Washington, DC — For the first time ever, a U.S. Congressional panel held an African diplomatic meeting this week featuring African ambassadors discussing security issues. Chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations heard presentations from four African ambassadors on terrorism, drugs and international crime, piracy and other issues.
Addressing the subcommittee July 24 were His Excellency Somduth Soborun, Ambassador of the Republic of Mauritius; His Excellency Al-Maamoun Keita, Ambassador of the Republic of Mali; His Excellency Palan Mulonda, Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia, and; His Excellency Michael Moussa-Adamo, Ambassador of the Republic of Gabon.
"The meeting offered a unique opportunity for African diplomats to share directly with members of Congress their country's views on major security issues," Smith said. "I and my colleagues meet with them individually, but we felt that these issues deserved a public airing by representatives of countries most affected by these matters." Click here to read Chairman Smith's statement.
Ambassador Soborun singled out the three major immediate threats Africa faces today: terrorism, the narcotics trade, and piracy.
"Twenty years ago terrorism was all but nonexistent in Africa," Soborun said. "Yet today, many terrorist organizations find sanctuary in our borders and are now threatening the security and safety of our people.
Africa also struggles with an increasingly extensive and powerful narcotics trade network which threatens to further destabilize state and local governments. And finally, ongoing piracy off the shores of Africa continually threatens the lives and wellbeing of African merchants, as well as hinders effective maritime trade." Click here to read the Ambassador's statement.
Ambassador Moussa-Adamo told the subcommittee that while it may not be obvious that poaching elephants or other animals is a regional security matter, it is.
"Today wildlife crime is on the increase across Africa and once again the survival of the elephant is in the balance across much of its range," Moussa-Adamo said. "In some countries a deadly war is being waged on a daily basis by wildlife and national parks staff who face armed gangs who are willing to kill to obtain ivory and rhino horn." Click here to read the Ambassador's statement.
Ambassador Mulonda said with regret that Africa is joining the ranks of end users such as the United States and Europe.
"The threats posed by the narcotics trade on Africa and Zambia in particular are that, if allowed to take root, law and order essential for the welfare of society become highly compromised," Mulonda said. "Statistics on heinous crimes have shown a close link to drug trade and use. The trade has tended to target the vulnerable in society who do not have the resources to finance the addition once it takes root. The result of this, are high crime rates which mainly threaten national security such as, murder, rape, defilement, domestic violence.
Areas of high consumption have become both unsafe for residents and law enforcers." Click here to read the Ambassador's statement.
Al-Maamoun Keita said terrorism is increasing in Africa's Sahel region and that the threat posed by al-Qaeda-affiliated groups is global and will require a global response.
"The beginnings of all the religious terrorism that we are witnessing today were in the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology... all those who worked with bin-Laden and al-Qaida went out under the mandate of the Muslim Brotherhood," Al-Maamoun Keita said. Click here to read the Ambassador's statement.
The security issues have been discussed at regional organizations in Africa and at the continental level at the African Union.