First Annual Convention of Counter-Terrorism Practitioners in Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

on 22 and 23 May 2012, the IGAD Security Sector Programme convened the First Annual Convention of Counterterrorism Practitioners in Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa with the support of the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation (CGCC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

The Convention provided an opportunity for counterterrorism practitioners from across the sub-region and beyond to consider evolving threats and challenges in the sub-region, develop joint responses, and build a stronger professional network in Eastern Africa and the Horn.

Over 100 counterterrorism practitioners, academics, diplomats, journalists and members of the civil society attended the Convention. Attendees included representatives of IGAD Member States, namely Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Other states represented at the Convention included Burundi, Canada, Denmark, France, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Tanzania, United States, United Kingdom, Yemen, and the European Union.

Ambassador Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Counter–Terrorism Cooperation, and Director of the ACSRT briefed the convention on the situation of terrorism in Africa stressing that the link between Al-Qaida central and terrorist organizations in Africa is  a challenge facing the continent. He described the rise of Al-Shabaab (which has formally joined the Al Qaida network) in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, as a major security concern and appealed for increased efforts to fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean, combat money laundering in the region and deprive Al Qaida and Al-Shabaab of a stronghold in any portion of the Somali territory. In this regard he saluted TFG, AMISOM, Kenya and Ethiopia for the good work they are doing amidst very challenging circumstances.

Regarding the situation in the Sahel region, Ambassador Madeira emphasized the serious challenge posed by AL-QAIDA in the Islamic MAGREB’s (AQIM) which has replenished its arsenals with dangerous weapons of different calibers and from different sources and origins, including those from Libya. He added that AL QAIDA’s terrorist activities continue to undermine governance, tourist industry and economic and social development in the Sahel.

He further underscored the fact that AQIM’s strategic goal of gaining control over the Maghreb and expanding towards the sub-Saharan region and the horn of Africa had not changed.  Rather, it has been reinforced by the proliferation, since late last year, of new and heavily armed terrorist groups such as AnsarEdin, Mujao and MESJ as well as by a surge in violence capacity of Boko Haram in Nigeria. All these groups have links with AQIM and identify themselves with AL QAIDA and pledge to execute the latter’s agenda in the region.

Regarding Central Africa, the Ambassador pointed out the criminal activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in the DRC, Central African Republic and South Sudan, and those perpetrated by other armed rebel groups against the civilian populations in the sub-region. The African Union and the countries affected by the LRA together with the UN and USA have set up a task force to deal with this menace in a better coordinated and decisive manner.

In this regard Ambassador Madeira lauded the efforts of the Ugandan forces in capturing Ceasar Occellam one of the LRA top commanders.

The African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, as the executive arm of the AU Commission and the Peace and Security Council on matters relating to terrorism, in the fulfillment of its mandate throughout the Continent, paid a working visit to Mogadishu where it  held discussions with the  TFG authorities and AMISOM and helped  install the fusion and liaison center with a view to ensuring better institutional coordination and exchange of operational information amongst TFG counter terrorism institutions, and between these institutions and the AMISOM. The ACSRT also visited the five regions of the continent and noted a stark coincidence in terms of vulnerabilities of member states and the type of remedy required to cure them.

In conclusion, Ambassador Madeira said Effective counter terrorism action must aim at eliminating the causes of terrorism as well as at preventing terrorists from successfully carrying out their activities and strengthening, in the event of an attack, the ability to limit the damage. This requires considerable resources and the convergence of likeminded institutions specialized in different aspects of the counter-terrorism action.

Given the multifaceted nature of the counter terrorism action and the varying realities of each region of the continent, the Ambassador added that there is a need to encourage regions to adopt their own regional counter terrorism strategy and mechanism, such as a fusion and liaison centre which will ensure coordination, timely exchange of operational information, cohesion, harmonization, and cooperation among all national and regional counter terrorism institutions.