10 July 2019

Transcript of the Joint Press Stakeout between the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission

To fight terrorism and to prevent violent extremism are fundamental priorities for the African Union, for the [United Nations], for Africa and for the world.

First of all, we need to make sure that we have the capacity to fight terrorism on the ground, with adequate security mechanisms. And I want to pay tribute to those African forces, the Joint Force in Lake Chad, the G5 Sahel, AMISOM, in which so many African soldiers and police agents have perished in the fight against terrorism. But I do believe that we need African forces in peace enforcing and counter-terrorism operations to be much more effectively supported than in the past. That means with strong mandates from the Security Council of the United Nations and with predictable funding, namely through assessed contributions. 

But as important as fighting terrorism is preventing it from happening. The first prevention is, of course, to make sure that conflicts are stopped. And there is one conflict in particular that has been a factor of terrorism in different parts of the continent, the Libya conflict. Arms from Libya have gone everywhere and have been a factor of terrorism in different other parts of the continent. 

To be much more effective in solving conflicts, in stopping wars, is an absolute element in the capacity to prevent terrorism, to develop; but then, also making sure that we understand that development is the best prevention for violent extremism and for terrorism. 

And we need to mobilize much more international support [for] the implementation of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union that is fully in line with the sustainable development objectives of the UN in Agenda 2030. We need a fair globalization. We need a globalization with opportunities for all. We need to make sure that nobody is left behind, that nobody feels discriminated or abandoned.
On the other hand, it is also very important to prevent violent extremism, creating the conditions for the youth to fully participate in our societies: participating in the labor markets, jobs – job creation is an absolute priority; participating in the political life and in the social life; having a voice that is heard as we had this morning the privilege to listen to the Youth Envoy of the African Union; and also to recognize the role of women. Women that are sometimes targeted, particularly by terrorist groups, but that are the best mediators and the best elements of cohesion in our societies and prevention has a lot to do to build resilience in communities, to make sure that people understand that different religions, different ethnic groups, are not a cause of separation but are a richness that can be brought together to make societies resilient and able to prevent violent extremism. 

In all this we will be working more and more together: the African Union, the UN, Member States, societies, civil societies… and we do believe that it is our obligation to raise awareness in the international community and to make the international community understand that to prevent violent extremism in Africa and to fight effectively terrorism in Africa is not only a matter of interest for the Africans, it's a matter of global security. Terrorists today travel everywhere. Foreign fighters go everywhere. Preserving peace and security in Africa is the best way to preserve peace and security in the world. 

Q: You called for African counter-terrorism operations to have a strong, clear mandate backed by the Security Council. In Mali you have this G5 force, which has this technical agreement with the United Nations. In your view, is it getting enough and doing enough with what it is getting? If not, should blue helmets be stepping in and taking a more proactive counter-terrorism role – because we're seeing the insecurity spreading? And a linked question to that is – does the new MINUSMA mandate allow for a robust disarming of militia in the center? This is a question of the protection of civilians, but it's also fueling insecurity of terrorist groups taking advantage of recruitment within their own ranks. 

SG: When the G5 Sahel was formed, I clearly expressed to the Security Council my opinion, that it should be mandated under Chapter Seven and it should be financed through assessed contributions. And that will give the G5 Sahel a much stronger capacity to face the terrorist challenge that we have in Mali and around Mali. 

Unfortunately, this was not accepted. Unfortunately, G5 Sahel was formed with resources that are not entirely predictable and with a mandate that is weaker. And, unfortunately, we are seeing that terrorism is progressing. It started in Mali. It went to Burkina Faso, Niger and now, when we speak with the presidents of Ghana, Benin, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire, they see the terrorism coming to their borders – which means that it's essential that African forces dealing with counter-terrorism have the adequate mandate and the adequate financing. But I have to say that things have evolved in such a way that we should be open to initiatives that go beyond the G5 Sahel. I think now, it will be important that we are open to support any African initiative involving all the countries of a region in which the threats that is spreading feel concerned. 

I had the occasion to have several contacts with presidents of Western Africa. And to clearly note that they believe that we need a much more robust and collective response, that international community needs to find the mechanisms to fully support it.

In relation to MINUSMA: MINUSMA is not a counter-terrorism operation, MINUSMA is a peacekeeping operation. And MINUSMA is indeed something that should be noted by the international community. We made a huge effort to make peacekeeping safer and more effective in the protection of civilians. And we were quite successful. As a matter of fact, the indicators have shown better performance and less casualties. Practically this year, we only have casualties in Mali because MINUSMA is called to do things that go far beyond traditional peacekeeping operations. And now, the mandate has indeed given, I would say, more clear responsibility in relation to the center of Mali. But let's be obvious, let's be clear on this – what Mali requires is much more than a peacekeeping operation. What Mali requires, is a much more effective mechanism of peace enforcing and counter-terrorism, supported by the peacekeeping operation and this is a problem that is yet to be solved.

Q: Kenya has seen a lot of terrorist attacks from Al Shabaab, which is a Somali based organization, the most recent being earlier this year. Kenya has requested a couple of times for the United Nations to list it as a terrorist group within the ranks of the ISIS and Al Qaeda’s of this world. 

And my second question would be, what would it take for the United Nations to urge more of the international community to step in and help countries like Kenya to deal with the issue of terrorism and radicalization?

SG: We have today a very important cooperation between the UN and Kenya, between our Office of Counter-Terrorism and Kenya, between our Country Team and Kenya in relation to the prevention of violent extremism, in relation to counter-terrorism. But it is true that Kenya has been asking for certain number of entities to be named as terrorist organizations and that, until now, was not decided by the relevant bodies of the UN. I fully believe that Kenya has been indeed facing what is a series of terrorist acts and that they should be named as such.