Category Archives: Africa

Counter-terrorism in Africa: a few constraints

Counter-terrorism in Africa remains a concern and the latest events testify of the increasing level of the threat. Indeed, in March 2017, 03 major West African terrorist organizations (Ansardin, Aqmi, and Al Mourabitoun), decided to merge and pledged allegiance to Al Qaida. The advent of armed groups, within the framework of this fight is a major handicap for states already facing multiple fronts as it is the case for Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali and Niger. Then, the problem becomes the following one: how can the African countries victims of terrorism overcome the diverse constraints impacting on their efficiency? Following the merger of those 3 African terrorist groups, many attacks occurred in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. This merger conveyed 2 messages, a political and a military one. The military message is clear, the mutualization of the all resources to reach a common objective. The limits in the antiterrorist action in Africa, are at the same time endogenous and exogenous. Thus we identified several constraints that impact this action at a national level but especially a regional level:

1/ The strategic and conceptual limit: several African states involved in counter-terrorism, have a defense or national security policy unfortunately unsuitable for the terrorist threat, because they undermine the terrorist and extremism challenges. Indeed, the lack of consistency in the process of elaboration of a national strategy against terrorism leaves the field open, in any form of interpretation and actions often inevitably coordinating and suffering from an insufficiency of coherence. Without quoting any precise example, thus it seems obvious that fighting against terrorism requires a realistic approach to the problem, by integrating the local factors which favor the emergence of any forms of radicalization, leading to violent extremism or to terrorism. The absence of national strategy, thus is a major weakness for an effective action against the terrorist groups, because not putting clearly the stakes and the answers adapted to the threat. A strategy is an unavoidable road map for any actions to be carried out. It is a prerequisite registering the threat in a national dimension and an African contextual reality with its strengths and weaknesses. The conceptual approach becomes, the road map to be followed in order to reach the expected results.

2/ The limit of the military and security programming: the inclusion of the military effort in time allows a rationalization of the investments and a coherence of the security expenditure in particular in equipment, infrastructures and armament. Security and military programming laws of the African countries when they exist, do not automatically integrate the expenses bound to counter-terrorism despite the evolving nature of terrorism. Following the example of Mali and Ivory Coast which passed military programming laws (Mali in 2015 and Ivory Coast in 2016), other countries would gain to rationalize their spending specific to this terrorist threat which is unpredictable. Why not anticipate a specific law against terrorism with a chapter dedicated to a special financial programming? Ivory Coast already has a law carrying repression of terrorism but it does not have a specific financial aspect.

3/ The limit of the regional and joint answer: African member states of regional organizations such as ECOWAS, are active in a regional or sub-regional effort to counter terrorism as in the example of G5 Sahel. These regional and inclusive initiatives often suffer from an effective implementation of road maps adopted in a consensual way. The limit of the commitment of states often absorbed by expensive national realities, comes to press heavily on the execution of the joint directives. The creation of several sub-regional mechanisms of early warning and prevention of threats, also suffers from a heavy redundancy and a lack of clarity in the implementation. Finally, the budgetary inadequacies and the non-payment of the contributions of states overshadows the momentum for an integrated and effective answer.

4/ The capacity limit: the fight against terrorism is clearly expensive financially but it is even more costly on a capacity point of view of security forces. Indeed, the specificity of the threat requires the creation of specialized national mechanisms and especially the existence of specialized units, trained, equipped and hardened regarding asymmetric warfare. The imbalance between the African states having specialized units and those who do not have any, is such that the vulnerability of some states is at a critical level. Kenya, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Chad and Nigeria, to quote only those, are examples of countries whose specialized units are references because having been confronted militarily to terrorist groups in fights. The capacity building of Special Forces, should be more than ever a priority for African states.  Only prevention mechanisms and specialized units, can overcome such a threat. Finally, the ultimate capacity weakness remains the military intelligence to be perfected, because suffering from a hardening in equipment and skills.

