The African Union and Counter-Terrorism: Is it the time to adopt New Counter-Terrorism Policies?


Sum Jeff Kiprop; Lauryn Wakonyo;
Juliet Wangui; and Lorraine Chebet

Since the African states attained independence, many of them have battled insecurity and in more specific terms, terrorism on their own terms, that is, by implementing national security and counter-terrorism strategies that look to ward off the terrorist groups. It should be noted that terrorism is the main cause of instability in the continent and this paper interrogates the national and to some extent the regional policies put in place have succeeded and to recommend suggestions to the policies that have failed. The paper will adopt the theory of new wars to explain how there is need for African states to come to combat the terrorist groups and an example can be the Republic of Kenya and Somalia working together through the African Union Mission in Somalia and how national counter-terrorism strategies might not be the solution to completing curbing terrorism. The article will begin by discussing section how terrorism has evolved in Africa and how both regional blocs and nations need to be at par with the changes. The second section looks at the counter-terrorism strategies put in place by the African Union. The third section will look to introduce the African Union and propose a better framework that will be adopted from the African regional blocs that will unite the African Continent as a whole and provide recommendations to the policies and strategies that need improving. The authors argue that finding suitable policies and strategies for Africa can result security co-operation being improved.

Africa, being at the center of the world, is facing many challenges in the 21st Century and we cannot ignore the negative impact that terrorism has inflicted upon the African citizens. Africa is blessed with regional organizations from the East African Community, to the Southern African Development Community to the Economic Community of West African States. These particular organizations have been faced with the challenge of combating and curbing terrorism and following this paper’s title, the African Union is the best organization in Africa that can encompass all the states and work hand in hand with the regional organizations so as to achieve the goal of eradicating terrorism. The quality of African borders being porous and,some states having weak institutions has made them easy targets for terrorists to conduct their vile acts against the African citizens as an act of fighting against the African states through civilian objects. It should be noted that states have been handling the matter of combating terrorism using a nationalistic approach and with the aspect of globalization emerging; this paper will look into how taking in the concept of liberalism by integrating states and co-operating can benefit the whole African continent.

The evolution of terrorism to new wars has become a headache for the African Union as terrorism has taken a turn from being political to ideological. This therefore means that non-state actors can be perpetrators of terrorism once the state shows signs of deeming their ideologies as wrong. This paper will address the way terrorism has evolved in Africa and the adverse effects it has posed, to addressing and looking at the African Union strategies and policies which have already been adopted and to giving recommendations and suggestion on ways how the African Union can possibly improve the policies and strategies implemented in the African region.

Africa, in the recent years, has witnessed the evolution of terrorism. Terrorism hasleft so many people displaced; others dead.It has also instilled fear in the citizens and the government and as a result, curbing terrorism have become a top national and regional security priority. The rise of terrorism in the continent has been perpetrated by groups such as the Boko Haram of Northern Nigeria and Al-Shabaab of Somalia who have caused great instability in Africa. These activities are a threat to the security of a region since terrorism in one country causes a spill-over effect on neighboringcountries. Forinstance, theterrorisminsurgence in the West African region especially in Nigeria has spilled over to her neighbors; Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Terrorism can be described as the threat or the use of actual force and violence by both a state/non-state actor or institution toattainpolitical, economic, religious or social goals. For anact to qualify as a terrorist attack, it has to be intentional, have specific targets and/or use violence against people or property. But this is not always the case as the term terrorism has many definitions making it difficult to reach a consensusas state can also perpetrate terrorism against its citizens, in other words, state-sponsored terrorism. In Africa, state officials are culprits of utilizing national resources in order to intimidate civilians or their perceived opponents and the unlawful use of state official to procure attacks on citizens is in an effort to curb any form of resistance faced by the government. A good example is the Joint Task Force of Nigeria, established to fight the Boko Haram, was accused of violating human rights and conducting state terrorism.
One of the main causes of the evolution of terrorism in Africa can be traced back to 1990’s when combatants of Afghanistan returned to Middle East and North Africa after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. This introduced a new wave of terrorism in North Africa that was funded by some Arab countries and this combined with globalization resulting to rise of extremist groups in Africa. Other causes were the oppression of citizen’s inauthoritarianism regimes, economic inequality, religious extremism- often human rights violation occur and states with weak governmental systems.

