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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism > Releases > Remarks > 2004

The Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in Africa

Ambassador Cofer Black, Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Remarks at the Second Intergovernmental High-Level Meeting on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism In Africa
Algiers, Algeria
October 13, 2004

[As prepared for delivery]

Thank you Mr. Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

International Cooperation

As I remarked this morning, the events of the last few years have shown that the global war on terrorism is a new kind of war, one where all nations are under threat. Todayís international terrorists respect no boundaries. They respect no creed, no set of laws, no reasoning but their own. They often attack the easy target--the soft target. And as they are chased from the known "hotspots" of the world, they seek out new less known locations that allow them to operate unhindered. As we have seen recently in places such as Morocco, Kenya, and Russia, no country, no airport, no hotel, no school, no citizen is beyond the terrorists' reach. In an instant, one act of terrorism can affect us all.

Remarkably, there is no one definition of terrorism accepted by the entire international community. Since 1983 the United States has used a basic definition: an act of terrorism is a premeditated, politically motivated act of violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by a sub-national group or clandestine agent, usually to influence an audience.

Other nations and organizations have a different definition. But if "terrorism" is hard to define, most of us can recognize an act of terrorism when we see it.

The United States has been struggling against terrorism since the early 1970s. In 1973, U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and fellow diplomat George Curtis Moore were killed in Khartoum by terrorists belonging to the "Black September" organization. He was not the first U.S. victim of international terrorism, and far from the last.

Africa is no stranger to terrorism. In 1998, the United States was again the victim of terrorism in Africa, but though the U.S. was the apparent target, thousands of innocent Kenya and Tanzanian citizens were also victims. But Africans are also winning their struggles against terrorists. Algeria has suffered from attacks by terrorists since the 1990s. Innocent civilians were killed with guns, their throats cut, and pregnant women murdered. But the government of Algeria persevered, and now the terrorists are in retreat.

Another group of terrorists, the Lordís Resistance Army, is also losing headway. The government of Uganda has combined military strength with offers of amnesty to move forward in defeating the terrorists.

Today's terrorists operate worldwide. Terrorists often raise funds in one country, plan and train in another, and conduct operations in a third--all the while communicating, recruiting, and traveling across borders. No single nation can defeat this multinational threat alone.

With the aid of international institutions (like the United Nations), functional organizations (like the International Civil Aviation Organization), and regional and sub-regional groups (like the African Union), countries of the world can join together to take the necessary actions to defeat the terrorists, wherever they are. We can prevent and disrupt terrorist activity by working to secure our borders, control illegal immigration, strengthen customs enforcement, and develop strong legal and financial regulatory systems to criminalize terrorism and terrorism finance. We can marshal our shared resources to provide capacity-building assistance, and deter terrorists from targeting weaker states or from using them for safehavens or fundraising. And by sharing information, as well as coordinating joint investigations and efforts to bring terrorists to justice, we can deal a serious blow to terrorism.

This is why it is so important that we strengthen and energize our international, regional, and sub-regional organizations and groups. Multilateral efforts start at the United Nations. Through the UN Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Committee (UNCTC), we work with our partners to assist member states to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1373.

We have also seen important contributions from the UN/ODCís Terrorism Prevention Branchís outstanding efforts to fully implement the 12 international counterterrorism conventions. Full implementation of UNSCR 1373 and the 12 international CT conventions will close many of the security gaps that terrorists seek to exploit. Some African nations have already become party to all 12 of the conventions--Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia--and nearly as many others have joined all but one of the conventions.

Similarly, the G-8's Counterterrorism Action Group (CTAG) was set up in 2003 to serve as a forum for donors of Counterterrorism assistance. Today, it is working with governments around the world to address specific regional issues. It is also developing new standards and practices for international cooperation and assisting countries to implement them. For example, the G-8 developed a set of guidelines and best practices to improve the security of travel documents, including the use of biometrics, known as the Secure and Facilitated International Travel Initiative (SAFTI).

