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 Preventing Terrorism and Violent Extremism in the Horn of Africa

For 150 years, the Horn of Africa (HoA) has been a theater for strategic power struggles - the British Empire’s demand to control the Red Sea, Egypt’s attempt to control the Nile Waters, the Cold War confrontation in which each of the principal countries of the Horn switched sides at crucial junctures, and most recently the U.S. Administration’s “Global War on Terror.” The rise of the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia, the Ethiopian invasion to install the President AbdullahiYousif in power, and the U.S. bombing raids aimed at suspected al Qa’ida members have again highlighted the turbulence of the Horn. The resurgent conflict in Somalia comes against the backdrop of a successful exercise in locally-driven reconstruction in Somaliland (north-west Somalia), an unresolved war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, internal political crises in both countries, and a host of active, latent and imminent conflicts in Sudan. Meanwhile, African institutions - notably the African Union, headquartered in Addis Ababa - are struggling to establish new principles and architecture for regional peace and security.

The origins, manifestation and support of most extremist groups in Africa should not be seen in isolation – they stem from a vast number of factors, intermingled with allegiances and alliances that create a firm connection among them. This can be attributed to a common belief that most extremist groups share: the pursuit of a state that promotes Sharia law, devoid of Western influences and ideologies. The terrorist threat is a significant one in the Horn of Africa. While Al-Shabaab has been a long-standing problem there, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extended its presence into Somalia in 2015. As the Secretary-General AntónioGuterresnoted in his report on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat, member states have underscored that the threat of ISIL affiliates in east Africa extends beyond Somalia into the neighboring states where they seek to recruit, establish bases, and conduct attacks (S/2017/467). The presence of foreign extremist fighters in Somalia is a constant reminder of the high risk that the Horn of Africa is rapidly becoming the next front in global efforts against international terrorism, United Nations already called for urgent military, financial, logistical and other support to regional organizations that are aiding Somaliangovernment, including the African Union (AU), which has deployed a UN-backed peacekeeping force in Somalia „African Union Mission in Somalia“ , also known as AMISOM. Al-Shabaab has launched attacks against government institutions, civilians, international organizations and the AMISOM. The group has become notorious for infiltrating local organizations to recruit and train Somali youth.

The Security Council, a constantly attentive executive organ, has a broad range of considerable means at its disposal for that purpose under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, starting with diplomatic or economic sanctions and ending with military measures. In recent years, Security Council has focused considerable energy on preventing terrorism and countering violent extremism. In resolution 2178, the Council called for states to cooperate to prevent foreign terrorist fighters from crossing their borders, to disrupt and prevent financial support to terrorists, and to cooperate in sharing lessons learned to counter violent extremism. In resolution 2354, the Council welcomed the guidelines and practices outlined in the Counter-terrorism Committee’s “Comprehensive Framework to Counter Terrorist Narratives” of 28 April 2017 (S/2017/375), which had been requested by the Council in an 11 May 2016 presidential statement (S/PRST/2016/6). The “Comprehensive Framework” focuses on how legal and law enforcement measures, public-private partnerships, and the creation of counter-narratives could be used to combat terrorist narratives. UN SC  recognizes the threat and acts upon it by using the chapter 7 but it is questionable where should the ultimate solution be focused on and in which direction should it go in order for the problematic issues to be reduced.

During our discussion in March the following questions, among others, should be tackled:

·       * What are the future mechanisms for fighting terrorism and violent extremism in HoA?

·        * How is African Union supposed to get more involved in the matter of the HoA?

·        * How effective are the existing mechanisms stated in the UN SC Resolutions, and how to improve them?