New wars are characterized by violence between varying combinations of state and non-state networks, fighting in the name of identification rather than politics. Other characteristics are a mixture of militarywar, organizedcrimes, massive violation of human rights by both global, local, private and public actors. This shows that new wars seek to achieve political control of a given population through use of fear and terror and this is financed by other predatory groups who want the violence to continue and not necessarily by the state. New warshave evolved due to globalization hence they, therefore, need new policy responses. According to Shaw, the ultimate goal of new wars is not necessarily to destroy a country’s population, but by hurting the civilians, they are able to continue with their campaign which then allows for them to use fear to control the masses.
According to Kaldor, new wars differ from old wars in that, inold wars friend-enemy distinction created political legitimacy whereas in new wars the friend-enemy distinction could ruin political legitimacy. Unlike old wars, which were often financed by states, new wars aresometimes financed by states as well asnon-statesactors and individuals. Forexample, the Al-Shabaab Militia is financed by Al Qaeda.

The African Union has come up with many strategies and institutions such as the Peace and Security Council in an attempt to end and counter terrorism in Africa since its formation in 2001. Some have been successful; others are a work-in-progress while others have failed to achieve their goals and these strategies will be addressed below:
According to the Organization of the African Union (OAU) Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism of 1999, terrorismis any act of violation or contribution to violation of criminal law by a member state that endangers life, causes injury/death to any person(s) or causes damage to property and natural resources. In addition to this definition, the act must be intended to intimidate people, disrupt normal way of life or cause a state of emergency. The convention mainly guides member states on how to deal with terrorist acts; from including counter-terrorism in their national laws to providing a legal framework on extraditions and mutual legal assistance by the African Union.

Secondly, the Protocol to the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism adopted in July 2004 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is a supplementary document to the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism. It was adopted to ensure fulfillment of the convention’s objectives and it recognizes the increase in terrorism in Africa and other crimes such as drug trafficking and proliferation of arms and weapons. The protocol also states the function of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU is to join member states’ efforts in fighting and preventing terrorism in Africa. During the proposal of the protocol, the Dakar Declaration Against Terrorism was adopted following the 9/11 attack in the United States just a month prior. Its main goals are the promotion and protection of human rights, dealing with threats to African peace and security, observing democracy and strengthening cooperation between states to combat terrorism by the African Union.

The AU Action Plan adopted in September 2002 recognizes terrorism as a violent form of transnational crime dependent on illegal trade and financing, different judicial and governmental systems, porous borders and states’ jurisdiction limits. The document aims at strengthening cooperation between member states and Regional Economic Cooperation’s (REC) in the fight against continental terrorism. Member states have a duty to enhance border control, amend and implement legislative and judicial measures on terrorism and suppress financing of terrorism under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.In addition, member states should also exchange information on criminal/terrorism acts and coordinate implementation of the action plan at regional, continental and international levels by the African Union.

The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) have a major role in combating terrorism according to Article 7 of the Protocol relating to establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU. The PSC reviews and publicizes persons and groups involved in terrorism acts since they receive annual reports on steps taken by member states to curb terrorism. In addition, they are also to report on the continental state of terrorism and recommend improvements on the action plan and its implementation by the African Union.
The Africa Standby Force (ASF) established by the African Union Peace and Security Council is made up of civilian and military components. As the name suggests, it is a standby force, ready to be deployed rapidly in case of wars, conflicts and/or terrorists acts. The Standby is a combination of regional military arrangements made by member states, Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs). ASF is one of the pillars of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) together with the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the Continental Early Warning System, the African Union Peace Fund and the Panel of the Wise. The ASF is interlinked with all the other four pillars and all need to be achieved for the force to work efficiently. Each of the five African regions has a regional standby force; North African Regional Capability (NARC) Standby Force, East African Standby Force (EASF), South African Development Community (SADC) Standby Force, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Stand by Force and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) Standby Force. However, the regional standby forces are not limited to their specific regions according to Gardachew.

