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Urgent Call for adoption of Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy by member states

24 Sep 2023 at 11:21hrs | Views
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region has long been considered a safe haven from the threat of terrorism. However, recent developments, particularly the insurgency in Mozambique, have highlighted the vulnerability of the region to extremist ideologies and terrorist activities. The rise of extremist groups, influenced by the teachings of individuals such as Kenyan cleric Aboud Rogo and affiliated with organizations like Al Shabaab, pose a significant threat not only to Mozambique but also to neighboring countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and potentially South Africa. It is crucial for SADC member states to adopt the regional counter-terrorism strategy to prevent the further spread of extremism and protect the stability and security of member states.

The insurgency in Mozambique and the emergence of a unit identifying itself as ISCAP (Islamic State Central Africa Province) showcased how extremist ideologies, once confined to Eastern and Northeastern Africa, can swiftly spread across borders, endangering the peace and security of neighboring countries. Reports of underground terrorist cells mobilizing in South Africa, coupled with recent arrests, further substantiate the seriousness of this concern. Additionally, countries such as Malawi and Zambia face a high risk of being targeted by extremist elements due to their geographic proximity to hotspots and shared border regions. Failing to address these emerging challenges promptly and effectively could lead to devastating consequences, including loss of lives, socio-economic instability, and regional disruption.

ISWAP , Boko Haram , Al Shabaab are the more popular extremists groups. ISCAP has claimed to have a presence in DRC. Ugandan rebel group ADF which was led by Jamil Mukulu who was arrested. His arrest saw the group falling into the leadership of Musa Seka Baluku a more radical and sophisticated extremist who had received training in Al Shabaab camps. The combination of Musa Seka Baluku and head of intelligence Benjamin Kisokeranio opened up avenues for new supplies from as far as Sudan and this drew the unit closer to the Islamic State.

This unit now calling itself ISCAP has caused problems in Uganda , DRC , Rwanda and Mozambique. While the unit might be disorganised and under funded with minimal damage they are growing bold , daring and more lethal than before.

Fortunately, SADC can draw on the experiences and lessons learned from countries such as Kenya and Uganda, which have confronted terrorism and developed effective counter-terrorism strategies. By leveraging their expertise, SADC can create a robust and coordinated regional approach. Sharing intelligence, implementing targeted measures, enhancing border security, and coordinating law enforcement efforts will help dismantle terrorist networks and prevent the spread of extremism within the region.

The regional counter-terrorism Centre in Dar es Salaam is a good starting point it is vital for several reasons. Firstly, it allows for a unified response, pooling resources, knowledge, and expertise across member states. This approach strengthens the ability to identify, neutralize, and disrupt terrorist activities, as well as effectively address radicalization and recruitment within the region. Furthermore, collaboration fosters information-sharing mechanisms, facilitating the timely exchange of intelligence on emerging threats and promoting a more proactive and preemptive security posture. However is SADC member states continue dragging their feet on adopting home grown solutions to countering terrorism and adopting the SADC counter terrorism strategy then these states will remain vulnerable and exposed to the threat of extremism.

While SADC is busy talking about elections and other issues the issue of adopting the Regional counter terrorism strategy by member states continues to be relegated to the non-essential items list. Extremists make their money from illicit activities such as drugs , kidnapping , hijacking and other criminal activities which are on the rise in Southern Africa. Organisations like Executive Outcomes and individuals like Eeben Barlow and Colonel Dycke are a great resource that can be leveraged on to develop a robust and practical home grown counter terrorism strategies by member states.

The increasing threat of terrorism in the SADC region, as evidenced by the Mozambican and DRC insurgencies and reports of underground cells, demands immediate action from member states. Developing robust home grown counter-terrorism strategies is essential to safeguard the stability, security, and prosperity of the entire region. By utilizing the experiences and expertise of countries like Kenya and Uganda, SADC can enhance intelligence sharing, strengthen security measures, and effectively combat the spread of extremism. Let us seize this opportunity to work together and protect our nations from the menace of terrorism. Zimbabwe and Zambia need to work together to take an active and lead role towards pushing SADC member states towards adopting the Regional counter terrorism strategy at country level.

Source - Nicholas Ncube
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