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Addressing Terrorism to Mitigate Instability in Africa


A demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of Chibok in Nigeria. (File)

Instability and conflict continue to bedevil parts of Africa and much of that is due to terrorism

Sub-Saharan Africa has done well over the past few years. “The overall trends in Sub-Saharan Africa point to accelerated democratization, development, and economic opportunity,” said Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield recently before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

A number of countries have ended long-running conflicts and are rebuilding, others have held successful elections in the past year. Economic opportunities are improving and per capita income has been increasing steadily.

However, in spite of these positive trends, instability and conflict continue to bedevil parts of the continent. And much of that is due to terrorism and violent extremism. Terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, and al-Murabitoun are exploiting state fragility and political and economic vulnerabilities, said Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield. “We see violent extremists focusing their recruitment efforts where there is a lack of economic opportunity, political and social alienation, poor governance, corruption of elites, and lack of accountability for abuses by security forces.”

In the Lake Chad Basin region, Boko Haram continues its attacks in northeastern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

In West Africa and the Sahel, terrorist groups have conducted attacks against hotels and a resort frequented by westerners.

In East Africa, al-Shabaab has launched large-scale attacks against the African Union’s forward operating bases and other targets throughout Somalia and Kenya.

And ISIL is attempting to co-opt local insurgencies and conflicts to expand its networks.

The United States is working with individual countries and trans-national organizations in Africa to boost their military capabilities, and to strengthen law enforcement, judicial, and other criminal justice sector institutions.

At the same time, we are working to stop the recruitment, radicalization and mobilization of people to engage in terrorist activities.

“We are expanding engagement with African governmental and non-governmental partners to better understand the drivers of violent extremism and design effective responses. We are working closely with government partners – at both the national and sub-national level – to adopt more effective policies to prevent the spread of violent extremism,” said Assistant Secretary of State Thomas-Greenfield.

“The United States is committed to partnering with the people and governments of Africa to promote democracy, peace and prosperity.”

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