Wed. May 29th, 2024

*Full declarations at African Counter Terrorism Meeting in Abuja

Senator Iroegbu

In a resolute stand against the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa, leaders from across the continent convened at the High-Level African Counter-Terrorism Meeting in Abuja. Under the theme “Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Institution Building to Address the Evolving Threat of Terrorism in Africa,” the gathering marked a pivotal moment in the continent’s collective effort to combat this scourge.

Key points and takeaways

  1. Recognition of the Threat: African leaders unequivocally recognized the significant threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism in various regions, acknowledging its detrimental impact on peace, security, and development efforts.
  2. Addressing Root Causes: There was a consensus on the imperative to address the root causes and structural drivers of terrorism, including inequalities, governance deficits, lack of development, and human rights abuses, to effectively tackle the menace.
  3. African-Led Approach: The meeting underscored the importance of an African-led and African-owned approach to countering terrorism, emphasizing regional and sub-regional cooperation, prevention measures, and capacity building as key pillars of this approach.
  4. Multilateral Cooperation: Leaders called for enhanced cooperation between international partners and affected African Member States, emphasizing the importance of respecting sovereignty, promoting good governance, and upholding human rights in all counter-terrorism efforts.
  5. Capacity Building: There was a strong emphasis on the need to strengthen regional capacities to counter and prevent terrorism, leveraging existing instruments and commitments, and fostering collaboration between national stakeholders, civil society, and international partners.

Recommendations

Based on the discussions and outcomes of the meeting, several recommendations emerged:

  • Prioritize addressing the root causes and drivers of terrorism, including inequalities, governance deficits, and human rights abuses.
  • Strengthen regional and sub-regional cooperation mechanisms to enhance coordination and information-sharing in counter-terrorism efforts.
  • Promote an African-led and African-owned approach to counter-terrorism, emphasizing prevention measures, capacity building, and regional collaboration.
  • Enhance cooperation between international partners and African Member States, while respecting sovereignty and promoting good governance and human rights.
  • Invest in capacity-building initiatives to strengthen the capabilities of African states in combating terrorism and violent extremism.

Conclusion

The High-Level African Counter-Terrorism Meeting in Abuja served as a testament to the continent’s commitment to addressing the evolving threat of terrorism. With a renewed focus on regional cooperation, institution building, and multilateral collaboration, African leaders are poised to confront this challenge head-on, safeguarding peace, security, and stability across the continent.

DECLARATION ON THE HIGH – LEVEL AFRICAN COUNTER – TERRORISM MEETING ON THE THEME: “STRENGTHENING REGIONAL COOPERATION AND INSTITUTION BUILDING TO ADDRESS THE EVOLVING THREAT OF TERRORISM IN AFRICA”

ABUJA, NIGERIA, 22–23 APRIL 2024

We, the Heads of State and Government of Benin, Ghana, Nigeria,   Togo, the Prime Minister of Mauritania, the Ministers of Defence, the National Security Advisors, and Senior Government Representatives of African Union Member States, the African Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanism, African Union Commission, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, Africa’s Development Partners, and over twenty Civil Society Organisations converged at the High – Level African Counter – Terrorism Meeting, from 22nd to 23rd April 2024, in Abuja, Nigeria, under the theme: “Strengthening Regional Cooperation and Institution Building to Address the Evolving Threat of Terrorism in Africa”:

  • Recognize the continuing relevance of the instruments adopted by the African Union/Organization of African Unity (OAU), including the Communiqués of the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council as well as relevant normative frameworks of all participating Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms, aimed at addressing the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism on the African Continent;
  • Recall in particular the desire of the African Union to silence the guns on the Continent by the year 2030 and note the fact that the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in different parts of the African Continent poses a significant threat to peace, security, and stability in Africa, as well as hinder progress being made towards the achievement of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and African Union Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want;
  • Acknowledge that the growing activities of terrorist groups and the lethality of their attacks particularly in parts of West Africa and the Sahel, Central, Eastern and Northern Africa, is exacerbating insecurity in these regions;
  • Note that terrorist groups with affiliations to Al-Qaeda and/or Da’esh capitalize on local grievances, frequently rooted in inequalities, poor governance, lack of development, violations and abuses of human rights, as well as the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, to forge extensive operational networks and disseminate radical ideologies; Further notes that these groups exploit instability and conflict to escalate attacks across the continent and expand their zone of influence and control;
  • Acknowledge the need to adequately address the root causes and structural drivers of terrorism, violent extremism in Africa and emphasize the imperative for greater collective action in addressing the challenges of terrorism and violent extremism on the Continent given its spiral effects;
  • Guided by our desire to have an important platform for focused discussions, exchange of experiences, and identification of practical strategies to address the evolving threat of terrorism on the continent, consider the High–Level African Counter–Terrorism Meeting held from 22nd – 23rd April 2024, as one in the series of events being considered as a part of the Abuja Process for addressing terrorism concerns and underscore the following as its focus:
  1. a) an African-led and African-owned approach to countering

terrorism;

