Description of the Thematic Areas: the Focus of AISSS
  • A Terrorism
  • B Transnational Crimes
  • C Natural Resources and the impact of Climate Change on security
  • D The Major Causes of Conflict

A Terrorism
Terrorism is an aspect of organized violence that is threatening peace and security across the globe.  Terrorism is an undeclared war that transcends political borders, destabilizes governments, preys on innocent people and causes enormous amounts of pain and suffering to the population and the economy of African countries.  There is some controversy as regards the definition of terrorism in both the academic and geopolitical sense. Some politicians define terrorism in a way that the concept can be used as a political instrument. Resistance to oppression and the struggle for human rights and freedom are sometimes defined as terrorism in the legislation of some countries. As far as the activities of AISSS are concerned, the definition coined by the United Nations (UN) and the Africa Union (AU) will be used. In 1994, the UN General Assembly defined terrorism, as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes which are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

The AU definition is very detailed. It originates from the Convention of the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, which has a long list of acts that constitute terrorism. Both the UN and AU definitions focus on non-state actors and exclude state-sponsored terrorism.  Terrorism transcends state boundaries as its threat is not directed against any particular country per se, but rather against a type of political system. The major terrorist groups in Africa that have negatively impacted regional peace and security, destabilized many governments and massacred hundreds of thousands of people are:

  1. Boko Haram, Nigeria
  2. Al Shabab, Somalia
  3. Al Quesada in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Northern and West Africa
  4. Movement for the Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Ansar Dine of Mali
  5. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Uganda.

These organizations have developed the capacity of financing and recruiting in many parts of Africa through an elaborate extortion scheme, kidnapping, killings, bombings, drug and arms trafficking, and have taken advantage of porous borders, poverty and weak governance.
B Transnational Crimes
Transnational crimes constitute a most exigent security threat to economic and political stability in Africa today. Transnational Organized Crimes (TOC) include drug trafficking, theft of oil and other natural resources, smuggling, maritime piracy, kidnapping, money laundering, arms and human trafficking. All these acts destabilize countries, brutalize populations and undermine peace and security.

Criminal gangs and organized crime take advantage of weak institutions and the absence of effective security systems and infrastructure. In many countries criminal gangs operate with the direct involvement or connivance of senior government officials. Such activities have become regular phenomena in several parts of Africa. With small but sophisticated weapons and enormous amounts of money obtained through extortion and the sale of drugs, piracy and ransom money, criminal gangs have been able to make large parts of countries a haven for nefarious operations. These activities also provide opportunities for militant organizations and terrorists to move in and operate with relative ease.

US drug enforcement agencies report that as the old cocaine channels via the Caribbean are now more effectively policed, Columbian and other drug cartels have developed new transit routes in Africa. For instance, the Gulf of Guinea is fast becoming a prime narco route with Guinea-Bissau as a nexus. By corrupting state and government officials, drug traffickers easily move through harbours, airports and border posts. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has described Guinea-Bissau as the world’s only example of a true narco-state.

Referring to Africa, “the proceeds of drug trafficking, by far the most lucrative transnational criminal activity in illicit economies, are fuelling a dramatic increase in narco corruption in the region, allowing drug traffickers to stage coups d’état, hijack elections, and co-opt or buy political power.”  (Brown Report, Africa Centre for Strategic Studies). The Gulf of Guinea and the Gulf of Aden are known as the most dangerous maritime zones in the world today. Almost all the coastal states lack the capacity to handle this huge problem, and regional organizations have become largely ineffective.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) notes that “weakness and general inadequacy of maritime polices in the Gulf of Guinea and the lack of cooperation between them have allowed criminal networks to diversify their activities and gradually extend them away from the Nigerian Coast and out in the high seas.”
C Natural Resources and the impact of Climate Change on security
Africa is endowed with an enormous and diverse natural resource base. However, because of poor economic conditions in most of the countries, the continent is likely to be the most affected by the impact of climate change (i.e. water, livestock, forests, crops, land and biodiversity) despite the fact that of all continents, Africa contributes the least to greenhouse gas emissions.

