Southern African Countries Redouble Efforts in Preventing and Combatting Terrorism

 

Southern African countries have taken a crucial and collective stand against the phenomena of terrorism and violent extremism. In a regional workshop held in Pretoria, South Africa from 28 to 30 May 2019, delegations from fifteen Southern African countries discussed the critical role of a functioning criminal justice system in preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism.

The workshop was organised as part of the ongoing partnership between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat that aims to inter alia, support states in the enactment of the 2015 SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Strategy and Plan of Action.

During the workshop, the 60 criminal justice practitioners and government agencies tasked with counter terrorism related matters acknowledged the increasing threat of terrorism in Southern Africa, despite being the least terrorism-affected geographical region on the African continent.  Each state had the platform to discuss the current threat of terrorism and violent extremism in their country. The threat of terrorism further afield in the African continent and the intricate connections between terrorism in Africa and elsewhere in the world were also highlighted.

Discussions furthermore centred on the individual responses to terrorism and violent extremism at the policy, legal and operational levels. More so, various existing approaches, lessons learnt, challenges and good practices to terrorism and violent extremism were discussed. Finally, key areas for the strengthening of criminal justice responses and cross border cooperation in the region, were emphasised. In line with this, participants noted their technical assistance needs and underscored the importance to prioritise the proactive development of rule of law approaches to the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism within the region.

The workshop concluded with the development of a set of recommendations that reflect the terrorism threat, the steps taken to address it, the vulnerabilities that terror groups could exploit in the region, the general level of preparedness to respond, and the technical assistance needs.

The workshop also benefited from the sound expertise of the United Nations Sanctions Monitoring Team, the Eastern and Southern African Anti Money Laundering Group, the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCCO), representatives from civil society organizations including Neem Foundation of Nigeria and the Human Rights Agenda of Kenya (HURIA), in increasing knowledge on the complex and multifaceted nature of the phenomena of terrorism and violent extremism.