Open Debate: Challenges of Combating Terrorism in Africa
On Monday morning (13 May), at the initiative of Togo, the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate on the challenges of combating terrorism in Africa. The meeting will be chaired by President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé of Togo, and a briefing is expected by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as representatives from the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and the African Center for Studies and Research on Terrorism. The Council is planning to adopt a presidential statement, which was under silence until 4:30pm today (Friday). The debate comes on the heels of today’s semi-annual briefing by the chairs of the Council’s three counter-terrorism-related committees: the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, the 1373 Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), and the 1540 Committee on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
In preparation for the debate, Togo circulated a concept note (S/2013/264) on 30 April stating that the rationale for such a debate on terrorism is that Africa “runs the risk of becoming its epicentre”. The note presents an overview of terrorism in Africa, focusing on the challenges it poses in terms of security, economic development and democratic governance to national governments. It also discusses how terrorism poses a threat to peacebuilding and peacekeeping missions in the continent, including in Mali and Somalia. After enumerating the different initiatives in place at the regional and subregional level, the note states that the objective of the debate is to draw on the specific factors and consequences of terrorism in Africa, instead of on generalities typical of past Council debates.
In the draft presidential statement, the Council expresses its deep concern with the increasing violence perpetrated by armed groups, whose numbers are growing in several regions and sub-regions of Africa, where porous borders, illegal trafficking of arms and difficult socioeconomic situations make it very difficult to effectively combat terrorism. The presidential statement mentions by name some of the Al-Qaida affiliated groups operating in the Sahel and the need for wider regional cooperation with the states of the Maghreb to tackle the threat they represent (as stated in resolution 2100). In the draft presidential statement, the Council also reiterates its readiness to impose sanctions on groups that perpetrate terrorist acts or violence against other states or their citizens in Somalia.
Togo circulated a first draft earlier this week and held two rounds of negotiations followed by bilateral negotiations yesterday and today. Most of the changes that were suggested in the first round of negotiations had to do with the desire of some members to include “agreed” language, mainly from PRST/2013/1 of 15 January 2013. (Using agreed language is a common argument in Council negotiations to avoid reopening discussion on certain issues, but some Council members perceive it as a means to forestall advancing an issue. An example of this has been the negotiation of paragraph 15, where the draft presidential statement asks African States to take “all necessary and appropriate measures… to include protections for the right to life and other human rights in Africa.” In the agreed language in the 15 January presidential statement, the paragraph only included language on protecting the “right to life,” and it seems Russia and Pakistan wanted to keep it that way. However, Council members such as Rwanda, Togo and the US apparently preferred to widen the scope, acknowledging that terrorism also violates “human rights and fundamental freedoms” when it is not lethal.)
Another sticky issue has been the establishment of a follow up mechanism. Even though some Council members showed their reluctance to add another report to already existing counter-terrorism reporting requirements, Togo managed to gain consensus on a request for a “concise” report to be presented to the Council by the Secretary-General in 6 months, thus ensuring follow-up to this matter while it is still on the Council.