Leading Africans advocate for a novel strategy to combat terrorism.

Moussa Faki Mahamat (2nd L), Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Christophe Lutundula (3rd L), Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Democratic Republic of Congo and current chairperson of the African Union, stand up during the opening ceremony of the 39th ordinary session of the executive council of the African Union, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on October 14, 2021. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

Regional data show that over 7,000 civilians were killed by an increase in extremist violence on the continent in just the previous year.

To combat the surge in extremist violence across the continent, the African Union (AU) is advocating for a more aggressive counterterrorism strategy that includes the deployment of a standby security force.

AU Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat said that increased local-led peacekeeping efforts are necessary in light of the growing attacks by armed groups throughout all of Africa during a speech at a security meeting on Monday in Abuja, Nigeria.

According to Faki, there were an average of eight militant strikes per day on the continent last year, up from just four between 2017 and 2021. From 2017 to 2021, the average daily death toll increased to 44 from 18.

“Unfortunately, civilians continue to bear the brunt of these heinous acts, with over 7,000 casualties in 2023 alone. Moreover, the security and military sectors have not been spared, experiencing an alarming 190.8% surge in personnel losses, amounting to over 4,000 fatalities,” Faki said.

He attributed the recent coups of some AU members to security concerns, especially in West Africa, where Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger overthrew their civilian governments due to their perceived inability to put an end to decades-long Islamist insurgencies even with the presence of foreign soldiers.

Alleging French intervention, all three military-ruled states have driven out French forces. A 2012 defence cooperation pact between Niger and Washington was also recently suspended, allowing some 1,000 US soldiers and civilian contractors to be stationed in the landlocked nation.

Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent groups, al-Shabab in particular, have been carrying out regular attacks in several African states, including those in the Sahel region—Burkina Faso, Mali, and Somalia in East Africa. At least 7,800 civilians were killed in the first seven months of 2023 in the Sahel alone, according to figures reported by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED).

The president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe, stated that although attacks occur most frequently in the Sahel, coastal states like Togo are also increasingly at risk because long-standing institutions are ill-equipped to handle the situation.

Faki claimed that in order to stop the spread of terrorism, more funding is required.

“An innovative approach is crucial, as I said. It should include a new model of financing the fight against terrorism and greater involvement of African institutions and civil society actors,” he stated.

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