5/ The limit of sensitization: the African states invest little in a communication and an offensive sensitization policy against terrorism. This insufficiency explains the increasing radicalization risks and the exposure of badly informed communities. Indeed, many states do not sensitize their population on the risks of radicalization and often underestimate this risk by not speaking about it. A few states such as Senegal, are today models regarding communication and regarding sensitization on the subject. The acts of deterrence, prevention and repression stemming from the commitment of President Macky Sall are not to be any more demonstrated.

6/ The limit of the permeability of the borders: the porosity of the African borders adds to their vulnerability within the framework of counter-terrorism because of the lack of control of migration flows. Thus the African states would gain to strengthen their strategies on the borders, to limit the traffic of weapons and materials used in the preparation of explosive devices.

To conclude, this brief examination of the constraints linked to counter-terrorism in Africa easily demonstrates the necessity of a complete revision at a national, sub-regional and regional level. An in-depth revision of the strategies and current mechanisms is a necessity, to strengthen the preventive and repressive response. We shall not insist enough on the importance of prevention regarding counter-terrorism, as well as the accent to be put on a robust regional cooperation in intelligence.

By Jean Francois CURTIS


January 13th, 2016, President Ouattara of Cote D Ivoire, promulgated two major laws on National Security. On one hand the Law N°2016-09 related to the Programming of Internal Security Forces for the years 2016-2020 and on the other hand the Law N°2016-10, related to Military Programming for the years 2016-2020. Besides the legal dimension of these laws, we praise their existence for security systems in Ivory Coast. Indeed, these two laws were expected for several decades without being a priority for the successive governments until recently, in 2012. How is it possible that for many years, governments could not find any coherence between National Security functioning and its organization? Several reasons seem to have delayed the formulation of these laws, in particular the years of military crises which affected the country.

It is at the end of the political crisis of 2011, that security systems in Ivory Coast knew a period of significant reforms, materialized by the Security Sector Reform (SSR). This reform allowed between 2011 and 2015, to formulate the major texts of National Security among which, the Strategy for National Security and the SSR Strategy. Defence and Internal Security merged to make only one through National Security concept. The measures retained within the framework of the SSR program, were scheduled in their execution over several years by being classified as short, medium and long-term reforms. All the short-term reforms have been implemented, they included in particular the formulation of texts related to National Security.

Furthermore, what makes those two laws decisive, is the fact that they allow to rationalize the implementation of the National Security Policy. Indeed, these laws register the investments and the diverse expenses for security over 04 years in a coherence and an unprecedented programming. The real challenge thus becomes their effective implementation. From a point of view of National Security governance, these laws translate and imply a level of transparency, accountability and integrity on behalf of the security and defence institutions. Their promulgation makes them open to the public, for consultation and especially allows the National Assembly, to play completely its role of democratic scrutiny and control of those institutions.

Apparently, passing a law on a precise subject does not imply its effective consideration. It is for that reason, that it seems more than ever essential that both ministries (Defence and Security) in charge of the implementation of the promulgated laws, are equipped with follow-up and evaluation mechanisms. Moreover, the National Assembly through its specialized commissions will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of those two laws.

As a consequence, big challenges await the institutions concerned by these two laws, we focus on the following: 1/ the translation of both laws in specific implementation directives or sectorial Action plans at the operational level; 2/ the introduction of reframing, follow-up and evaluation mechanisms  for the effective implementation of both laws ; 3/ the adherence by all National Security actors to the execution of those two laws; 4/ the consideration of a set of measures to facilitate the cut in staff, the reorganization of the structures and the operational capacity building of security forces; 5/ the annual revision of the aforementioned laws by the National Assembly; 6/ the adaptability of the laws facing diffuse and evolving threats; 7/ a significant national effort to mobilize the resources necessary for the implementation of the two laws; 8/ the progressive empowerment of National Security forces through the creation of a national civilian-Defence Industry for the production of goods both for military and civilian use; 9/ the effective accountability of the security institutions through regular reports made available to the National Assembly as for the good execution of the measures contained in the laws and a publication of the annual results ; 10/ the preservation of a budgetary credibility!



