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Time to slam the door on terrorist forces in Africa

Publication Date : 11-02-2013

 

Armed Islamist extremists have been expanding their influence over regions in the outer reaches of the Sahara Desert. They have stepped up terrorist attacks, abductions and other criminal acts. Ten Japanese were killed when Islamist militants took dozens of hostages in Algeria in January.

To prevent North and West Africa from becoming a breeding ground of terrorism, now is the time for the international community to think hard about how to beef up assistance to these areas.

A European Union summit meeting decided Friday on a package of measures to help North African countries bolster border controls and reform their security organs.

It can be said the need for assisting these nations' efforts to enhance security has become a matter of urgency, in addition to aid for speeding up democratization and extending economic assistance to them. This reflects the growing sense of crisis among EU members over the increasing rampancy of Islamist militants, who can easily cross national borders.

The tumult in northern and western Africa was spawned by the Arab Spring that started two years ago, in which dictatorial regimes in such countries as Egypt and Libya were toppled one after another. During their transition to new political systems, some of these nations have made little headway toward democratization and their economies have remained in the doldrums. Furthermore, their ability to maintain public security has declined.

Arms, ex-mercenaries from Libya

The chaos in major powers in Africa has opened the door to rising Islamist extremists, whose activities had been kept under control previously. The turmoil in Mali is representative of this.

Former mercenaries and weapons from Libya have flooded into Mali, touching off ethnic conflicts and triggering a military coup d'etat that rocked the government. During the confusion, armed Islamist forces swooped in and took control of northern Mali.

The fight against terrorism in Africa is focusing at this moment on overcoming the armed Islamist forces in Mali.

The intervention by French forces has helped recapture major Malian cities from the militants. However, containing the Islamist militants will require the cooperation of foreign militaries for the time being.

To prevent areas in and around the Sahara from becoming terrorist strongholds, countries in the region must strengthen their security capabilities.

European countries that have strong historical ties with Africa should assume particularly heavy responsibilities in this respect.

TICAD V to be held in June

Security issues in Africa cannot be divorced from Japan. Many Japanese companies have operations in parts of Africa with rich natural resources and where rapid economic growth is expected. The importance of this country's cooperation with African nations is increasing.

Following the hostage-taking incident in Algeria, the Japanese government decided to extend assistance to help stabilise regions near the southern edge of the Sahara, northern Africa and the Middle East. At the Donors' Conference on Mali held in late January in Addis Ababa, Japan pledged funds for the relief of refugees and construction of a UN training center for peacekeeping operations.

In addition, Japan will host the fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) in Yokohama in June. Japan has held TICAD conferences every five years since 1993 and invited leaders from African countries.

Efforts to boost international cooperation to fight poverty and disease in Africa are still important, but assistance to improve security there must be ramped up.

 

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