  1. b) strengthening regional and sub-regional cooperation,;
  2. c) encouraging prevention and effective counter measures to address the spread of terrorism, ;
  3. d) build capacities of Member States critically challenged by terrorism and violent extremist tendencies.
  • Recognized that the United Nations New Agenda for Peace seeks to enhance global peace and security through the building of trust, solidarity, universality and multilateralism, grounded in the UN Charter and further noting that the UN Summit of the Future, to be held in September 2024, in New York, presents an opportunity to build a more effective, inclusive, and renewed multilateralism tuned to the needs of the 21st century, including through forging international efforts to counter terrorism, and deepening investment in regional security and recognizing that the collective actions embodied in the “Pact for the Future,” of the Summit are intended to strengthen dedicated support to peace, security, and stability in Africa;
  • Guided by the above understanding, the High – Level African Counter – Terrorism Meeting was organized around the following four sessions:
  1. The evolving landscape of terrorist threat and operations in

Africa;

  1. Lessons Learned and Best Practices in countering terrorism

and preventing violent extremism;

  1. Enhancing regional capacities to counter and prevent terrorism on the continent;
  2. Strengthening cooperation between international partners

and African Member States affected by the scourge of terrorism.

Hereby declare to undertake the following:

ON THE EVOLVING TERRORIST THREAT LANDSCAPE IN AFRICA

  • Unequivocally condemn all manifestations of terrorism and violent extremism on the Continent of Africa and expressly reaffirm our collective commitment to strengthening the security of African States in line with the Common African Defense and Security Policy and within the spirit of finding African solutions to Africa’s security challenges;
  • Condemn in particular, increasing terrorist threat against vulnerable targets, including critical infrastructure and public places in some parts of the Continent;
  • Urge international partners to similarly affirm zero tolerance for terrorism regardless of the motives, and to take appropriate practical measures to ensure that their respective territories are not used by terrorists for the organization and or financing of terrorist acts to be committed against other States or their citizens;
  • Pay tribute to all African citizens and peace keeping and peace enforcement personnel who paid the ultimate sacrifice combating terrorist groups in the Continent and beyond;
  • Acknowledge the existence of critical gaps in counter-terrorism capabilities of most African countries and highlight the intersection of socio-economic disparities, political instability, armed conflict, porous borders, lack of cross-border cooperation, and governance challenges in the evolution of terrorist activities on the Continent;
  • Emphasize that only through unity and cooperation can Africa Member States be able to effectively counter terrorism on the Continent; In that connection, underscore the imperative for African Member States to prioritize countering terrorism within their territories and promoting balanced implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, adopted through consensus by all Member States of the United Nations, as well as the AU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism (1999); Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in Africa, (2002) and the Protocol to the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism (2004), and Malabo Declaration on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Africa (2022);
  • Note the imperative for effective responses to issues of terrorism and violent extremism on the Continent including through implementation of comprehensive border strategies and national action plans;
  • Agreed that climate insecurity could exacerbate fragile contexts as well as act as a risk multiplier in combination with other underlying drivers of violent extremism conducive to terrorism;
  • Condemn the growing use of a variety of new technologies for terrorist purposes, including use of remotely operated systems, to prepare or conduct terrorist attacks;
  • Express concerns over the undue targeting of youth online by terrorism groups, including through online gaming, gaming adjacent platforms and various social media platforms and in this regard, underscore the need for innovative approaches for countering online radicalization and exposure of African Youths to violent extremist tendencies and the recruitment efforts by terrorist groups. Also underscore the need to counter all mis/disinformation and hate speech leading to violent extremism, and encourage African Member States to leverage opportunities offered by digital tools, including artificial intelligence, to strengthen their counter-terrorism and preventive measures; Underline that respect for international humanitarian law, protection of civilians, ensuring humanitarian access and the prevention of the illicit sales of small arms and light weapons must be prioritized by all, in conflict contexts.