Scarcity and poor management of water and the unpredictability of the weather as a consequence of climate change has resulted in lower agricultural productivity compounding the risk of food insecurity on the African continent.  Food insecurity and water scarcity with their consequences on health could impel people to consider
drastic and desperate measures: trigger conflicts by crossing borders in search of food and water, take up arms and join criminal groups - all steps that eventually result in regional instability.  The management of natural resources has a direct and indirect impact on peace and security.  The potential for conflict can be linked to the:

1. rise of insurgencies and secessionist movements as a result of grievances on the inequitable distribution of natural resources;
2. natural resource base having become a source of income for militants, rebel movements and criminal gangs;
3. seizure of land with resource deposits causing human rights abuse through eviction and mass displacement; and
4. inter-nations contest for significant natural resource areas and deposits that result in inter-state disputes.

Referring to the link between management of natural resources and security, the UN Security Council has prescribed measures to prevent illegal exploitation of natural
resources, especially diamonds and timber, from fuelling armed conflicts and to encourage transparent and lawful management of natural resources. “The Security
Council recognizes in conflict and post-conflict situations, the importance of cooperation, in shared responsibility, among source, transit and destination countries in preventing and combating trafficking, illicit trade, and illegal exploitation of natural resources.”
D The Major Causes of Conflict
The causes of conflict and strife in the three areas cited above are numerous but can be encapsulated in the following:

Poverty and inequality
The proportion of people living in absolute poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s highest. Almost half of all Africans live on less than a dollar a day. With these numbers estimated to increase, poverty and ignorance could be a mobilizing factor for crime and violence. In addition, vertical and horizontal inequality can be used to trigger conflicts. These kinds of economic deprivation are usually taken advantage of by terrorists and criminal gangs who thrive on the weakness of governments and try to radicalize the very poor and marginalized as potential recruits for criminal activities. Radicalism often precedes terrorism. Therefore, preventing radicalization by focusing on the economic, social and political grievances of the population and on inequalities will prevent terrorism at an early stage.

Border Control
Porous borders and same ethnic groups living across national boundaries have made movement and recruitment for criminal gangs and militants in Africa easier than on any other continent. The weakness in border control and policing has become the most challenging causes for the organization and movement of cross border criminals in Africa. For example, over the last several decades, the Lord’s Resistance Army has been moving with easy from Uganda to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, killing, plundering, looting and kidnapping along the way.  Border areas are usually the homes of many economically and politically marginalized populations where governments lack control and legitimacy, resulting in the free movement of goods, weapons, drugs and personnel across national boundaries.

Piracy as well as drugs-, human- and arms trafficking are important sources of illicit revenue for terrorists and transnational criminal organizations. A factor that compounds these crimes is the connivance of state authorities, with serious security ramifications.  According to the UNDP Anti-Corruption Practice Note, corruption undermines the rule of law  and leads to the violation of human rights by fostering an anti-democratic environment characterized by uncertainty, unpredictability, declining moral values and disrespect for  constitutional institutions and authority (UNDP, 2004).

Regional Cooperation and Coordination
Natural resources, climate change, transnational criminals and terrorists do not respect sovereign boundaries. No state can tackle and solve these problems on its own. The crux for Africa and its allies is how to effectively address the problem of security through efficient regional coordination, cooperation and collective security agreements. Currently, the regional approach to address these challenges has not reached the required level. The exigency of the crisis calls for a more robust and well-coordinated response. This would require that nation states cede some aspects of their sovereignty for a common security strategy.

The perversion of religion and the violent methods they teach to seize political power is destroying the very foundation of tolerance and peaceful coexistence that characterized the two main religions in Africa - Christianity and Islam. This issue inspires in-depth scholarly work, to be used for education and interfaith dialogue.

Election and Democratic Transition
Varying degrees of violence have marred numerous national elections. Careful organization and transparency ensures smooth democratic transition. To prevent election related disputes and violence, Africa needs to move progressively forward in implementing the three OAU/AU key documents:

1. the Africa Charter on Democracy Elections and Governance;
2. the OAU/AU Declaration Governing Democratic Elections; and
3. the Guidelines for Africa Union Electoral Observation and Monitoring Mission.

These documents call for the protection of minority rights, provide for diversity and broaden representation.

Leadership and Governance
Leadership qualities are not achieved by acquiring authority and being appointed to a position of leadership. Good leadership, particularly in the field of security, requires character, accountability, adherence to the rule of law, honesty and continuous education, training and dialogue. Legitimacy and moral right derived from the concept and practice of “the consent of the governed“ is the bedrock of democracy and the anchor of stability. The absence of these essential elements of leadership in the security apparatus will be a recipe for oppression, violence and civil strife.