Expected Council Action
In March, Mozambique is organising a high-level debate on “Countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism by strengthening cooperation between the UN and regional organisations and mechanisms”. The debate, which is expected to have a particular focus on cooperation between the UN and regional organisations and mechanisms in Africa, will be one of the signature events of Mozambique’s presidency.
Several regional counter-terrorism initiatives are currently active in Africa. Of these, the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (FC-G5S)—which was established in 2017 by the Group of Five for the Sahel (G5 Sahel), consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger—has received the most attention from the Council. The FC-G5S carries out counter-terrorism operations and implements measures to combat transnational organised crime in the territory of its member states. On 15 May 2022, Mali withdrew from all G5 Sahel institutions, including the FC-G5S.
Council discussions on counter-terrorism in Africa have often focused on funding African counter-terrorism initiatives through UN assessed contributions. During the negotiations on resolution 2359 of 21 June 2017, which welcomed the deployment of the FC-G5S to the region, the question of UN funding was a significant issue. Initial drafts apparently included language that specifically authorised the force, rather than merely welcoming its deployment; however, the UK and the US opposed explicit authorisation of the FC-G5S, partly because of the potential financial commitments from the UN budget that this implied. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 20 June 2017.)
Since the adoption of resolution 2359, the Council has continued to consider the appropriate level of UN support for the FC-G5S. In a 4 October 2021 letter to the Council, the Secretary-General proposed two options for increasing support for the force. The first was a dedicated UN office to provide logistical support for the FC-G5S operations. According to the letter, this option would entail expanding the support provided by the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINSUMA) to cover engineering, maintenance, communications and information technology services, transportation of cargo, medical supplies, and medical and casualty evacuation in all areas of FC-G5S operations. The support would be funded through UN assessed contributions or voluntary funding. The Secretary-General noted in the letter that this was his preferred option.
The second option involved establishing an “Advisory Office to the G5 Sahel Executive Secretariat”. This office would provide technical assistance to the FC-G5S in the areas of political affairs, human rights, and operational and administrative planning, to enhance the force’s self-sufficiency.
At the time of writing, neither office has been created. Pursuant to resolution 2640 of 29 June 2022, MINUSMA currently provides support to the FC-G5S in the form of “life support consumables and use of engineering plant equipment, material, and enabling units”. (For more, see our coverage of Mali and the G5 Sahel Joint Force.)
Other regional counter-terrorism initiatives operating in Africa include the AU Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS/AMISOM), the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), the Accra Initiative, and the Nouakchott Process. ATMIS provides support to ongoing military operations in Somalia against Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda, and assists in stabilising liberated areas and safeguarding critical infrastructure. The MNJTF includes contributions from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria and fights the terrorist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region. The Accra Initiative was created in 2017 in response to the spread of terrorism to the coastal states of West Africa. In November 2022, its member states (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, and Togo) decided to establish a 10,000-troop entity, also called the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF/AI). The Nouakchott Process is designed to strengthen regional security cooperation and information-sharing in the fight against terrorism, and is also tasked with making the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) operational in the Sahelo-Saharan region.
The UN and the AU have also established other initiatives with a specific focus on terrorism, including the UN-AU technical working group on preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism, which aims to increase coordination between the two organisations in relation to counter-terrorism. In September 2022, Secretary-General António Guterres announced that the UN, together with the AU, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the G5-Sahel, had established the Independent High-Level Panel on Security Governance and Development in the Sahel. The panel will provide recommendations for responding to the challenges facing the region, including terrorism and violent extremism.
On 31 August 2022, the Council adopted a presidential statement on capacity-building support to African countries. Among other matters, the statement requested that the Secretary-General provide updates on progress made by the UN and the AU to fulfil the commitments set out in resolution 2320 of 18 November 2016 on cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organisations and resolution 2378 of 20 September 2017 on peacekeeping reform. The report, which is due by 30 April, is also expected to include “recommendations on moving forward that reflect good practices and lessons-learned with the view to secure predictable, sustainable and flexible resources”. (For more, see our What’s in Blue story of 30 August 2022.)
March’s meeting will be the fourth signature event on counter-terrorism since October 2022. In October 2022, Gabon organised a high-level debate on “Strengthening the fight against the financing of armed groups and terrorists through the illicit trafficking of natural resources”. In November 2022, Ghana held a high-level debate on “Counter-terrorism in Africa—an imperative for peace, security, and development”. In December 2022, India convened a high-level briefing on “Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts: global approach to counter-terrorism—challenges and way forward”.
Key Issues and Options
Enhancing the capacity of counter-terrorism initiatives in Africa is an important issue. The latest report of the Monitoring Team assisting the 1267/1989/2253 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee, which was published on 13 February, noted that “Africa has emerged in recent years as the continent where the harm done by terrorism is developing most rapidly and extensively”.
The FC-G5S has carried out some operations, but its persistent challenges in securing financial and material resources prevent it from becoming fully operational. Mali’s withdrawal was a significant setback for the force.
In their statements during the debate, 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.
In the future, after considering the content and recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report due on 30 April, Council members could choose to issue a product expressing their support for the use of UN assessed contributions to fund certain African counter-terrorism initiatives. On 18 February, at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General said that the UN “wholeheartedly support[s] the creation of a new generation of robust peace-enforcement missions and counter-terrorist operations, led by the African Union with a Security Council mandate under Chapter VII and with guaranteed, predictable funding, including through assessed contributions”.
Council members share concerns about the spread of terrorism in Africa, including to previously unaffected sub-regions, and its impact on civilians. Despite this general agreement, the question of how to provide more adequate, sustainable, and predictable financing for African counter-terrorism operations, such as the FC-G5S, has proven divisive for Council members over the years, particularly in relation to the possible use of assessed contributions to fund such operations. Some members, including France and the African members of the Council, have argued in favour of using assessed contributions to fund the FC-G5S. Other members have opposed this proposal, citing concerns regarding the force’s record of human rights violations.
The US, the UN’s largest funder, opposed UN funding for AU-led peace support operations during the Trump Administration. In 2018, it threatened to veto a draft resolution on the financing issue that was proposed by the three African members (A3). However, there seems to be a window of opportunity for progress on this issue because of the Biden Administration’s keenness to strengthen US relations with Africa. At the 11 October Council debate on UN-AU Cooperation, the US Permanent Representative, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made clear that “the implementation of [human rights and international humanitarian law] frameworks and other oversight mechanisms…remain key considerations for any discussions about the use of UN assessed contributions”.
Mozambique is currently battling an insurgency by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) affiliate Ahl al-Sunna Wal-Jama’a (ASWJ) in its northern Cabo Delgado Province. On 15 July 2021, Mozambique approved the deployment to Cabo Delgado of the Southern African Development Community Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), a 2,000-troop force comprising units from eight Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states. Rwanda, which is not a member of the SADC, has also sent soldiers to fight against ASWJ. According to the latest report of the Monitoring Team assisting the 1267/1989/2253 Sanctions Committee, the deployment of regional forces in Cabo Delgado “has had a significant impact on ASWJ, disrupting its leadership, command structures and bases”. Mozambique’s experience with SAMIM and Rwandan troops may underpin its motivation for organising this meeting.
UN DOCUMENTS ON COUNTER-TERRORISM
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|31 August 2022S/PRST/2022/6||This was the presidential statement initiated by China on peace and security in Africa.|
|Sanctions Committee Document|
|13 February 2023S/2023/95||This is the 31st report of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Da’esh) and Al-Qaida Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.|