AU’s anti-terrorism strategy: great but lacking implementation

A damaged car is seen at the scene of a car bomb blast in Nyanya, Abuja, May 2, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

A damaged car at the scene of a car bomb in Abuja, Nigeria, 2 May 2014. Credit: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

In an article for the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Simon Allison argues that the blueprints for an effective and efficient African Union’s anti-terrorism strategy do exist (hyperlinks, underlining and bold are my own):

Between the Algiers Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, and the 2004 Protocol to that convention (which only entered into force in 2014), the AU has crafted a relatively comprehensive and progressive legal framework for counter-terrorism. This framework defines a terrorist act, and regulates how states should work together to investigate and prosecute such acts.

These agreements are complemented by the 2002 Algiers Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in Africa, which outlined concrete steps that nations could take to protect themselves from terrorism. These included proposed security measures such as computerised immigration records, biometric passports, and a continent-wide ‘passport stop list’ of suspected terrorists.

The Algiers Plan also established the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT); an Algiers-based research institute intended to act as a central knowledge hub for terrorist activity and counter-terrorism best practice. The final piece of the AU’s counter-terrorism policy jigsaw is the African Model Anti-Terrorism Law, a legislative blueprint from which all African countries can draw when creating their own domestic counter-terrorism laws.

However, these blueprints are not, by themselves, a panacea to terrorism. This said, the author gives some hints on why the continent has been largely unsuccessful in tackling this phenomena:

The answer, as always, is complicated. In part, it’s because terrorism is not a short-term phenomenon, which means the response to terrorism can’t be short term either. In other words, these things can take years to come to fruition. In part, it’s because Africa is not immune to the global increase in terrorist activity, making it difficult to discern any signs of progress.

These are factors largely out of the AU’s control. But there’s another factor at play. Any policy is only as good as its implementation, and currently the AU’s counter-terrorism policy is not being implemented effectively.

A case in point: it took more than a decade for the Algiers Protocol to come into force, and even today only 15 member states have ratified it. Among those who have not ratified are key actors in the fight against terrorism, including Kenya, Nigeria and Somalia. Meanwhile, only a third have passed specific counter-terrorism laws as recommended by the AU (for which the African Model Anti-Terrorism Law is the template).

The reluctance of member states to embrace the AU’s counter-terrorism policy is fatal to the success of that policy. There can be no coordinated response to terrorism if the main players refuse the AU’s attempts to coordinate it (and there is no comparable body offering a better alternative).

At the same time, the AU itself can do more to uphold its end of the bargain. The ACSRT, established in 2004, has the potential to be a vital resource, but it remains chronically under-funded and under-staffed.

Discussions around terrorism should avoid trying to reinvent the wheel. An effective continental counter-terrorism framework exists – now it is up to member states, and the AU itself, to implement it.

This is a thematic worth exploring and analyzing in a thorough, intensive and extensive manner.

Any proposals?

Sobre Gustavo Plácido

An independent political and security risk analyst focused on Lusophone Sub-Saharan Africa. He covers Angola and Mozambique for Horizon Client Access.
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