Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you especially for convening today’s important session. I’d also like to thank the Secretary-General and Dr. Shehu for your briefings. Although we focus today on terrorism in Africa, we recall the victims of terrorist attacks everywhere, as well as their families. From Karachi to Kano, Mogadishu to Benghazi and Amenas, and from Baghdad to Boston, the thousands of lives lost and shattered remind us, tragically, that the scourge of terrorism affects us all and that combating it requires our shared determination and common efforts.
Mr. President, terrorist groups continue to threaten peace, security, and, stability across Africa. In the Sahel, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) joined with mercenary fighters fleeing Libya to exploit the Tuareg rebellion and overrun the northern two-thirds of Mali. In Nigeria, Boko Haram and Ansaru are taking advantage of poor socio-economic conditions and popular discontent to challenge state authorities and sow communal conflict. In Somalia, al-Shabaab is still launching ferocious attacks on the Somali government and people as it seeks to derail the country’s transition. As we saw just eight days ago in Arusha, Tanzania, terrorism is not confined to conflict zones, but can happen anywhere, anytime.
Nevertheless, the fight against terrorism in Africa has made progress over the last year. Somalia and Mali show how international and regional cooperation and action can help to weaken terrorist groups that pose grave threats to entire nations. In these cases, African nations, with critical support from the international community, have actively confronted terrorist threats. Working together, French, Chadian, and Malian forces have taken on a growing terrorist haven in Mali. This Council imposed UN sanctions against the Movement for Unity and Jihad, Ansar Eddine and associated individuals in Mali and authorized two successive missions to help stabilize the country. At the same time, the persistence and sacrifice of African Union peacekeepers with international assistance has helped Somalia start to reclaim its country from the brutal grip of al-Shabaab.
And yet, al-Qaida and affiliated groups remain dangerous, and they’re becoming more diffuse and entrepreneurial. With fragile, new governments in North Africa and unrest elsewhere on the continent, violent extremists have increasingly exploited porous borders, political vacuums, local grievances, socio-economic stresses, and diminished focus on counterterrorism to pursue their deadly objectives.
Meanwhile, terrorists in Africa continue to fund their operations through illicit activities while their tactics are becoming more sophisticated. Transnational terrorists are trafficking weapons, drugs, and even human beings to raise money for heinous attacks. We remain deeply concerned, that AQIM and related groups are using kidnapping for ransom to finance terrorism. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to this crime and must stop paying ransoms. Furthermore, terrorists’ use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, is on the rise in Africa, as al-Shaabab’s recent car bombing of Somali government and Qatari aid delegation members demonstrates. This troubling trend warrants increased Security Council attention, and we welcome opportunities to develop counter-IED initiatives with African and other partners.
The multifaceted threat of terrorism in Africa requires a multidimensional response. The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy recognizes as much. A comprehensive approach not only involves tactical efforts and capacity-building to thwart attacks and degrade terrorist infrastructure. It also features strategic initiatives to reduce violent extremism and shrink the pipeline of terrorists.
Thus, the United States has intensified capacity-building assistance to African partners. Our Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership and our Partnership for Regional East African Counterterrorism programs help African states to tighten border security, promote economic development, disrupt terrorist networks, prevent attacks, and prosecute perpetrators. Over the past year, the U.S. has trained over 2,320 officials in 18 African countries conducting law enforcement and rule of law activities. U.S. Legal Attaches and advisors are working with host country governments in Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia, Senegal, and Algeria to strengthen justice sector capacity to address terrorism.
In addition, to counter violent extremist propaganda online, the United States established the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, which has supported citizen journalists to disseminate accurate, non-extremist information across northern Mali and has funded projects in Nigeria and Niger to highlight local stories of resilience in the face of terrorism.
We further welcome the contributions that the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), in partnership with the UN and African Union, has made in addressing terrorism across the continent. GCTF’s good practices memorandums on criminal justice, the rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists, and the prevention against kidnapping for ransom by terrorists, are practical tools for governments to combat terrorism within a rule of law framework. However, these guides are only as useful as the political will and capacity to implement them.
Mr. President, building state capacity to fight terrorists and enlisting communities in this fight remains indispensable. But we must be wary of repressive approaches, which often fuel the very radicalization they seek to eliminate. Indeed, reducing the threat of terrorism in Africa demands a broader effort to create freer, more prosperous and tolerant societies in which radicalization is rare, opportunity is palpable, and hope thrives. This requires fighting poverty and corruption. It requires expanding trade and investment, and building critical infrastructure so that African economies can grow sustainably. It requires effective conflict prevention and resolution; it requires improving governments’ delivery of services to their peoples, from quality education to health care to justice. And it requires ensuring that people are able to hold their governments accountable. Through this framework and in partnership with the people and governments of the continent, the United States is working to empower citizens, promote good governance, strengthen human rights and the rule of law, and boost economic growth and development.
In doing so, we remain mindful that no one nation can fight terrorism alone. We must work together, as partners, with shared commitment and mutual assistance to end this scourge. We owe nothing less to the legion of victims and to future generations.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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