Security in Africa: perspectives for 2016!

The past year, had its “crop” of crises and victims on the African continent. The security balance sheet of year 2015 is thus mitigated enough. If we trust the 2015 Global Peace Index (GPI), published by Institute for Economics and Peace, insecurity globally stagnated from a point of view of its intensity. According to the GPI, we count among the most secure countries : Ghana, Botswana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Tanzania and Gabon. It should be noted, that Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau, demonstrated the most remarkable national security level improvements. On the other hand, we notice among the “bad pupils” : South Sudan, CAR, Somalia, DRC, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, South Africa and Burundi.

Several factors allow to estimate the level of safety on the continent. The threats are multiple and strike the African countries in diverse ways and with a relative intensity. Terrorism remains the major threat affecting countries as Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Mali. Politico-military crises (political instability) also affects countries such as Burundi, DRC, South Sudan and CAR. A high level of criminality also strikes Nigeria, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Libya. The small weapons illicit traffic affects all the regions of the continent, given the conflicts which occurred there and which continue (Libya, Mali, CAR, etc.). Maritime piracy, also continues to weaken exchanges in the African waters, especially in the Gulf of Guinea and Gulf of Aden (Somalia, etc.). Finally, the questions of the security sector governance, remain a concern, because the security systems of several African states, are failing and require in-depth reforms. We do not pretend, to cover all the issues which threaten those states, but this brief assessment allows us to realize the urgency, to take into account very quickly all these challenges by building a strong security sector governance and reinforcing the regional and international cooperation.

In 2015, we made a few recommendations based on a 2014 security assessment in Africa. Today, it seems  crucial to assess if those recommendations have been carried out and if so, how effective they have been?

1/ With regard to the issue of political violence and political crises generally, it should be noted, that several elections were positively conducted on the continent in 2015. Ivory Coast moreover surprised the international community by its political maturity. On the other hand, countries as Burkina Faso which finally held calmed elections at the end of the year, endured military coups, bringing disorder. The Year 2016 will be too, rich in presidential elections in particular in Gabon, DRC,  Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Benin. The conditions around some of these elections remain shady and conflicting. We thus recommend, in order to prevent pre-electoral, electoral and post-election tensions, the following : a) the signature of a charter of acceptance of democratic alternation by all political parties, to reiterate their respect for the democratic game; b) the signature of a charter of inviolability of the constitution by all political actors, to avoid any unconstitutional violence; c) the UN and AU support in the follow-up of the pre-electoral and electoral process by the installation of surveillance missions. These missions could include nationals of countries which had successful elections in 2015, such as Ivory Coast, Guinea and Burkina Faso; d) a strong mobilization of the civil society following the example of the ” Balai Citoyen” in Burkina Faso. Indeed, citizen mobilization so as to ensure transparent and democratic elections is more than necessary in Africa. Citizen watch has to express itself in the respect for the law and be taken into account by national leaders.

2/ Concerning the fight against terrorism, the continent mobilized militarily speaking. Indeed, several initiatives were taken or are in the course of execution, both at the coordination and operational levels, in particular the creation of a multinational mixed force ( 8700 men) by the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the G5 Sahel which organizes the installation of a joint integrated general staff. In a pragmatic way, all the current initiatives are essentially military, in regard to regional cooperation or combat equipment assistance or intelligence support or still in terms of capacity building of the African armies by the western armies. The civil dimensions of this merciless fight against terror spread by the Islamic State, Boko Haram, el Shabbab or Aqmi, remains neglected. Thus we recommend for 2016 the following measures: a) a regional and national mobilization for the implementation of sensitization and awareness politics, towards populations to thwart the psychological warfare engaged by these terrorist groups; b) the actual setting up at the national level, of watch groups in all the communities, to alert the authorities in case of threats; c) the increase of the Human Development Index (HDI), in every African country to break the link “ignorance-poverty-terrorism”; d) a greater commitment of the Muslim communities, in the fight against terror, by creating watch committees in order to foster awareness and sensitization; e) the effective creation of elite units specialized in counter terrorism, would be a main advantage; f) the formulation and implementation of national policies aimed at preventing and repressing any religious radicalisation!