ON COUNTERING TERRORISM AND PREVENTING VIOLENT EXTREMISM CONDUCIVE TO TERRORISM: LESSONS LEARNED AND BEST PRACTICES

  • Shared lessons learned and good practices from national, regional, and global experiences in combating terrorism and preventing violent extremism and resolve to explore ways to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, including prioritizing investments in education, integration of counter-terrorism and violent extremism efforts into broader agendas linked to the SDG 16 and relevant aspirations of Agenda 2063
  • Reiterate the importance of promoting effective African-led and African-owned strategies for countering terrorism and in this regard, underscore the need to explore practical strategies for community-led approaches and meaningful/safe engagement of local communities, with the need for the United Nations, Africa’s Development partners and the international community to support such efforts that is grounded in local contexts and needs to ensure the achievement of the intended outcomes from their engagement;
  • Emphasize the need for African Leaders to promote youth empowerment and engagement, at both the strategic and operational levels, as an imperative for success given their roles as positive change-makers;
  • Underscore the need for the African Members States supported by the international community, particularly the United Nations and International partners to strengthen their respective control of arms and dual – use goods;
  • Reaffirm the importance of adopting comprehensive national, regional, and continental strategies to tackle the escalating menace of terrorism and its underlying causes, as well as all the factors that contribute to its expansion and dissemination; and in this context, we emphasize the need for countries affected by terrorism to mainstream political solutions to their ongoing security and military measures, and Stress the urgency of developing a comprehensive Continental Strategic Plan of Action on countering terrorism in Africa, to consolidate coordination and enhance actions;
  • Welcomed all African Member States that, at one point or the other, made efforts to address deep–rooted issues with genocidal potential, radicalization and violent extremism and in this connection, encourage peaceful settlement of underlying causes of inter and intra–community conflicts through the adoption of policies that discourages economic, religious and culture–based discriminatory practices/tendencies, the strengthening of inter and intra–community dialogues as well as the implementation of actions with potentials to consolidate social cohesion, promote the culture of peace, and prevent conflicts in societies;
  • Underline the need to promote the meaningful participation, leadership, and representation of women, youth, victims of terrorist activities and/or people in special situations in decision-making processes related to counter-terrorism;
  • Urge all United Nations and African Union Member States to enhance cooperation and collaboration in fighting the scourges of terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism and to deepen and intensify their collective security efforts, through joint operations, signing extradition agreements, as well as establishing platforms for sharing their experiences, best practices and lessons in preventing and combating terrorism, radicalization and extremism;
  • Emphasize the need to address terrorist propaganda based on inter–religious tensions and the clash of civilizations narrative; express respect for all faiths and belief systems noting that distorted narratives based on the misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion to justify violence are often leveraged to recruit supporters, particularly foreign terrorist fighters, mobilize resources and garner support from sympathizers of terrorism groups and activities;
  • Call upon all external actors to cease support(s) to terrorist groups on the Continent and reiterate the request for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) from the Continent;
  • Acknowledge the establishment of the United Nations Integrated Border Stability Mechanism (IBSM) in 2023, ;considered that Models based on the IBSM framework could be useful for intercontinental, regional and sub-regional efforts and underscore the need for good practices on the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of FTFs to be strengthened and shared more widely, as has been done by UNOCT in collaboration with the Lake Chad Basin Commission in the past;
  • Recognize that innovative approaches, including those leveraging advanced behavioural science, are crucial for effectively tackling violent extremism and radicalization across the continent and in this regard, underscored that such strategies, as embodied in the work of the UNOCT Behavioural Insights Hub in Doha, could contribute significantly to building resilient societies better equipped to withstand and recover from the threats of extremism and radicalization;
  • Further recognize the importance of tackling terrorist financing through targeted and coordinated actions as well as the important role of international, regional, and sub-regional organizations in supporting African States, and in this regard, we welcome UNOCT’s commitment to deepening its support for FATF-Style Regional Bodies in Africa, particularly in the West African Sub – Region, as a way of by promoting the implementation of risk-based approaches to terrorist financing, and to ensure that resources are best allocated according to identified threats and documented vulnerabilities;
  • Resolve to strengthen our individual and collective fight against local and external financiers and funding sources for terrorism and terrorist activities in Africa and promote improvement in the management of natural resources in every part of the Continent;
  • Welcome the important role being played by International Centres for Counter Terrorism as independent think–and–do tanks shaping effective and evidence–based counter–terrorism and violent extremism policies, grounded in human rights and the rule of law across the world and in this connection, decide to upgrade the Nigerian National Counter–Terrorism Centre, Abuja, to a Regional Counter–Terrorism Centre;
  • Request the United Nations, particularly the United Nations Office for Counter–Terrorism and the United Nations Security Council, as well as the African Union, in particular, the African Union Peace and Security Council and the African Union Counter Terrorism Centre, and indeed, international partners, including the European Union, to provide the needed support and resources to ensure the upgrade as well as its immediate take off and effectiveness as a centre of excellence on issues of counter terrorism in Africa.

