SADC Regional Workshop on the Role of the Criminal Justice System in Preventing and Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism

Joint_CAERT_UNODC

In recent times, there have been a growing trend of terrorism and violent extremism in the Southern Africa region, particularly with the spread of terrorist groups connected with the Islamic State (IS), which threatens the peace, security, stability, and the development of countries in the region. The present threats in the region have also exposed the vulnerabilities of the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Specifically, the Islamic State Central African Province (ISCAP) so named after the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) pledged allegiance to “Islamic State” continue to cause devastating havoc to live and properties in the Ituri and North Kivu Provinces of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Similarly, the IS linked Al-Sunna wa Jama’a (ASWJ) have attacked with coherent and daring momentum in the Northern Mozambique Cabo Delgado province. The activities of these IS linked groups raised concerns over the spread of terrorism and violent extremism across the entire SADC region.
In response to the evolving terrorist threats, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in partnership with the African Centre for the Study and Research of Terrorism (ACSRT), and the SADC Regional Counter-Terrorism Center jointly organised a regional workshop on the role of the criminal justice system in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism from 26-29 April, 2022 in Lilongwe Malawi. The main aim of the workshop was to put in place effective measures to detect, investigate, deter, and counter terrorism threat. As Southern Africa had previously been little affected by the terrorism phenomenon, States are having to face this complex challenge for the first time and thus requiring urgent assistance to quickly adapt to the new security context in the region.
The workshop which was generously supported by the United Nations Peace and Development Fund (UNPDF) and hosted by the Government of Malawi brought together 14 countries from across Southern Africa. The event provided an important opportunity to examine the emerging national and regional terrorism and violent extremism threats and challenges, to take stock of the efforts which are already underway, to share experiences, and to identify areas for joint action. Participants included counter-terrorism and criminal justice officials from: Angola, Botswana, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Criminal Justice Experts as well as PCVE Experts drawn from the ACSRT, UNODC, SADC RCTC, and other regional Institutions including relevant UN agencies in the region participated in the workshop.
During the opening session, the Minister of Homeland Security of Malawi, H.E. Jean SENDEZA, opened the workshop, indicating gratitude to the UNODC, African Union’s ACSRT and other partners for the support to SADC countries to prevent violent extremism and counter emerging terrorism threats through strengthened criminal justice responses. She further revealed that Southern and Eastern Africa is increasingly facing a growing threat of terrorism through recruitment, terrorism financing in isolation but also through linkages with illicit trafficking of goods and other criminal activity in the region.
Mr. Marco TEIXEIRA, the UNODC Head of the Programme Office for Malawi and Mozambique, remarked that “UNODC welcomes its partnership with SADC and ACSRT to address terrorism and violent extremism in Southern Africa, only through joint efforts can we address these complex and trans-national challenges together. UNODC looks forward to bringing its global experience in supporting Member States to address terrorism and violent extremism in order to support Southern Africa.”
Col. Christian Emmanuel MOUAYA POUYI, Acting Head of Training and Equipment Unit, ACSRT gave opening remarks on behalf of the African Union Commission (AUC). He underscored the importance of the workshop as a demonstration of the successful ongoing partnership between the African Union, SADC, and UNODC and the fruit of continued consultation and cooperation which indicates yet again the common determination to work tirelessly towards the elimination of the threat of terrorism and violent extremism., Col. MOUAYA POUYI reiterated that the commitment of the African Union to making every reasonable effort to assist its Member States (MS) in their individual and collective efforts to promote peace, security, stability and development. The AU through its counter terrorism technical agency, ACSRT would continue to empower and build the capacity of AUMS to effectively respond to terrorism.
This new joint UNODC initiative with SADC and ACSRT builds on an earlier phase of assistance also funded by the UN Peace and Development Fund. Under that project, the regional partners were able to provide critical counter-terrorism policy and legislative advice and specialized training and equipment for counter-terrorism and criminal justice officials from the SADC Countries most affected by terrorism including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and South Africa. This second joint initiative will build on and expand these efforts, sharing global good practices and standards and promoting South-South cooperation with other countries in Africa and elsewhere who have long faced similar terrorism threats.