African leaders call for rethink on tackling violent extremism


LAGOS, April 22 (Reuters) – African leaders at a security summit in Nigeria called for a revamp of institutions fighting violent extremism on the continent and the setting up of a standby military force and greater control over peace-keeping efforts.

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Groups linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda have been carrying out routine attacks in Africa, including the Sahel, Somalia and Mozambique, targeting civilians and the military.

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe said while the Sahel suffered the most attacks on civilians, coastal states like Togo were facing growing threats.

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“I say this with prudence and regret, but I think the institutions that have been in place for a number of decades are no longer able to respond to the security situation that we face,” said Gnassingbe.

Last year, the number of daily attacks by extremist groups in Africa rose to eight and 44 deaths, up from four attacks and 18 deaths daily between 2017 and 2021, said African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki.

He said 7,000 civilians were killed and 4,000 military personnel died last year, adding that this situation was being exploited in countries as a basis for military coups.

Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said the Sahel accounted for half the deaths caused by terrorism globally.

France last year pulled 1,500 troops out of Niger, the West’s last key ally in the central Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert until a July coup brought in a military junta which called for France to leave.

Faki said Africa needed more funding to help counter the spread of terrorism.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said greater efforts were needed to halt the proliferation of small arms and weapons and called for the establishment of a regional standby force whose mandate includes tackling terrorism.

“I am mindful of the funding, legal and logistical complexities that face the proper establishment of such a force. Such a force can stand as a strong deterrent to large scale and protracted terrorist operations and the capture, occupation or disruption of strategic land and resources,” Tinubu said.

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