ON ENHANCING REGIONAL CAPACITIES TO COUNTER AND PREVENT TERRORISM

  • Recognize the importance of promoting and effectively utilizing existing instruments and delivering on previous commitments, including those from the AU Extraordinary Summit held in Malabo in May 2022 and in this regard, we reiterate commitment to the implementation of the decisions related to counter-terrorism in the Declarations of the 16th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union on Terrorism and Unconstitutional Changes of Government;
  • Call for the long-anticipated activation of the AU Peace and Security Council’s Sub-Committee on Counter-Terrorism to be immediately and fully operationalised to enable it fulfil its advisory mandate;
  • Affirm that regional economic communities and regional mechanisms are the building blocks for Africa’s continental integration agenda, as well as its peace and security architecture, hence the need to harness the potential of these structures to help strengthen the coordination of counter-terrorism efforts and deliver impactful support where it is needed most.
  • Welcome the regional mechanisms and initiatives established to address security challenges, including sub-regional security arrangements, such as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram; Recall that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has stressed the imperative of improved coordination of counter-terrorism efforts, calling for the operationalization of the ECOWAS Standby Force;
  • Emphasize the need to further strengthen existing cooperation mechanisms at the regional and continental levels to enable them more effectively respond to the transnational nature of terrorism, and reiterated the imperative to connect counter-terrorism coordinators in various regions affected by terrorism on the African Continent for better coordination and the sharing of expertise and resources, where possible;
  • Express the desire of Regional Economic Communities and countries affected by the scourge of terrorism to benefit from the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact virtual platform; Urge all African Union Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms to fully utilize the cooperative mechanisms established to address country–and region–specific issues, most notably the Sahel Fusion and Liaison Unit (UFL), the Nouakchott Process on the Enhancement of Security Cooperation and the Operationalization of the African Peace and Security Architecture in the Sahelo–Saharan Region, the Djibouti Process and the Accra and other initiatives established to respond to growing insecurity linked to violent extremism in the regions;
  • Call for the enhancement of coordination mechanisms between the UN and regional organizations, economic communities/mechanisms, such as the African Union (AU), EAC, ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD, AIMC and SADC, toward the fostering of synergies in joint programming and the enhancement of information-sharing amongst all key actors;
  • Welcome UNOCT’s capacity building programmes and work in the areas of fusion cells, border security, behavioural insights, countering the financing of terrorism, small arms and light weapons, investigations, cyber, preventing and countering violent extremism and protection of victims of terrorism;
  • Welcome the ongoing commitment of the UNOCT’s to the enhancement of interagency coordination and information sharing and we emphasize the need for international and regional organizations as well as international partners to prioritize providing capacity-building support that responds to the reality of African Member States in different sub-regional arrangements, including through the work of the UNOCT Rabat Training Centre for Africa and the UNOCT Nairobi Office;
  • Recognize the need for Africa to build strong and professional armies, equipped with the correct ideology of Non-Sectarianism; Pan-Africanism; and Nationalism, in order to defeat terrorism; and in this regard, reiteratesthe call for the immediate operationalization of the African Standby Force (ASF), the finalization of the Memorandum of Understanding between the AU and African Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanism on the ASF and the strengthening of coordination between the African Union Peace and Security Council, Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms on its utilization;

