More support key for counter-terrorism in Africa, Security Council hears

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The UN Security Council wants more international support to African countries in the continuing fight against terrorism and violent extremism, particularly in parts of the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin region and the Horn of Africa.

Members this week issued a statement condemning terrorism “in all forms and manifestations” and urged stepped up support to countries in areas such as training and developing regional strategies and action plans.

In her briefing to ambassadors, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo outlined the reach of groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia and East Africa and ISIL and Al Qaida, whose affiliates collaborate in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

“We know women bear a disproportionate burden of this violence, through sexual slavery.  Just as misogyny is at the heart of many terrorist groups’ strategies, so women must be at the centre of our responses,” she said.

Marginalisation fuels extremism

DiCarlo spoke on behalf of the UN Secretary-General who previously emphasised the need to address underlying factors fuelling terrorism.

A 2017 report by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) details findings from interviews with more than 700 former members of extremist groups.

Most came from borderland or peripheral areas marginalised over a period covering several generations.

“In these ungoverned and neglected spaces that are hotspots of violence, communities experienced lack of access to services such as education, health care, justice, security, livelihoods, the opportunity to influence the decisions that affect their lives and the opportunities they need to thrive. These are the challenges underpinning violent extremism”, UNDP Assistant-Secretary General Abdoulaye Mar Dieye told the Council.

Co-opting women’s empowerment

Many violent extremist groups in Africa lure women recruits by co-opting messages about women’s empowerment and improved socio-economic status, another UNDP study showed.

“If these root causes of violent extremism are not addressed, the risk of ongoing recruitment of women, including re-recruitment of thousands of female returnees, will continue,”  Mar Dieye warned.

Extremists exploit technology to recruit members and spread messages via social media and online platforms, the African Union representative pointed out.

“We must recognise the sophistication of terrorist groups doesn’t stop at radicalisation and recruitment strategies”, said AU Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed.  “Over the years they morphed into well-organised shadow governments providing services and, in some cases, acting as judge, jury and executioner.”

DiCarlo urged international action to address issues such as poverty, weak governance, inter-communal tensions, youth employment and gender inequality.

“Terrorism has no borders so preventing and combatting it requires strong multilateral co-operation”, she said, underlining UN commitment.