Nairobi, Kenya

02 September 2014

Secretary-General's message to Summit Meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council on Terrorism in Africa [delivered by Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi]

I would like to express my appreciation to His Excellency Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, the Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, for convening this Summit Meeting.  I would also like to reiterate my solidarity with the Government and people of Kenya as they continue to experience horrendous terrorist attacks, including at the Westgate Mall last year.  As I stressed during my visit to Nairobi in June, the United Nations stands ready to provide counter-terrorism capacity building assistance to the Kenyan Government.

An increasing number of African countries are being affected by terrorism and violent extremism. Terrorists that claim affiliation with Al-Qaida continue to pose the biggest challenge.  In East Africa Al-Shabaab is no longer solely focused on Somalia but on a broader agenda that gravely threatens regional security, notably in Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In West Africa, the activities of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa are affecting significant areas of the Sahel and the Maghreb. Boko Haram is not only a threat to Nigeria’s security but is increasingly a major concern for neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad Basin region.  The Lord’s Resistance Army, despite a reduction in its capacities and activities, continues to affect the Central Africa region. The threat from terrorist groups in Libya has grown, there have been warnings of Al-Qaida cells operating in Southern Africa, and even the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant could spread to other regions through flows of foreign fighters.

The terrorist agenda is audacious and requires a robust international response.  The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy calls for action across a broad front.  I welcome President Obama’s initiative to convene a Security Council Summit on terrorism and foreign fighters at United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 25th.  Earlier this year, I presented to the Council a report on terrorism in Africa that recommended strengthening capacity building-efforts in Africa; enhancing coordination, and focusing greater attention on prevention to help States address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.  The United Nations, through the Counter-terrorism Implementation Task Force and Counter-Terrorism Centre, is working with African countries to strengthen law enforcement, criminal justice systems and border controls, and we are determined to step up this engagement.  The Integrated Assistance for Counter-Terrorism, or I-ACT, initiative, (I-ACT) initiative, has been launched in Nigeria and Burkina Faso and is being considered for other African countries. 

As these efforts expand, the United Nations and international partners must also make it a priority to work closely with recipient countries to integrate human rights and a rule-of-law-based approach into their national counter-terrorism efforts. To be effective and legitimate, counter-terrorism activities should fully comply with the obligations of States under international human rights law. Disproportionate and unlawful responses to terrorist threats are counter-productive, as they tend to fuel the very radicalization such efforts are meant to extinguish.

Terrorism is our common enemy.  The United Nations is strongly committed to stepping up its cooperation with the African Union and its Member States.  Thank you for your commitment.  Please accept my best wishes for a successful summit.