ON STRENGTHENING COOPERATION BETWEEN INTERNATIONAL     PARTNERS         AND AFFECTED AFRICAN MEMBER STATES

  • Emphasize the need to pursue a multidimensional approach in addressing the structural root causes and drivers of insecurity on the continent, including through the promotion of good governance, constitutionalism, human rights, adherence to the rule of law and democracy;
  • Underscore the need for the promotion of the nexus between peace, security and socio-economic development, and the prevention of the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons into Africa, as well as addressing in a comprehensive manner, the devastating impact of climate change on livelihoods;

;

  • Highlight the need to clearly identify priority threats and capacity gaps for targeted responses underscored the need to explore ways to bolster collaboration between international funding partners and African Member States to effectively prevent and/or counter terrorists activities on the Continent;
  • Stress the importance of including non-traditional partners like the private sector, think tanks, and academic institutions, in identifying threats and co-designing initiatives;
  • Underscore the need international partners to respect the sovereignty of African States facing terrorism challenges and to respect international law, particularly the regional ownership, and the enhancement of cooperation in all their assistance to African Member States facing terrorism challenges;
  • Acknowledge the important efforts of the African Union Commission (AUC) in operationalizing the AU Peace Fund as the fund remain a critical instrument for addressing urgent peace and security challenges on the Continent; while commending contributions made by African Member States in this regard
  • Underscore the need for coordinated efforts in countering terrorism in Africa as well as the role of adequate, sustainable and predictable funding in combating all forms of insecurity on the African Continent, particularly terrorism and violent extremism on the continent and in this regards, acknowledge the adoption of Resolution 2719 (2023) by the United Nations Security Council on financing of African Union-led Peace Support Operations and emphasized that although it fell short of the 100% access to UN assessed contribution that Africa requested as a way of guaranteeing predictable, adequate and sustainable financing of AU peace and security activities, Resolution 2719 (2023) could contribute to the funding requirement for combating terrorism and violent extremism in Africa, in all its forms and manifestations;
  • Resolve to scale up efforts to combat transnational organized crime especially the deliberate proliferation of illicit arms in Africa, including through enhanced intelligence sharing mechanisms, border management, cooperation and control and we call on the United Nations system and Agencies to support the development/adoption of robust frameworks and legislative, as well as the enhancement of the operational capacities of African Member States confronted by the challenges of terrorism and violent extremism and to contribute towards the sharing of good practices for the effective elimination of the supply of weapons to non – state armed groups in Africa;
  • Stress the urgent need for the improved deployment of greater support and resources towards strengthening cybersecurity activities in Africa and taking concrete steps to prevent the use of social media and other platforms by terrorists;
  • Commend, in this regard, the UNOCT for reaffirming its commitment to integrating emerging technologies in the framework of its technical assistance to African Member States, helping them to prevent and counter cybersecurity related emerging threats in a human rights-compliant and gender-responsive manner, and leveraging the potential of these technologies to support counter-terrorism and violent extremism efforts across the continent;
  • Emphasize the need for closer collaboration among national stakeholders, civil society, regional and sub-regional organizations as well as international partners, in delivering assistance and strengthening support and protection of victims of terrorism,;
  • Stress the importance of strengthening the capacities of the African Union Commission (AUC) and its specialised agencies, as well as those of Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms to enhance the effectiveness of their respective Member States combating terrorism and violent extremism;
  • Urge the AUC to continue providing technical assistance to its Member States through its Continental Counter-Terrorism Early Warning System and w encourage Member States and Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) to improve their coordination, strengthen regional and continental efforts and regularly exchange experiences in their combater terrorism efforts;
  • Welcome the commitment of the UNOCT, in coordination with other partners, to strengthen the development and implementation of dedicated packages of capacity building programmes and other forms of targeted supports to African States in the priority areas of assistance identified during the Meeting;

We fully concure that the Abuja Process is an African-led and African-owned series of meetings aimed at strengthening regional and sub-regional cooperation to counter terrorism and prevent violent extremism, strengthen coordination of counter-terrorism initiatives, share expertise, and mobilize resources for critical counter-terrorism programmes.

We thank the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, organisers of the High Level African Meeting on Counter Terrorism as well all Member States, international and regional organizations and civil society groups and international partners who participated in this event and contributed to the discussions.

Given that our objective is to make the process beneficial for all critical situations on the Continent, we decide that the dates and venue for the follow-up meetings of this Process will be made known in due course.

We request the African Union Peace and Security Council to consider and endorse this Declaration and to recommend same to the United Nations Security Council for appropriate action.

Adopted on this 23rd day of April, 2024

In Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria

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