UN chief warns: African terror threats spreading

UN chief warns: African terror threats spreading

By Luke Vargas   
Published
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a civil society event in Nairobi, Kenya. July 9, 2019. UN Photo/Duncan Moore
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a civil society event in Nairobi, Kenya. July 9, 2019. UN Photo/Duncan Moore

'Maybe a decade ago, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was essentially the only terrorist organization operating in the Sahel. Now there's at least 10.'

UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that worsening terrorist threats across Africa risk reversing development progress in parts of the continent.

“The threat of terrorism in Africa is spreading and destabilizing entire regions.”

Those remarks in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi come six months after Al-Shabaab terrorists killed 21 people in a series of attacks in the city.

Al-Shabab has terrorized Kenya and Somalia for decades, just as Boko Haram insurgents are a recurring threat to parts of Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

But Guterres expressed particular worry for developments in West Africa and the Sahel, where weapons smuggled out of Libya have fallen into the hands of an expanding cast of terror groups.

Joshua Meservey is the senior policy analyst for Africa at the Heritage Foundation.

“Maybe a decade ago, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb was essentially the only terrorist organization operating in the Sahel. Now there’s at least 10.”

Meservey says the West African nation of Mali is the epicenter of the region’s worsening security problems, and it’s from there that instability is spreading.

Take neighboring Burkina Faso, which has gone from having little to no terror issues five years ago, to seeing dozens killed this year in attacks by groups affiliated with both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

“That gives you a sense of how this is metastasizing and really doing a lot of damage in the region.”

To push back against terrorist advances, Guterres urged U.N. states to boost support for African-led military operations like a five-nation force that counts Burkina Faso and Mali as members.

But Meservey says more funding and beefier mandates from the U.N. Security Council will be of little help in the long run if governance problems like corruption and mismanagement go unaddressed.

“You’re never going to fully subdue a terrorist organization just through military means alone.”

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