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Terrorism scourge in Africa: UN inaction fuels attacks - President Akufo-Addo

BY: Donald Ato Dapatem
The High-Level Debate of the UN Security Council in session
The High-Level Debate of the UN Security Council in session

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has said the inaction of the United National (UN) Security Council, which continues to contemplate whether and how to intervene in terrorist attacks in West Africa and the Sahel, fuels the spread of instability across Africa.

He said while it could be admitted that the political context for the Security Council’s involvement was complex and the operating environment dangerous, the earlier a collective action was taken to support efforts to halt the incessant killing and annihilation of communities, the better.

President Akufo-Addo said this when he presided over the High-Level Debate of the UN Security Council at the council hall in the UN building in New York yesterday.

It was on the theme: “Counter-terrorism in Africa – An imperative for peace, security and development”.

The President, who last addressed the council as Ghana’s Foreign Minister 16 years ago, also used the occasion to reiterate his call on the council to revisit the issue of the reform of the UN system, especially the Security Council.

He said that should be done on the basis of the African Common Position on UN Reform, as enunciated in the Ezulwini Consensus, if, indeed, the authority of the council, which in recent times appeared to have been devalued because of its old-fashioned structure, was to be restored.


Massacre

President Akufo-Addo, recounting the cold-blooded treatment, including the massacre of innocent persons, by terrorists, cited, for example, how, with a population of some 300 million people, the Sahel region had accounted for the highest incidents of recorded terrorist attacks between January and June this year.

That, he explained, had resulted in about 5,412 deaths across Africa.

He quoted a report by the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, which indicated that out of the 699 attacks that had occurred this year, the Sahel accounted for 179, with 1,909 fatalities.

Motivated

He said already Sahelian and West African countries had been overrun by terrorists and other armed groups, who now felt motivated and emboldened to expand their reach of influence to the coastal countries of West Africa, in a grand attempt to get access to the high seas and create a vicious linkage between terrorism and piracy.

“We acknowledge that the fight against terrorism can be a protracted one that could take several years, but with collective efforts, terrorism and those behind its evil acts can and will eventually be defeated,” he added.

Ghana’s suggestions

The President said it would require urgent actions predicated on concerted efforts to arrest the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel and West Africa and succeed in attempts to bring progress, prosperity and development to the peoples of the region.

He suggested that in addressing the threats to terrorism in Africa, it was important that the council leveraged the role of the African Union (AU) and its regional economic commissions to raise a robust and well-resourced force to confront the terrorists and other armed groups, alongside other peace operation initiatives.

“We welcome the ongoing joint strategic assessment of the security, governance and development issues of the Sahel, just as we encourage the high-level panel, led by the respected former President of Niger, His Excellency Mahamadou Issoufou, to leverage the best elements of the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, the Accra Initiative, the Nouakchott Process and the Multinational Joint Task Force,” he said.

He also urged the council to consider recommendations for a unified and restructured regional force and called on the council to be supportive of such efforts, adding that the burden of confronting terrorism could not be borne by those in the region alone.

The Deputy UN Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, contributing to the debate, outlined five suggestions to advance counter-terrorism efforts in Africa, saying “prevention remains our best response”.

“We must address the instability and conflict that can lead to terrorism, in the first place, as well as the conditions exploited by terrorists in pursuit of their agenda,” she said.

Secondly, she called for community-based, gender-sensitive “whole-of-society” approaches.

Noting the “complex links among terrorism, patriarchy and gender-based violence”, she said counter-terrorism policies needed to be “strengthened by the meaningful participation and leadership of women and girls”.

The Deputy UN Secretary-General underscored as a third point that “countering terrorism can never be an excuse for violating human rights or international law”, as it would “only set us back”.

Fourthly, she stressed the importance of regional organisations which could address the challenges posed by terrorist and violent extremist groups in the local context.

Ms Mohammed called for “sustained and predictable funding” to prevent and counter terrorism.

She said the growth of terrorism was a major threat to international peace and security, which was being felt most in Africa.

“Terrorists and violent extremists, including Da’esh, al-Qaeda and their affiliates, have exploited instability and conflict to increase their activities and intensify attacks across the continent,” she said on behalf of

Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Their senseless, terror-fueled violence has killed and wounded thousands and many more continue to suffer from the broader impact of terrorism on their lives and livelihoods,” she added.

Ms Mohammed said terrorists and violent extremist groups aggravated instability and human suffering and could plunge a country emerging from war back into the depths of conflict.

Context

Ghana assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, November 1, this year. It will be in the seat for a month.

The country is seeking to use its presidency to build consensus in the council and across the UN on the need to ensure that peace operations take into consideration the changing security landscape.

That, among other things, is meant to address underlying causes and drivers of conflict, linked to the growing youth bulge and poverty.

Other activities

Aside from yesterday’s debate, other activities to be undertaken by Ghana within the month are a press briefing by its Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, Harold Adlai Agyeman; a briefing of the wider UN membership on the programme of work and Ghana's priorities during the month by Mr Agyeman, and an open ministerial debate to be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, on the topic: "Integrating effective resilience building in peace operations for sustainable peace”.

“The objective of the ministerial debate is to start a conversation on reconfiguring UN peace operations to ensure a situationally determined balance between kinetic and non-kinetic actions aimed at restoring peace and addressing the underlying causes of conflict,” the ministry earlier said.

West Africa threat

Ghana assumes the presidency of the Security Council at a time terrorism and violent extremism are becoming a major threat to West Africa.

“Increasingly, extremist groups have developed the capacity to finance their operations through illicit international networks and transnational crimes, such as human trafficking, piracy and mercenary activities.

“More worrying, in West Africa, the attacks in the coastal areas have been described as 'a tip of the insurgency iceberg', given the potential and the ambition of terrorist organisations to expand their reach beyond the Sahel until they can control territories in other parts of West Africa,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Ghana’s election

The UN General Assembly, at its meeting in New York on June 11, last year, elected Ghana to serve a two-year term on the Security Council from January 2022 to December 2023.

The country’s agenda is focused on enhancing global peace and security for sustainable and inclusive development, particularly in Africa.

Ghana secured 185 votes out of the 190 votes cast, the highest number of votes, compared to the votes obtained by the four other Member States — Brazil, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Albania and Gabon — that were also elected, further underlying Ghana’s high standing in the UN.