What's In Blue

Posted Tue 10 Mar 2020

Countering Terrorism and Extremism in Africa: Debate and Presidential Statement

Tomorrow (11 March), the Security Council is scheduled to hold a debate entitled “Countering terrorism and extremism in Africa” under the agenda item “Peace and security in Africa”, one of China’s signature events as president of the Council this month. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Abdoulaye Mar Dieye and Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed (AU Permanent Observer) are expected to brief.

African UN member states and the EU are invited to contribute to the debate by making statements as well. A presidential statement is expected to be adopted.


The concept note prepared for the meeting by China suggests that member states’ statements focus on a few specific points. These include the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism and socioeconomic measures to address them, the role of the UN and the Council to support capacity building for African countries and the role of regional and sub-regional organisations in combatting terrorism, the use of the internet for purposes of terrorism, the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, and the financing of terrorism. The goal of the debate, according to the concept note, is input from member states on how to support countries in Africa in their fight against terrorism and violent extremism. The concept note further notes the heavy toll terrorism takes on the socioeconomic development of the African continent.

Two regional counter-terrorism operations are active in Africa. One is the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), which includes contributions by Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria and fights the terrorist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin region. The other is 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)—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger—and operates in the territory of its member states in order to combat terrorism and transnational organised crime. The Council, in resolution 2359 of 21 June 2017, welcomed the deployment of the force. In resolution 2391 of 8 December 2019, the Council mandated the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) to provide support for the force. In her latest briefing to the Council on the G5 Sahel on 20 November 2019, Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Bintou Keita emphasised that “attacks attributed to or claimed by terrorist groups against security forces and civilian populations increased”. She further elaborated that the activity of terrorist groups continues to spread and now “virtually links the Joint Force’s areas of operation with those of the Multinational Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad basin”.

According to the Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia (S/2020/121), Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab remains responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties in the country, with 83 per cent of these attributed to the group between 5 November 2019 and 4 February.

From 10 to 11 July 2019, the government of Kenya and the UN co-hosted the “African Regional High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism” in Nairobi. In his remarks, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, said that “we insist that the United Nations Security Council with the mandate to ensure global peace and security, should assume its responsibilities by allocating resources to fight terrorism in Africa”. Secretary-General António Guterres, speaking at the conference, stated that he “deeply believe[s] that African peace-enforcing and counter-terrorism operations must have strong and clear mandates by the UN Security Council backed by sufficient, predictable and sustainable financial support, namely through assessed contributions”.

In June of this year, the UN General Assembly is expected to conduct the seventh biannual review of the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

Presidential Statement

The Council has agreed on a presidential statement that it is expected to adopt tomorrow.  In the statement, the Council notes “the increasing threat posed to peace and security in Africa by terrorism”. It further underscores “the importance of a holistic approach to counter terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, which addresses the governance, security, human rights, humanitarian, development, and socioeconomic dimensions of the challenge, including employment for…youth and the eradication of poverty”. The draft presidential statement also addresses foreign terrorist fighters, the financing of terrorism, the relationship with transnational organised crime, and “underlying conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism”. It calls upon the international community to “consider mobilizing more sustainable and predicable resources and expertise to strengthen the capacity of African countries”.

A few priorities on capacity building for African member states are emphasised in the statement. Those include “sharing of good practices on border security and management,” the development and strengthening of “fair and effective criminal justice systems”, the prevention of “the acquisition of arms and ammunition by terrorists and terrorist groups”, and support for “African states in their efforts to continue ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law in all their counter terrorism policies as [a] fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism”.


The first draft of the presidential statement was circulated by China to all Council members on 2 March. Two rounds of sit-down negotiations took place, with further negotiations taking place via e-mail. A draft was put under silence on 9 March. The US broke silence on a number of issues, supported by other countries. Following further negotiations, a revised draft was put under silence on 10 March and passed.

The negotiations appear to have included issues related to human rights, international law and sexual and gender-based violence. During the negotiations, a paragraph on sexual and gender-based violence constituting agreed language from resolution 2242 of 13 October 2015 was incorporated into the draft that will be adopted tomorrow. The Council therein “expresses deep concern that acts of sexual and gender-based violence and the recruitment and use of children are known to be part of the strategic objectives and ideology of certain terrorist groups, used as a tactic of terrorism, and an instrument to increase their power through supporting financing, recruitment, and the destruction of communities”.

The initial draft had contained one reference to human rights, resulting in some members arguing that the fourth pillar of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy—which  includes “Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism”— was not adequately represented in the text. The draft for adoption now contains two additional human rights references, including in the section on priorities for capacity building.

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