- African Counterterrorism Cooperation: Assessing Regional and Subregional Initiatives
This readable book about Africa’s endeavors to establish a functional and strong anti-terrorism regime on the continent is bound to become one of the most useful reference works on counterterrorism in Africa. Andre Le Sage’s introductory chapter on terrorist threats and Africa’s vulnerabilities situates Africa as a crucial contributor to the global fight against terrorism. While recognizing the weaknesses of the continent in combating terrorism alone, and debunking the perceptions that Africa is not under threat, this chapter catalogs some of the more spectacular terrorist attacks on the continent. Le Sage also categorizes the types of terrorist groups operating in Africa, showing the disparities in these groups from the U.S. experience. The chapter thus reflects some of the wider difficulties and controversies that define the broader global war on terror. More important, Le Sage discusses the vexed issue of definitional conundrums that characterize this field and situates Africa’s specific subregional and individual state experience within the context of this disturbing phenomenon.
With this broad introduction, the other chapters deal with the African Union and the activities of four regional economic communities: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). A consideration of U.S. support for African counterterrorism strategies discusses ways to improve the resource and human capacities of recipient states.
Here I will concentrate on the African Union, since its component member institutions will have to incorporate the decisions that have been made at the continental level. Wani’s chapter on the African Union’s role in global counterterrorism ought to have been the most critical chapter after the impressive introduction by Le Sage, but a mixture of printer’s errors and the author’s lack of awareness of current developments within the AU’s counterterrorism strategies detracts from an otherwise informative piece. For a start, Wani characterizes the “role of … the AU … against terrorism ... [as] uneven at best.” This is factually incorrect: the AU’s predecessor institution, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), placed terrorism at the center of Africa’s international relations, and distinguished the use of political violence in the course of liberation from other forms of violence. Even more disturbing is the argument that the AU’s contributions “remain largely as promises because of lack of resources and the absence of mechanisms to ensure implementation.” Not only is this point false, but by 2005 (and this book was published in 2007) a small Anti-terrorism Unit (ATU) was also in place and achieving groundbreaking results at the Peace and [End Page 185] Security Directorate. The resource stringency issue has been resolved in several ways. The Algerian government provided over $6 million for the establishment of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT). Furthermore, $2 million are provided through the regular budget. Operationally, both the ATU and ACSRT have designed a threat assessment template that is used by all member states, a code of conduct to guide the activities of national agencies, and a model antiterrorism law to guide member states in designing specific antiterror legislation. All these initiatives are part of the AU’s Plan of Action; yet Wani concludes that “the AU currently lacks the capacity to implement many of these initiatives [from the Plan of Action], and so they remain at the level of ideas” (55). Such factual inaccuracies detract from this timely and useful book.
The other chapters are well-written, however, and the arguments are succinct and informative. This book is essential for those interested in Africa’s international relations and its contributions through the AU to the global war on terror.