Africa: Terrorism and Security Require a Global Response - Mauritanian President

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abddel Aziz
5 August 2014
guest column

Washington, DC — Security threats - which have continued for more than a decade, despite their recent decline - remind us that the fight against terrorism and organized crime requires constant vigilance.

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit is an opportunity for Africa and the United States to discuss this issue collectively and acknowledge and deepen American engagement.

Recent events from Mali to Sudan, Libya to Nigeria and Kenya to Somalia indicate that this must be addressed as a global issue if the threats are to be sustainably contained and overcome. We are at a historical crossroads in Africa if we want to secure peace and stability for the next generation.

Securitizing development

The persistence of such evils imposes on Africa an added challenge, along with the already difficult development issues we face and our fight against poverty. There is a close relationship between security and development which are, each to the other, mutual prerequisites: there is no development without security of persons and property; nor is there viable security without effective development.

The devastating consequences of insecurity in the Sahel are clear and obvious. However, these threats, against which we must unite our efforts even more, should not overshadow the reality of progress.

In Mali, we rejoice with the return to constitutional order, even though we must remain vigilant. During the painful events that this sister country went through, we have supported all efforts to resolve the crisis, in concert with our Sahelian neighbors, Ecowas and the African Union. In Mauritania, we successfully ensured the absolute inviolability of our territory by armed bands seeking fallback territories and peacefully welcomed tens of thousands of Malian civilians seeking refuge.

A global approach with local leadership

For the renewed freedom of Mali today, we must applaud, first, the extraordinary selflessness of Malians and, second, the supportive efforts by friendly states. The commitment of troops to the joint force mobilized by Sahel countries deserves to be particularly recognized. History will remember the sacrifices of the courageous Chadian officers and soldiers who dislodged the rebels from their strongholds in northern Mali.

History will also remember French and American support for this truly global effort. We must support all those suffering from terrorist attacks with similar global coordination and resolve, building on these recent experiences.

Our progress in the mastery of threats and the outpouring of international solidarity has ushered in a new dynamic, and we must take full ownership. No one can deny that the future of our region is primarily our responsibility or that the effectiveness of external support depends on how well that support is accepted locally.

This is a question both of sovereignty and of understanding our environments. States must be in the lead, set priorities and identify responses. However, the cross border aspects of the challenges we face require an unfailing solidarity of our states and a joint action plan. Our collective, global efforts should amplify individual action taken by States.

Protecting the future for the next generation

Ensuring democracy, strengthening the rule of law, and promoting good governance remain the best defense against radical temptations. In addition, the pledge of a needed legitimacy for public action is also a necessary condition for an effective fight against poverty and insecurity.

Meeting youth expectations in this regard is a major priority. It is clear that the outcomes of policies for promoting youth employment remain below target in many regions where terrorism is planting its roots.

The Young African Leaders Initiative (Yali), launched by President Obama, is complimenting other youth initiatives on the continent. These efforts should be seen as part of the Trade Africa and Power Africa initiatives in order to ensure that youth have a clear path to income generation and social empowerment.

African youth must not be reduced to instruments of violence and insecurity in a period when Africa shows much promise. They must embody - and be seen as custodians- of the hope and opportunity which lies before the continent.

Our region has many assets to guarantee its children a bright future worthy of their glorious heritage. The energy of our youth and their entrepreneurial spirit, our natural resources, diverse and abundant, the complementarity of our territories and ecosystems - all these provide a foundation.

The Sahelian and African rebirth must be sustained with political will and a concrete vision for dealing with issues of security. More than a duty, it is a responsibility we have as leaders for our people and our history.

Mohamed Ould Abddel Aziz, president of Mauritania and current chair of the Africa Union, is participating this week in the U.S.-Africa Summit.

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