African Union initiatives to counter terrorism and develop deradicalisation strategies

Authored by: Anneli Botha

Routledge Handbook of Deradicalisation and Disengagement

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138229969
eBook ISBN: 9781315387420
Adobe ISBN:


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Violent extremism leading to acts of terrorism is not new to Africa, requiring the focus of countermeasures to change throughout the years. Initially, the focus has been on actively addressing the direct threat, calling for political, legislative and physical measures, in line with United Nations (UN) directions. Since the introduction of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy – based on four pillars, namely measures to address the conditions conducive to terrorism; measures to prevent and combat terrorism; measures to build states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the UN system in this regard; and measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism – countries on the continent again followed the lead by introducing measures and strategies to (in addition to the direct threat) address the conditions conducive to radicalisation and terrorism (the manifestation of violent extremism). However, instead of the African Union (AU) introducing similar steps as when it introduced the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and subsequent Protocol and Plan of Action, countries most directly affected by terrorism and its aftermath took the lead in developing regional strategies through Regional Economic Communities (RECs). Starting initially with counter-terrorism strategies, RECs more recently introduced strategies to counter and prevent radicalisation. For example, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 1 and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) 2 took the lead, introducing specific strategies against terrorism and radicalisation into violent extremist organisations. These strategies – in addition to measures to address the immediate threat of terrorism – also made provision to curb the growing threat of radicalisation by introducing initiatives to address the underlying reasons for radicalisation. From a pure counter-terrorism perspective, deradicalisation is however still very new to the agenda of many countries, especially those not directly affected.

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