Mali has been confronted by an unprecedented terrorist threat since terrorist and Islamist groups intensified their presence and activities in the vast northern region in 2012. The groups are comprised of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar-Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) among others. AQIM is reportedly the most powerful and the most dangerous among these groups. It has demonstrated its ability to provide weapons, training and financial assistance to its affiliate groups and to spread its influence within Mali and across countries in the West African region.
The Malian crisis demostrates the fragility of countries in the Sahel to the threat of terrorism in the region. It also shows the abilty of terrorists not only to destabilise nations but also to acquire control over parts of their territories. The transnational character of terrorism in the Sahel manifests in a toxic mix of religious and political violence as well as other forms of criminality.
Aims of the training course
In the context of the ISS’ West Africa and Sahel counter-terrorism programme and as part of its partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the ISS and the ECOWAS Commission organised a two-week counter-terrorism training course in Bamako. The main purpose of the course was to help build the capacity of the government of Mali through developing a pool of expertise to respond more effectively to the threat of terrorism facing the country. In particular, the course was intended to strengthen the technical skills and expertise of law enforcement agencies on key counter-terrorism issues. The course also aimed to promote awareness and practical implementation of the ECOWAS Political Declaration and Common Position Against Terrorism, and the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Strategy and Implementation Plan, adopted at the ECOWAS summit held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, in February 2013.
The course brought together 42 senior law enforcement officials from the police, gendarmerie, national guard, border authorities, intelligence, defence, prosecutions, judiciary and customs departments. Participants also included civil society organisations involved in national awareness raising on counter-terrorism. These organisations included the Coalition National Societé Civile, the Mouvement National des Femmes pour la Sauvegarde de la Paix et l’unite Nationale, and the Federation Reseaux Femmes Africaine pour la Paix.
Contents and outcomes
The training course was designed as an introduction to counter-terrorism aimed at enhancing national awareness on generic counter-terrorism issues and strengthening the capacity and expertise of those responsible for law enforcement. The course should increase the quantity and quality of national practitioners involved in the fight against terrorism in Mali. Those who completed the course were awarded certificates of participation.
The contents and curriculum were based on the ECOWAS Counter-Terrorism Training Manual, which was developed in close collaboration with the ISS. The training manual comprises eight main modules, namely:
- A general introduction and overview of terrorism
- Legal aspects of counter-terrorism
- Intelligence and counter-intelligence
- Border control and surveillance
- Operational response
- Explosives and weapons of mass destruction
- Investigation of terrorist incidents, and
- The role of the media
Following the training, participants were given the tools to:
- Understand the general terrorism trends at national, regional, continental and international levels.
- Understand the legal obligations of their country based on the various national, regional, continental and international legal instruments, and ensure the effective application of the instruments.
- Strengthen cooperation with international institutions for the prevention and the fight against terrorism.
- Carry out effective border control and monitor, particularly in regard to cross-border cooperation with neighboring countries, the identification and management of terrorist threats.
- Understand the various options and strategies to deal with different situations of terrorism, including bombs and explosives.
- Undertake effective international cooperation.
A range of experts were involved in delivering the training, including the following:
- Mr Abdallah Moulaye, a former UNODC international consultant and magistrate from the Mauritanian Ministry of Justice, who covered the international legal framework on counter-terrorism.
- Mr Benoit Konan, a customs expert from the Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa, who covered money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Alione Blondin BÃƒÂ¨ye