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African leaders push for new approach to fighting terrorism

A surge in extremist violence on the continent killed over 7,000 civilians just last year alone, according to regional data

The African Union (AU) is calling for a more robust counter-terrorism strategy, including the deployment of a standby security force to address surging extremist violence across the continent.

In a speech at a security summit in Nigeria’s capital of Abuja on Monday, AU Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat said that escalating attacks by armed groups in all African regions necessitate greater local-led peacekeeping efforts.

According to Faki, the number of daily attacks by militants on the continent rose to an average of eight last year, compared to just four between 2017 and 2021. The average daily death count reached 44, up from 18 over the 2017-2021 period.

“Unfortunately, civilians continue to bear the brunt of these heinous acts, with over 7,000 casualties in 2023 alone. Moreover, the Security and Military Sectors have not been spared, experiencing an alarming 190.8% surge in losses in personnel, amounting to over 4,000 fatalities,” Faki said.

He blamed the security situation for recent coups in some AU member states, particularly in West Africa, where Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger all deposed civilian governments over alleged failures to quell decades of jihadist insurgency despite the presence of foreign troops.

All three military-ruled states have expelled French forces, accusing Paris of meddling. Niger also recently terminated a 2012 defense cooperation agreement with Washington that had allowed around 1,000 US soldiers and civilian contractors to be stationed in the landlocked country.

Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent groups, al-Shabab in particular, have been carrying out regular attacks in several African states, including those in the Sahel region – Burkina Faso, Mali, and Somalia in East Africa. At least 7,800 civilians were killed in the first seven months of 2023 in the Sahel alone, according to figures reported by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

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Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe said while the Sahel suffers the highest number of attacks, coastal states such as Togo are also facing growing threats due to the inability of decades-old institutions to effectively respond to the crisis.

Faki said more funding is needed to help counter the spread of terrorism.

“An innovative approach is crucial as I said. It should include a new model of financing the fight against Terrorism, greater involvement of African institutions and the Civil Society actors,” he stated.

April 23, 2024 at 08:01PM

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