The ASF has not been effective in countering terrorism as it has not been fully operational since the first year it was proposed to be established 2005 to the most recent 2016. A field exercise was carried out in 2016, in South Africa to test the practicability of the standby force. It was established that it would take at least fourteen days for the ASF to be deployed into the conflict zone. This is contrary to its purpose as it is not rapid in response to critical situations.
The African Model Anti-Terrorism Law formulated by Africa Union and United Nations member states in Africa articulates the various offences considered as, relating to terrorist acts such as money laundering, financing terrorism.Others offences are maritime security, air service security, nuclear material and facilities and hostage. The African Model Antiterrorism Law also gives states legal guidance in criminal and terrorism matters to ensure such practices are well-dealt with.

The Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020 is one of the projects of Agenda 2063 has the primary objective of achieving peace in Africa in order to facilitate development. It was adopted with intent to end gun violence in transnational crimes by 2020. It is not only targeting conflicts within states but also terrorist acts, wars and genocide(s) in Africa. There has been progress in the frameworks, institutions and organizations involved in this project, as well as the peace and security measures. This has been observed in Angola, C?te D’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone where this is in progress. Cases such as Sudan and Somalia have not been entirely successful, although necessary steps have been taken to ensure peace. It should be noted that the success rate is too low considering we are already in the target year.

The African Union strategies and agencies that have been put in place to combat terrorism have been successful to some extent as explained above but we need to come into terms with the fact that these strategies have had some major shortcomings. To begin with, the African Union implementation of counterterrorism strategies has faced the challenge of limited human and finance resources. This challenge is not specific to counter-terrorism however, it is a major challenge to realization of AU’s objectives as a whole. Secondly, the African Union has the mandate to intervene in situations of human rights violations among within/member states,by use of military force where necessary Such intervention occurs mainly if a state is not able to or willing to protect its citizens. It is quite sad that some states are on the sidelines, inactive in matters of terrorism and despite the provisions that the AU strategies set up, it is yet to ensure that all member states comply to them. This may portray the AU as not taking matters of peace and security seriously according to Ewi&Anning. As a result of wanting to take initiative by being involved with the affairs of member states, the AU sometimes faces challenges in terms of states’ sovereignty and independence claims. The state being the main instrument in combating terrorism, this could bar the AU from intervening, however serious the situation is. This together with occasional member states’ failure to give annual reports as required, means the AU has no way of verifying whether or not states are sticking to the counter-terrorism strategies.

The AU is unable to investigate, detain and arrest terrorists or people suspected of terrorism and this is mainly because there is no regional/continental arrest warrant. Africans countries don’t have enough capacity to generate a list of suspects and terrorists as is indicated in the AU Action explained by Okeke. Ethiane goes ahead to explain that the AU also makes ‘premature’ decisions and plans without ensuring an effective follow-up first. It is observed that AU took this up from its predecessor, the OAU. This also means that the strategies and instruments put in place to counter terrorism are yet to be fully operational and effective.
With the rise in terrorist activities in Africa in the recent years, it is clear that the AU strategies have not been effective in fulfilling their objectives and a lot of work has to be done. While most of the strategies are not effective, others are not operational several years after formation. The AU needs to put in more effort in making sure these strategies are followed through and terrorists are dealt with. African states also need to play their part; non-member states in ratifying these strategies and member states in participating in them fully in order to curb terrorism in Africa.

Looking at the shortcomings addressed in the previous sub-section, we shall give recommendations and suggestions to improve the policies and strategies already put in place by the African Union. Despite the steps taken at national, regional and continental levels; effectively preventing and combating terrorism requires renewed and firm commitment from Member States who will then be guided by the African Union who, in this modern era, can be the best regional body when it comes to countering terrorism in Africa.
There is need for an enhanced joint action in progressing efforts of counter-terrorism and this is especially important when considering the transnational form of terrorist groups. These groups have the upper advantage of skill, resource, the limits of jurisdiction and differences in their procedures. We can borrow a leaf from Europe where there are three intergovernmental organizations engaged in counter-terrorism issues; The Council of Europe, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) who form part of the overall universal framework for counter-terrorism responses. The African Union can develop an intergovernmental system which mirrors the European dockets above.

