The prevalence of terrorism in West Africa represents a serious challenge to peace, security, stability and the territorial integrity of most states in the region. The nature of the terrorist threat in West Africa is unique due in large part to its ability to further escalate other transnational criminal and illicit activities, particularly drug and human trafficking, money laundering, arms smuggling, piracy, and various types of organized crime. These illicit activities in turn serve as major sources of funding for terrorist networks. Indeed, increasing alliances between terrorist and other criminal networks have demonstrated the potential to destabilize states, create insurrection and conditions of anarchy.
The recent case of Mali where radical Islamist groups such as Ansar-Dine and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) joined forces with notorious terrorist groups such as al Qaeda in the land of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Boko Haram has demonstrated the alarming dimension of the terrorist threat to West Africa.
The ease with which these groups have been able to move across borders further underscores the transnational nature of the threat of terrorism and the need for collective regional responses.
Aims of the training course
In May and December 2012 , the ISS in collaboration with the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) organised regional counter-terrorism training courses in Senegal and Benin respectively. These courses were conducted as part of the ISS’ West Africa and Sahel counter-terrorism programme and as part of its partnership with ECOWAS. In maintaining efforts to strengthen West Africa’s capacity to address the threat of terrorism, the ISS and ECOWAS hosted the third regional counter-terrorism training course in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
As with the previous regional training courses, this introductory course was aimed at strengthening awareness on generic counter-terrorism matters. It sought to enhance the expertise and capacity of law enforcement officials across the region to effectively prevent and combat terrorism. In this context, the foremost objective of the two-week training course was to build the skills of senior law enforcement and other security agencies that are involved in the fight against terrorism.
The two-week programme brought together 25 participants from 12 countries in the region, namely: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Participants were primarly from the police, gendermerie and National guard. Departments represented were intelligence, Interpol, counter-terrorism, organised crime and border control units.
Contents and outcomes
The training course was designed as an introduction to counter-terrorism aimed at enhancing national and regional 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 practitioners involved in the fight against terrorism across the region. 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
The training provided participants with the tools to:
- Understand the general concept of terrorism and its evolution and manifestation in West Africa
- Understand states’ obligations under regional and international counter-terrorism regimes and the strategies for ensuring effective implementation
- Acquire strategies for strengthening inter-agency and international cooperation on counter-terrorism matters
- Strengthen the rule of law and criminal justice responses to terrorism
- Understand basic principles and strategies for intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence for the prevention and combating of terrorism
- Effectively control borders
- Conduct effective planning and execution of security measures during major events
- Ensure the identification and management of terrorist threats
- Implement structures of command and control in relation to terrorist acts
- Conduct effective debriefing and operational report
- Manage a hostage situation
- Understand the various options and strategies to deal with different terrorist situations
- Coordinate and manage complex counter-terrorism operations in accordance with international law including human rights.
A range of experts were involved in delivering the training, including the following:
- Mr Bala Traore, Head, Interpol Regional Bureau for West Africa, who discussed Mali’s operational responses to terrorism.
- Dr Wafula Okumu, African Union expert on border management, who covered the issue of border control and surveillance.
Media coverage of the training