent extremism and promotion of interfaith dialogue, while visiting the Kamukunji Constituency in Nairobi, Kenya, on 9 July 2019. Credit: UN Photo | Duncan Moore. - Photo: 2019

Do More to Expand African Counter-Terrorism Networks

Viewpoint by António Guterres

Following are excerpts from UN Secretary-General’s remarks to the African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism, in Nairobi on 10 July 2019.

NAIROBI (IDN-INPS) – I would like to honour the tens of thousands of African victims of terrorism and to express solidarity with African countries that have suffered terrorist attacks that shock with their barbarity and disregard for human life.  Kenya itself has endured numerous terrorist attacks.  This year alone, terrorists murdered 21 people in the Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi, and in Wajir County, eight police officers were killed and others injured when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.

The threat of terrorism in Africa is spreading and destabilizing entire regions.  I am greatly concerned by the situation in the Sahel and increasing risks in West Africa.  Boko Haram and its splinter faction continue to terrorize local populations and attack security forces in north-east Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin despite the considerable efforts of the Multinational Joint Task Force.

In Mali, terrorist groups have launched regular attacks against local and international security forces, including the Blue Helmets serving in MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali].  The violence has spilled over into neighbouring countries, with an alarming number of recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger.  There is an urgent need for the international community to support Member States in this region to strengthen national capacities and resilience against terrorism.

The trauma from terrorism causes lasting damage to individuals, families and communities.  In Africa, as elsewhere, terrorists continue to use sexual violence to spread fear and assert control, and children are often forced to join terrorist groups as a matter of survival.  The people of Africa continue to show great courage and resilience in challenging those who seek to spread violence and hatred.  From working within their families and communities to prevent the spread of radicalization and recruitment, to serving in AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia], MINUSMA, the G5 Sahel joint force, the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram and similar missions, the people of Africa are on the front line of efforts to tackle terrorism and the spread of violent extremism.

I deeply believe that African peace-enforcing and counter-terrorism operations must have strong and clear mandates by the United Nations Security Council, backed by sufficient, predictable and sustainable financial support, namely through assessed contributions.  The determination of Africans to find solutions to the scourge of terrorism is clear.  And the role of women is inspirational in so many ways.  We have with us women from Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Tunisia and elsewhere.  All over the continent women are taking matters into their own hands, engaging with local leaders, mayors, young people, children and their fellow men, to fight against exclusion, marginalization, inequality and abuse — the conditions that lead many to radicalization and conflict.

Their experiences also tell us that radicalization, terrorism and conflict cannot be resolved through enforcement alone.  For terrorism to be defeated, it is essential that African counter-terrorism is holistic, well-funded, underpinned by respect for human rights and — most importantly — backed by strong political will.  This is also true of operations mandated by the United Nations Security Council.  We must not allow terrorism to undermine the great progress that is being made on this continent.

Africa remains a top priority for the United Nations.  We share common goals, particularly on delivering Agenda 2063 — in full alignment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — and our joint aim for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.  In these efforts, the United Nations works closely with the African Union and many regional and subregional coordination mechanisms represented here today.  We believe in African leadership to develop African solutions to African problems.

… Victims are extremely powerful and credible messengers.  Their experiences put a human face to the impact of terrorism and help to counter the distorted narratives of terrorists and violent extremists.  When we listen to the voices of victims of terrorism, uphold their rights and provide them with support and justice, we are reducing the lasting damage done by terrorists.  So, I am delighted that the United Nations will convene the first-ever Global Congress of Victims in New York in June next year.

… When I became Secretary-General, I was determined to reform the United Nations counter-terrorism architecture to meet the growing needs of countries around the world.  The establishment of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact means we have a clear framework and solid platform for our work.

We have prioritized capacity-building projects for African countries on issues such as mitigating the threat of foreign terrorist fighters, empowering and engaging youth, countering terrorist financing and improving aviation security.  I recently launched a major multi-year programme to assist Member States in countering terrorist travel, which will initially focus on the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions.

But there is more we can do …. Africa is increasingly the new front line in the global struggle against terrorism and violent extremism.  Yesterday, I saw how a community, ravaged by violence and radicalization, can turn things around.  It took commitment from community leaders, young people, local government and beyond, but it was possible.  It took years, but it was possible.

Most importantly, it took political commitment.  We can all learn a lot from the determination, unity and courage of the people of Kamukunji.  We should aim to reproduce the wisdom of those in power who saw what was happening in the community and helped to raise them up.  The United Nations was also there to help, but it was local leaders who led the way.

African States have made considerable efforts to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism at national and regional levels, including through the African Union Peace and Security Architecture.  It is now time for the international community to step up and provide the financial and technical resources needed to support African-owned and led counter-terrorism efforts, while fully respecting human rights, the rule of law and gender considerations.

The United Nations remains fully committed to working with all of you to address the evolving threat of terrorism and violent extremism and help build a more secure and prosperous future that all Africans deserve. 

Click here for the full text of the Secretary-General’ remarks. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 July 2019]

Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres speaks during a dialogue with civil society organizations focused on youth and gender empowerment, women leadership, prevention and countering violent extremism and promotion of interfaith dialogue, while visiting the Kamukunji Constituency in Nairobi, Kenya, on 9 July 2019. Credit: UN Photo | Duncan Moore.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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