AU policy paper calls for “extreme care” in addressing terrorism, violent extremism in Western Sahel

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Burkina Faso soldier stands guard at the village of Gorgadji in the Sahel region
Burkina Faso soldier stands guard at the village of Gorgadji in the Sahel region

The fight against terrorism and violent extremism in Western Sahel should be crafted and implemented with “extreme care” to avoid impact on the already impoverished population, according to a new publication by the African Union (AU).

The policy paper, entitled “Coups and Political Instability in the Sahel: Implications for the Fight against Terrorism and Violent Extremism” and issued on Tuesday by the AU Peace and Security Council, emphasized the need to avoid further exacerbating the already dire situation.

“International and regional pressure on the various military juntas to cede power must be carefully implemented to prevent further suffering among affected populations; as this may increase sympathy for terrorist and violent extremist groups,” the policy paper warned.

Africa’s Western Sahel region faces multiple political, social, economic and security challenges, which are exacerbated by terrorism, violent extremism, communal violence and banditry, according to the new publication.

“While the AU Commission and its partners are working together to address these challenges with innovative approaches, a resurgence of coups has increased the region’s fragility and threatened the democratic foundation of affected states,” the policy paper said.

It warned that terrorist groups could exploit these political uncertainties to entrench their position and expand their activities to other parts of West Africa and beyond.

The policy paper recommended international and regional pressure on the various military juntas must be carefully implemented. It said while returning to democratic rule is important, the international response must be coordinated with determination, caution and discretion.

Flexibility, pragmatism and skilled diplomacy are needed to avoid exacerbating the precarious security situation, the policy paper recommended.

According to the paper, ensuring future stability will require the AU to mobilize international support to reshuffle and strengthen the implementation of signed peace agreements, and to enhance the socio-economic resilience of Western Sahel countries.

“In this way, the root causes of instability can be addressed – including poor governance, corruption, underdevelopment, youth unemployment, political exclusion and marginalization,” it said.

The policy paper further recommended that neighboring countries affected by terrorism and violent extremism, including Algeria and Mauritania, should be fully engaged to ensure unity of purpose and coordinated action. Enditem

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