High-Level African Counter-Terrorism Summit Kicks off in Abuja, Nigeria

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has, with support from the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), opened the African Counter-Terrorism Summit, with guests including the Presidents of Ghana and Togo, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, as well as the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

What You Need to Know:

The two-day summit (22nd-23rd) is centered around the theme ‘Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Institution Building to Address the Evolving Threat of Terrorism’ and seeks to address ‘current threat analysis, prevention, capacity building, and international cooperation with a view to reshaping the international community’s collective response to terrorism in Africa.’

In his opening remarks, Vladimir Voronkov, UNOCT Under-Secretary-General, stated, “Terrorism is a threat to international peace and security, particularly in Africa where its impact is most felt. Da’esh, Al-Qaida, and their affiliates have made some significant gains in the Sahel and are moving southward to the Gulf of Guinea. In Southern and Central Africa, groups affiliated with Da’esh remain a concern, notably in northern Mozambique despite successful regional counter-terrorism efforts and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And in East Africa, Al-Shabaab in Somalia is a threat despite heavy losses, while Sudan is a transit place for fighters traveling to Libya, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel.”

As such, President Tinubu called for the establishment of a regional counter-terrorism center to serve as a hub for intelligence sharing, operational coordination, and capacity building throughout the African continent. “Africa must take a comprehensive approach to combating terrorism, not only through might but by addressing the root causes of the scourge, which include poverty, inequality, and social injustice… The African region must strengthen existing counter-terrorism structures, such as the Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit in Abuja, the African Center for the Study and Research of Terrorism in Algiers, and the Committee of Intelligence and Security in Addis Ababa,” said President Tinubu. Continuing, Tinubu noted that, “terrorism troubles us greatly at the moment. We do well by remembering that terrorism is not of Africa. We must tell this imported evil that wants to bend and break us that it shall not succeed. Instead of making us bow, we shall banish it, let us resolve here.”

The Details:

Voronkov urged those present at the summit, which includes 4 Presidents, 10 Ministers, and 8 National Security Advisors from 29 African Member States, to support the United Nations Joint Appeal for Counter-Terrorism in Africa. Through the Appeal, member states are urged to provide resources for 10 of the United Nations flagship initiatives in Africa. The flagship initiatives seek to demonstrate how multilateral contributions can positively impact the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Africa.

However, with terrorism seemingly only gaining traction in the Sahel in recent years, H.E Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission stated, “We cannot understand that UN Missions continue to absorb, every year, billions of Dollars, producing very modest results and that African States are not granted a minimum of resources to counter the tragic spread of Terrorism.” Mahamat announced his welcome of UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2719 on African-led peace missions, which was adopted in December 2023, but added, “We cannot understand that elsewhere in the world, coalitions to fight against Terrorism were established and that similar efforts are not made in, at least, one of the five Regions in Africa, where the destructive phenomenon is ravaging human lives, infrastructures, and institutions.” Mahamat further warned, “This Conference may miss its objective if it keeps silent over these questions. An innovative approach is crucial as I said. It should include a new model of financing the fight against Terrorism, greater involvement of African institutions and the Civil Society actors. Those National institutions and the Civil society, youths and women, in particular, should be supported by all means to play their irreplaceable role in fighting against Terrorism and Violent extremism.”

So, What Now?:

Abuja’s Counter-Terrorism Summit signals a growing desire among African leaders, stakeholders, and relevant multinational organizations to address the challenges terrorism creates for African societies and the wider world in regards to the international arms trade and the migration of terrorists across borders.

With the first day of the summit reserved for opening remarks, the sharing of concerns, and the floating of ideas, concrete solutions are most likely to come tomorrow. However, President Tinubu’s recognition of poverty, inequality, and social injustice as the root causes of terrorism alongside H.E Mahamat’s identification of civil society actors, youth, and women as key to the fight against terrorism, signals the possible implementation of an African-led holistic approach to counter-terrorism in the region.

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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