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reviewed and decided to adopt those standards and practices, as did the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Regional groups such as the African Union can encourage their member states to adopt such standards and best practices, and help in their implementation.

Five years ago, the Organization of African Unity adopted its Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism. In October 2001 the Dakar Declaration against Terrorism reaffirmed member states' rejection of terrorism. The Center you have inaugurated today will be an important step forward as you seek to address, fight, and eventually eradicate terrorism from Africa.

U.S. Government Assistance

The United States Government is committed to working with you to assist and enhance your efforts. President Bushís $100 million East Africa Counterterrorism Initiative has provided key states in the Horn of Africa with military training for coastal security programs, programs to strengthen control of the movement of people and goods across borders, aviation security capacity-building, assistance for regional efforts against terrorist financing, and police training. This initiative also includes an education program to counter extremist influence and a robust outreach.

Through the Pan-Sahel Initiative, a $7.75 million program, we have sought to better assist the nations of the Sahel region by providing training and equipment to improve their border security and deny the use of their sovereign territory to terrorists and criminals. Algeria, together with our Pan-Sahel Initiative partner nations of Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania have demonstrated their seriousness in this regional effort.

The various programs introduce essential skills-based learning and problem-solving techniques to build the capacity of African police forces to detect and investigate all manner of crime, including terrorist incidents. We are also providing funding for forensic laboratory development programs in Tanzania and Uganda. These programs are designed to build local capacity to analyze evidence collected at crime scenes.

We hope to build on the successes of the PSI with additional training and assistance in the trans-Sahara region in coming years, and we look forward to working with and supporting the Center in its work of developing training programs, expanding the capacity of member nations to combat terrorism and developing effective habits of regional cooperation against this insidious threat.

We know, however, that training and equipment alone will not be enough to eliminate terrorism. Strong militaries are necessary for a government to protect its citizens against external threats, and strong law enforcement, prosecution, and judicial regimes are essential to preserve internal peace and security. But military strength and strong police forces alone are not enough to defeat terrorism.

In Africa and elsewhere around the world, we know that there are other priorities in addition to terrorism--economic development, combating AIDS, good governance, health care, alleviating poverty. But we know these concerns cannot be used as excuses to bow out of the struggle against terrorism. In fact, the struggle against terrorism is also in part the struggle for a better society. Success in improving the lives of the people is success against terrorism.

Terrorists are not born terrorists. Terrorists choose the way of violence because they believe something is lacking in their lives, their societies that cannot be obtained in any other way. Poverty does not create terrorists, though it is likely a factor in whether an alienated young person turns to violence. Many of the terrorists--like the more familiar ones of today, such as Usama bin Ladin, were moderately to very wealthy. Many of the members of al-Qaida are educated; they are sophisticated users of modern technology. Nevertheless, improving the lives of ordinary people will reduce terrorism. When people are less desperate, they will be better able to resist the lures of money and status that terrorists promise to their recruits. So we must work together to improve the lives of the people.

There are many ways to do this--foreign investment brings funds and jobs into a country. Attracting foreign investment requires a trustworthy legal structure--the rule of law--and a certain degree of confidence that agreements will be honored--transparency and good governance. Thus anti-corruption efforts are as essential to the struggle against terrorism as the struggle against poverty.

The AUís 2003 Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption recognized the importance of these efforts. The AU is to be congratulated and encouraged for facing these difficult but timely and crucial issues.

As I mentioned at the beginning, we must all work together to combat terrorism, and we must work globally, regionally, and bilaterally. African nations must find an African solution. In cooperation with each other, by sharing information, by assisting each otherís legal systems, by securing mutual borders, and by making it clear that political violence is no longer acceptable, Africans can defeat terrorists and find a better way for all the African people. It is our hope and desire that the African Unionís Center for Study and Research on Terrorism can be the beginning of a new forum for cooperation and mutual assistance amongst the African states and their partners in the international community. Thank you.


Released on October 20, 2004

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