3/ Concerning the post-crisis tensions which affect few countries, such as Burkina Faso, we suggest the following : a) the pursuit of any Security Sector Reforms (SSR) national program, in countries such as Mali and Ivory Coast. The formulation and implementation of a SSR national policy in countries as Burkina Faso, enduring a paralysis of its security systems is necessary. The SSR must be regularly monitored, by an independent mechanism, to ensure its coherence and its efficiency; b) the institution of viable mechanisms of human development, allowing to fight against the impoverishment of the African societies and so to reduce their vulnerability; c) the acceptance of the rules of good governance is critical for these countries, which in a context of recovery also have to create a mechanism in charge of promoting on one hand, integrity, transparency, ethics and accountability and on the other hand, sanctioning any breach in these principles.

4/ Regarding training and capacity building, the creation of civilian think tanks dedicated to strategic thinking, is on the agenda more than ever. Indeed, reflection remains the heart of anticipation and prevention. Several centres or institutes already exist regarding security on the continent in particular, The Institute for Security Studies (ISS, South Africa), the Moroccan Centre of Strategic Studies (CMES, Morocco) or still the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC, Ghana) and the Institute for Strategic Studies and Defence (IESD, Ivory Coast). The interaction between these centres and states, is critical to enrich research on the highly strategic matters. However, it is crucial that these centres are not just the consequence of a trend. Indeed, the example of the IESD is edifying, because since the launch of its activities in June, 2015, no activity was organized. Worse, the IESD does not have a management team, no recruitment was made, it has no headquarters and no training program. It is almost an empty shell.

5/ Finally, with regard to borders control, the African states are more than ever vulnerable, because having excessively permeable borders. Indeed, this porosity favors the traffics of every type from drug trafficking, to human trafficking. It is time for the African countries to consider borders control as an absolute priority. Sound national borders control policies must be formulated and implemented. The cross-border cooperation owes, too to be reconsidered and improved in particular in the monitoring of migration flows! Moreover, a better control of the borders contributes widely to the fight against several plagues of which terrorism.

So as to conclude, we have in a few words, covered critical issues to be addressed in 2016. It is up to African states, to welcome the strategic reflection with open arms, in order to enrich the existing state capacities. Besides it is urgent that the resolutions stemming from various meetings on security held in 2014 and 2015 (Dakar Forum , Tana Forum, etc.), see a beginning of implementation. To finish, the task can seem extremely difficult, however to reflect Antonio Gramsci’s famous quote,  ” even if we are pessimists because of intelligence, we have to be optimists because of will “.


SCID Panel of Experts – Online Guest Lecture – Mr Chris Sharwood-Smith – Darfur: A Mission Too Far?

This is the 12th Online Guest Lecture by members of the SCID Panel of Experts. Mr Chris Sharwood-Smith presents a lecture entitled Darfur: A Mission Too Far?

Online Guest Lecture #12

Chris’ lecture looks at some of the major factors which affected the initial UNAMID deployment as it transitioned from an African Union deployment of 6,000 to an African Union/United Nations hybrid of massive proportions. It examines some of the reasons why there was widespread global criticism for the time it took to get the UN boots on the ground, and how, perhaps, the initial deployment authorised by the UN Security Council was never likely to be achieved.

Click on the link below to access Chris’ Lecture (it is large so it will take a while to download). Please submit any questions or comments within the next two weeks for Chris’ attention and/or discussion by other SCID Panel members, students and staff.

Darfur – A Mission Too Far – Chris Sharwood-Smith