Expected Council Action
In November, Ghana is organising a high-level debate on “Counter-terrorism in Africa— an imperative for peace, security, and development”. The debate will be one of the signature events of Ghana’s presidency. AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, President of the European Council Charles Michel and a representative of civil society are expected to brief. No formal outcome is anticipated.
The Council is also scheduled to receive its annual briefing from the chairs of its counter-terrorism-related committees: Ambassador Trine Heimerback (Norway), chair of the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee; Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj (India), chair of the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC); and Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente Ramírez (Mexico), chair of the 1540 Committee.
Ghana’s concept note for the meeting says that it will focus on ongoing counter-terrorism measures in Africa and how the Security Council can support such measures. The meeting will also consider how the Council can work with regional mechanisms to address the threat posed by terrorism.
According to the concept note, Africa has experienced an influx of terrorist groups that seek to establish a presence in areas where states lack authority, including in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin, northern Mozambique, the Sahel, and Somalia. The concept note also refers to the 2022 Global Terrorism Index (GTI), a report prepared by the Institute of Economics and Peace, which found that close to half of the terrorist-related deaths recorded in 2021 occurred in Africa.
In recent years, affiliates of ISIL have become increasingly active in Africa. The 28th report of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL/Da’esh and Al-Qaeda Monitoring Team, which was published on 21 July 2021, noted that “the most striking development of the period under review was the emergence of Africa as the region most affected by terrorism”. This trend has since continued. The Secretary-General’s 15th biannual strategic-level report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh, which was issued on 26 July, says that the situation on the continent has deteriorated further and that two of the three “most dynamic” ISIL networks are based in Africa. The report also says that member states remain “acutely concerned” about the rising incidence of terrorist violence in Africa and describes several examples of violence perpetrated by African organisations with links to ISIL. In the DRC, for example, the Allied Democratic Forces, a group that has pledged allegiance to ISIL, killed more than 383 civilians between December 2021 and February 2022.
According to the concept note, a funding shortfall for counter-terrorism measures in Africa has weakened the effectiveness of military operations and other measures designed to combat terrorism, including initiatives that are designed to respond to underlying causes of violent extremism, such as climate change, under-development, illiteracy, poverty, and the absence of a strong government presence. The concept note also argues that several counter-terrorism operations and mechanisms that work in Africa have not yielded the expected results due to the volume of resources required and capability challenges, including the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS/AMISOM), the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S), the ECOWAS 2024 Action Plan, and the Accra Initiative.
Referring to the AU extraordinary session on terrorism and unconstitutional changes in Africa held in Malabo on 28 May, the concept note says that this summit acknowledged the funding and structural challenges faced in the fight against terrorism and called for “adequate, sustainable and predictable financing for counter-terrorism efforts on the continent”. The concept note further observes that the outcome document for the summit renewed the AU’s call for the UN to use assessed contributions for AU-mandated peace operations to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts. The Secretary-General has echoed these calls in the past. During the 2019 “African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism” in Nairobi, for example, the Secretary-General said that he “deeply believe[s] that African peace-enforcing and counter-terrorism operations must have strong and clear mandates by the [Council] backed by sufficient, predictable and sustainable financial support, namely through assessed contributions”.
Three guiding questions are outlined in the concept note:
- How can UN missions in Africa better support regional counter-terrorism efforts?
- In what ways can the UN support the building of resilience among member states to curb the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel and coastal west Africa?
- Which sustainable funding mechanism can be leveraged towards supporting resilience-building against terrorism in the Sahel region and coastal west Africa?
Key Issues and Options
A key issue is how to enhance the capacity of counter-terrorism initiatives in Africa, such as the FC-G5S, a regional counter-terrorism operation founded by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. The FC-G5S has carried out some joint operations but faces persistent challenges in securing financial and material resources, which prevent it from becoming fully operational. Additionally, in a significant setback to the force, Mali withdrew from the FC-G5S earlier this year. Similarly, the region’s states are also confronted by the need to allocate part of their national budgets to counter-terrorism, which diverts funds from social services and development efforts.
Another issue is how to address violent extremism and terrorism in Africa in a more holistic manner. Besides West Africa, there are concerns about terrorist activity in other parts of Africa, including Somalia and Libya, and increasingly in central and southern Africa.
While no formal outcome is anticipated for the debate, in their statements Council members may elect to:
- advocate for financial and material support for regional counter-terrorism forces;
- emphasise the need for such forces to adhere to international human rights standards; or
- call for efforts to promote a continent-wide approach to counter-terrorism.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members share concerns about the spread of terrorism and organised crime in Africa, including previously unaffected regions, and its impact on civilians. However, since most members in principle do not consider UN political missions, good office engagements and peacekeeping operations to be appropriate for conducting counter-terrorism activities, they may be interested in exploring what the A3 (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya) may suggest in this context. The question of how to provide more adequate, sustainable, and predictable financing for African counter-terrorism operations, such as the FC-G5S, has also proven divisive for Council members over the years, particularly in relation to the possible use of assessed contributions to fund such operations.
The spread of terrorism in Africa was also an issue during the negotiations concerning the renewal of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL and Al-Qaeda sanctions regime in December 2021. It seems that the zero draft of the resolution proposed by the US, the penholder on the file, suggested directing the 1267/1989/2253 Monitoring Team to submit a standalone report regarding ISIL’s activities in Africa to the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee. Russia opposed this change on the basis that it would overlap with the Monitoring Team’s existing reporting requirements. The amendment was also opposed by the then “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia). In an attempt to find compromise, a revised draft of the resolution instead directed the Monitoring Team to incorporate information regarding ISIL in Africa in its existing reports. It appears this was also not acceptable to the “A3 plus one”, and the resolution does not contain an additional reporting requirement on ISIL in Africa.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|Security Council Resolution|
|17 December 2021S/RES/2610||This resolution renewed and updated the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) & Al-Qaida sanctions regime.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|11 March 2020S/PRST/2020/5||This presidential statement was adopted during a debate entitled “Countering terrorism and extremism in Africa” under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”, a signature event of China’s Council presidency.|
|26 July 2022S/2022/576||This was the Secretary-General’s 15th report on the threat posed by ISIL/Da’esh to international peace and security.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|21 July 2021S/2021/655||This contained the 28th report of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.|