An effective criminal justice system needs to be invested in as it would assist in the combating terrorism. For this to be effective there should be more willingness to provide technical assistance and facilitate relevant engagement with institutions so as to mobilize these efforts into the long term from the states party to the African Union. A more robust effort should be applied in incorporation of the model law to strengthen their national legislations. We see this being done effectively by development of legal frameworks to prevent and suppress acts of terrorism through criminal law and other measures, which fully respect human rights and the rule of law. The Committee of Experts on Terrorism (CODEXTER) was created to bring terrorists to justice.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has performed this role in a counter-terrorism context. One of its most notable cases in this regard was the case of Kadi and Al Barakaat International Foundation and the council and commission in the year 2008.The CJEU ruled that it has jurisdiction to review measures adopted by the European Community giving effect to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council adopted against the Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorist networks. We have member states that are yet to become party to the 1999 Convention and its 2004 Protocol. Article 7 of the Protocol is notable since it requires that key conventions and other instruments against terrorism be implemented in a rule of law compliant manner consistent with each Member states’ other obligations under international law (African Union, 1999). As in the example of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), they provide non-judicial oversight over the counter-terrorism policies and practices of Member States. Given the importance of the 2004 protocol, a timeframe should be set for member states not party to the convention. This serves as an opportunity to encourage participation in other relevant international instruments and how they handle matters appertaining combating terrorism.

A better institutional interaction can be achieved through supporting the establishment of national and regional coordinating structures for terrorism. This mechanism will enable the timely exchange of information, the creation of synergies, the sharing of resource among different institutions and the conduct of joint operations. In the case of Somalia, continued attacks by Al-Shabab exposed coordination difficulties among the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and its contingents. The mission is currently overstretched and its forces struggle to maintain control of South-Central Somalia, lacking the critical military units and rapid reaction forces that other multinational forces have. There are also issues with the command structure and coordination of response between the countries that make up AMISOM. No effort should be spared in pursuing full compliance of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2133(2014) which notes among other things, that ransom payment to terrorist groups is a source of income supporting their crimes. Further consultations should also be pursued to elaborate a specific protocol inhibiting ransom payment according to the United Nations Security Council.
A leaf could be borrowed as in this case; In the Council of Europe, the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly adopted the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism which is the first international treaty covering both the prevention and the control of money-laundering and the financing of terrorism.In 2015, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted Directive (EU) 2015/849, which established common rules on the prevention of the use of the financial system of the EU for the purposes of money-laundering or terrorist financing.

There should be a significant stock of research, expertise and capacity to counter the immense existing institutional shortcomings. This will present a better advantage in not only managing the present security situation but also anticipate future challenges hence create more effective, flexible and efficient strategies to combat them. The porous nature of African borders is a recurring challenge in combating crimes and ensuring security in the region and there should be redoubled efforts to strengthen and enhancestates’ capacity to police and control their borders. Illegal crossing encourages terrorists’ havens and this should be effectively curbed. Special attention should be directed towards border control and management especially on human resources, training and equipment.
A secure communication system will need to be developed so as to ensure closer cooperation among states. Efforts by the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa and the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism are commendable but more financial assistance is required. Survivors and perpetrators of terrorism require efforts in rehabilitation such as community engagements and/or prison programs. Development of efficient national policies and programs should be aggressively pursued as they address the major reasons for radicalization. They include collaborating with the media, engaging with civil societies, community leaders, religious authorities etc. These groups can play a major role at the family and society level.

Having looked at the arguments presented in this paper, we have seen there is a need for the African Union to step up and take over matters regarding the combating of terrorism. Being the only organization encompassing most of the African states, it is only prudent that the African Union partners together with the regional organizations for the East African Community, the Southern African Development Community and the Economic Community of the West African States in order to combat the vice. Having stated this fact, the African Union needs to review its policies and strategies in order to adapt the current wave of globalization as what is new today, will be old tomorrow.The African Union can form policies on a continental and regional space so as to ensure the fight against terrorism is fought from the regional perspective to the village community perspective. The African Union can also borrow a leaf from the European Union who have agencies and policies which look into combating terrorism in depth and by having many agencies dealing with specific objectives which can help the African Union to take the step forward in combating terrorism. Looking at it from a national scope, the states can ensure that they developand maintain good institutions as having weak institutions are a sign of weakness which terrorists take advantage of. As times are changing, African states need to be pro-active in this matter and acknowledge that handling this matter through a nationalistic approach will not be fully effective. This issue on combatting terrorism can only be achieved using a liberalist approach of integration and co-operation by using the African Union. It is with great hope that the recommendations and suggestion presented are taken into consideration as we look to have a safer Africa.

The writers are the students of Department of Diplomacy and International Relations, Riara University, Nairobi, Kenya