Since the start of the crisis in Mali in 2012, the threat of terrorism in the Sahel and west Africa has intensified, with potentially dire ramifications for Mali’s immediate neighbours. Senegal shares a 419 km border with Mali and is one of the countries particularly threatened by this new wave of terrorism. Although Senegal has not experienced any significant terrorist attacks since independence in 1960, recent reports have signalled the country’s increasing vulnerability to a spill over from Mali’s problems with radicalisation. Added to this is a toxic mix of transnational organised crime such as drug trafficking and money laundering.
This national counter-terrorism training course formed part of an on-going collaboration between the ECOWAS Commission and the ISS to provide technical assistance and capacity building on peace and security issues, and counter-terrorism in particular. Similar courses have already been delivered at the regional and national levels in Senegal, Benin, Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, and Niger.
The course aimed to promote the implementation of the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Strategy by strengthening understanding and awareness of its key provisions. The strategy is premised on three pillars: prevent, pursue and reconstruct. The course sought to enhance technical skills of law enforcement agencies, and in particular their ability to identify, intercept, investigate and effectively prosecute terrorism acts. The course promotes a criminal justice approach that emphasises the rule of law and adherence to domestic and international law.
Course content and participants
The curriculum was based on the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Training Manual which was developed in collaboration with the ISS. Training techniques included lectures, practical discussions and exchanges, use of audio-visual materials, practical exercises, and field excursions and demonstrations.
The following specific themes were covered: concept and evolution of terrorism and counter-terrorism; legal aspects of counter-terrorism including discussions on Senegalese counter-terrorism law, regional and international legal frameworks and INTERPOL’s role; operational responses; dealing with explosives and bombs; investigating terrorist incidents and suppressing the sources of terrorist financing.
The course brought together 43 senior law enforcement officials from the police, gendarmerie, border authorities, intelligence, military, justice, and customs departments. Among these were senior police commissioners, commandants, magistrates, captains and colonels. Five of the trainees were women.
The course was useful to participants who described how they had benefitted from the training. One participant said that ‘The course was heavy and intense as the debates surrounding some aspects showed. I am sure this course will change many things pertaining to national response to terrorism because this was the first time all stakeholders were involved directly with their bones fides.’
Another explained, ‘Dieu merci on a bien repris le boulot après cette session de Formation combien importante! je vous adresse mon Grand Merci pour la qualité des interventions de manière générale. J'espère qu'on doit trouver les voies et moyens d'approfondir cette formation pour en assurer la continuité car la lutte contre le terrorisme doit être permanente! Encore une fois Merci pour tout!’
Coordinator: Martin Ewi, Senior Researcher, Transnational Threats and International Crime Division, ISS Pretoria
- Willem Els, Senior Research and Training Coordinator, ISS Pretoria
- Chefou Abdou, Head of Investigation Unit, National Coordinating Agency for the Fight Against Terrorism, Niamey, Niger
- Yves Kouassi Abadinan, Expert on Counter-Terrorism, INTERPOL Regional Bureau For West Africa
- Konan Djaha, Expert on the investigation and repression of terrorist financing, GIABA
To see the training gallery, click here