Terrorism and Security in Africa: A Global Challenge

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, delivers a speech after a meeting with Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokov
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, delivers a speech after a meeting with Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, unseen, at the Organization’s Headquarters, in Paris, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Security threats have continued for more than a decade, despite their recent decline, to remind us that the fight against terrorism and organized crime requires constant vigilance. The African Leaders Summit is an opportunity for African leaders and the U.S. to discuss this issue collectively and acknowledge and deepen U.S. engagement. Recent events from Mali to Sudan, Libya to Nigeria, Kenya to Somalia indicate that this must be addressed as a global issue to sustainably contain and overcome it. Indeed, we are at a historical crossroads in Africa if we want to secure peace and stability for the next generation.

Securitizing Development

The persistence of such evils in our sub-region imposes on us an even bigger challenge, in addition to the already-difficult development issues and the fight against poverty. There is a close relationship between security and development which are, each to the other, mutual prerequisites: there is no development without security of persons and property, nor is there viable security without effective development.

This dual challenge of securitizing development confronts us today. The devastating consequences of insecurity in the Sahel are clear and obvious without the need of any historical narrative. However, these threats, against which we must unite our efforts even more, should not overshadow the reality of progress. We must highlight the liberation and the return to constitutional order in Mali, and we can rejoice but must remain vigilant. During the painful events that this sister country went through, we have, like our other Sahelian brothers, ECOWAS and the African Union, supported all efforts to resolve the crisis. In Mauritania, we successfully ensured the absolute inviolability of our territory by armed bands seeking fallback territories and welcomed tens of thousands of Malian civilians peacefully.

A Global Approach with Local Leadership for Resolute Success

The renewed freedom of Mali today must, first, be applauded thanks to the extraordinary selflessness of Malians and, second, to the support of sister and friendly states. The commitment for the joint troops mobilized by Sahel countries deserves to be particularly recognized. History will remember the sacrifices of the courageous Chadian officers and soldiers who dislodged the rebels from their strongholds in northern Mali. History will also remember the French and American support to this truly global effort. We must support all those suffering from terrorist attacks with similar global coordination and resolve, building on these recent experiences.

Our progress in the mastery of threats and the outpouring of international solidarity ushered in a new dynamic that we must take full ownership of. No one can deny that the future of our region is primarily our responsibility or that the effectiveness of external support depends on how well they are accepted locally. This is a question of our sovereignty and of our understanding of our environments. States must be in the lead, set priorities and identify responses. However, the cross border aspects of the challenges we face require, an unfailing solidarity of our states; and a joint action plan between our national and regional levels. Our global efforts, collectively deployed, should amplify individual action taken by States.

Protecting the Future the Next Generation

Ensuring democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and promoting good governance remain, from this point of view, are the best defense against radical temptations. In addition, the pledge of a needed legitimacy for public action is also a necessary condition for an efficient fight against poverty and insecurity.

Meeting the youth expectations in this regard is a major priority in this struggle. It is clear, however, that despite efforts in this regard, the outcomes of policies for youth employment still remain below target in many regions where terrorism is planting its roots. The Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, launched by President Obama, is complimenting other youth initiatives on the continent. These efforts should be seen as part of the Trade Africa and Power Africa initiatives in order to ensure that the youth have a clear path to income generation and social empowerment. The African youth must not be reduced to instruments of violence and insecurity in a period when the continent shows much promise. They must embody and be seen as custodians of the hope and opportunity which lies before the continent.

Our region has many assets to guarantee its children a bright future worthy of their glorious heritage. The energy of our youth and their entrepreneurial spirit, our natural resources, diverse and abundant, the complementarity of our territories and ecosystems, provide a foundation. The Sahelian, and African rebirth can therefore be sustained, with political will and a concrete vision for dealing with issues of security. More than a duty, it is a responsibility towards our people and history.