Terrorism in Africa is increasingly linked to organized crime, and the continent’s governments must take stronger steps to try to break those connections, a senior United Nations official said as he called for countries worldwide to broaden their anti-terrorist strategies beyond involving only the military and law enforcement agencies.
Jean-Paul Laborde, chairman of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), said the recent killing of a French aid worker in West Africa and the suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, belied the traditional view that Africa was not a “hot spot” for terrorism.
“And the element that has made it more dangerous in Africa is this type of alliance between transnational organized crime and terrorism,” he told the UN News Centre in an interview yesterday.
He said the problem was exacerbated by Africa’s often porous borders, low standards of living and political and social tensions.
“In the past terrorism was linked to movements of liberation, the pretext of establishing a State or on the basis of differences of religion, but if you look at the list of terror groups [active in Africa], you can see that is not the case… It is linked to a lot of transnational organized crime activities.”
Mr. Laborde noted that West Africa is becoming more popular as an intermediate destination in the trans-shipment of drugs from South America to Europe and elsewhere, and that terrorist groups are using funds raised in this process to buy weapons for attacks.
Without alternative financial incentives, poor farmers and other low-paid workers will be increasingly drawn into this arena, agreeing to transport drugs in one direction and weapons in another.
Political, religious and ethnic grievances are also fuelling the desire of some Africans to participate in terrorist activities, Mr. Laborde added.
He said African States – and governments worldwide – must widen their strategies to deal with issues such as youth unemployment, human rights infringements and racial and religious intolerance.
“They must look at conflict prevention, improving the rule of law, fighting corruption and eradicating transnational organized crime.”
A key way to achieve these aims is by engaging civil society as they can play a vital role in tackling some of the problems, particularly regarding economic development, that foster the spread of terrorism.
Mr. Laborde briefed UN Member States earlier this week on the recent work of the CTITF as well as on preparations for a meeting in early September to review the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy that was adopted in 2006.