NAIROBI: African counter-terrorism must be holistic, well-funded, underpinned by respect for human rights, and most importantly backed by strong political will to defeat terrorism, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
Guterres addressed the official opening of the African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism currently underway in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Guterres said that the threat of terrorism in Africa is spreading and destabilizing entire regions, noting that the situation in the Sahel and the increasing risks in West Africa are worrisome.
Guterres called for international support to counter Boko Haram who are terrorizing local populations and security forces in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin and the al-Shabaab militants in Somalia who are doing the same in the Horn of Africa region.
“There is an urgent need for the international community to support Member States in this region to strengthen national capacities and resilience against terrorism,” Guterres said.
“In Mali, terrorist groups have launched regular attacks against local and international security forces, including the Blue Helmets serving in MINUSMA. The violence has spilled over into neighboring countries, with an alarming number of recent attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger.”
Guterres stated that he hopes that African nations would use the conference to strengthen partnerships amongst themselves and the rest of the world to combat terrorism and violent extremism.
He noted that there needs to be a renewed and sustained focus on prevention and addressing of the underlying conditions that cause young men and women to be lured by terrorism.
For his part Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, told the conference that violent extremism and terrorism have taken firm root in different parts of the continent.
“But despite this and our meager resources, Africa did not resign to action. The responses of Africa to violent extremism and terrorism are multiple, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional.”
Faki called for more international support, noting that terrorism is not only facilitated by the state of poverty but also state governance, violence and the internet.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that he hopes strong and practical proposals emerge in the two-day conference on how the African Union’s Peace and Security Architecture can be strengthened to be more responsive to the terrorism challenges facing the continent.