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Last Updated: 09/18/2014The Role of Regional Integration in Fighting Crime and Terrorism: The Case of the African Union’s (AU’s) Initiatives, 1999-2014
Conrad John Masabo, Marobe Wama, and Tekla Paul Mlyansi
As regional organizations facilitate economic integration, they also find themselves increasingly taking responsibility for security issues as well. This paper outlines the experience of the Africa Union, and the challenges it faces as it emerges as a guarantor of security on the continent.
The quest for regional integration in Africa, dates many centuries back and was manifested in conducting of different forms of trade such as the Trans-Saharan Trade. In these days of globalisation two key issues are at the centre of integration. One is economic and another is security. In regard to the former (economic) “Countries integrate because they do not want to lose out the global competition for export markets and foreign direct investment (FDI) (Biswaro, 2012: xxii). However, in regard to the latter (security) countries integrate because they “require collective regional approach when addressing issues of regional security, terrorism; drug, arms and human trafficking, and environment” (Biswaro, 2012:26). Thus, African states are determined to join-together to form a supra-national authority that will be systematic and comprehensive in coordination, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the regional programmes and projects to ensure continuation of good spirit of the integration while searching for their own solutions to the international problems.
This paper attempts to discuss the African Union (AU) initiatives in the fight against crime and terrorism as enshrined within the greater desire for integration. As such, and in respect to what we have introduced, the security motive of integration is at the core of the initiatives. From this general introduction, the essay proceeds to defining key terms. It is then followed by a synoptic evolution of the OAU/AU fight against crime and terrorism in Africa; how AU involves itself in the fight against crime and terrorism; challenges facing AU in its war on crime and terrorism and suggestion of possible solutions in countering crime and terrorism and lastly a conclusion.
There is no universal accepted single definition of concepts regional integration, crime and terrorism. But for the purpose of this discussion these concepts are defined as follows: regional integration as “the process whereby political actors in several distinct national settings are persuaded to shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities toward a new center, whose institutions possess or demand jurisdiction over pre-existing national states” (Haas 1958, cited in Nye, 1968: 857; Biswaro, 2012: 16). In that respect the end result in the process of integration is establishment of new political community, superimposed over the pre-existing ones. On other hand crime is “an illegal act that reduces the citizens’ quality of life, places the limited resources of member states under extreme pressure, reduces local and foreign direct investment and threatens the ability of states to achieve their developmental goals” (CARICOM, 2013). Among its manifests are illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, human and money laundering as well as cybercrime and the unlawful trade of fake products. And terrorism is “any act which is a violation of the criminal laws of a State Party and which may endanger the life, physical integrity or freedom of, or cause serious injury or death to, any person, any number or group of persons or causes or may cause damage to public or private property, natural resources, environmental or cultural heritage and is calculated or intended to: (i) intimidate, put in fear, force, coerce or induce any government, body, institution, the general public or any segment thereof, to do or abstain from doing any act, or to adopt or abandon a particular standpoint, or to act according to certain principles; or (ii) disrupt any public service, the delivery of any essential service to the public or to create a public emergency; or (iii) create general insurrection in a State” (OAU, 1999).
The Evolution of OAU/AU in the Fight against Crime and Terrorism in the Region
Crime and terrorism are related concepts though do not mean the same. While the former is as old as the human race, the latter is said to have a well organised form that dates first centuries of Common Era of the first millennium. Both of the two are threats to regional integration growth as well as posing developmental challenges to developing countries more than developed countries. That’s why the OAU/AU efforts in fighting against crime and terrorism have a long history since they are threat to peace, stability and security in Africa. While some struggles for independence and decolonization were terms as acts of terror, “the 1999 OAU Convention, which makes a distinction between acts of terrorism and the acts of people fighting for self-determination” (Ewi and Aning, 2006:35). Therefore, in Africa as elsewhere in the world, the AU and its predecessor the OAU have conceptualised the fight against crime and terrorism at four levels: national, sub-regional, regional, and global.
In 1992, a Resolution on the Strengthening of Cooperation and Coordination among African States was adopted in which OAU pledged to fight the phenomena of crime, extremism and terrorism (AUPSC, 2013). This effort culminated in the 1999 OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism while-in September 2002 AU Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism was adopted (ibid). Thus, pursuant to Article 7(i) of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC); AUPSC is mandated to “ensure the implementation of the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and other relevant international, continental and regional conventions and instruments and harmonize and coordinate efforts at regional and continental levels to combat international terrorism.” Established and officially inaugurated in 2004, AUPSC has been active in countering terrorism in various ways.
In fighting crime in the continent, there has been remarkable progress from national, sub-regional and at the regional bodies. Remarkably is the Establishment of the African Mechanism for Police Cooperation called the African Police Cooperation Organisation (AFRIPOL) on 11 February 2014 in Algiers is reaffirming of determination “to contribute to the revival of the Continent and the emergence of an African society freed from the scourges of organized crime and terrorism” (AFRIPOL, 2014, para.3). As such AFRIPOL is charged to ensure“ prevention and fight against all forms of crime; such as organised transnational crime, in particular illicit traffics in drugs, light arms, munitions, migrants, and traffic in persons, maritime piracy, cybercrime, counterfeit medicines, environmental crimes, serious disturbances of public order, and social peace” (ibid, para.10 &11) though technological advancement poses challenges on its initiatives.
How does AU fight against crime and terrorism?
Crime and terrorism are threats to regional integration growth as well as posing the developmental challenge to developing countries more than developed countries. The AU’s approach in countering crime and terrorism ranges from national, sub-regional, regional to global levels.
Firstly, it has induced its member states to sign and ratify OUA/AU protocol and declarations that call for prevention and combating crime and terrorism in the region and international level. For example this effort has culminated in the adoption of the 1999 OAU Convention in July 1999 and in December 2002 it came into force after 30 states had ratified (ISS, 2011). Article 2(a) of this Convention requires that States Parties to review their national laws and establish criminal offences for terrorist acts as defined in this Convention and make such acts punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account the grave nature of such offences.
Therefore, this approach requires national legal and institutional measures to investigate, prevent, prosecute and punish terrorism related activity (ISS, 2011, 2). Thus, enacting and enforcing laws and regulations against crime and terrorism is strategic asset in this war. Furthermore in 2011, the AU Commission developed African Model Law on Counter Terrorism, which was adopted February, 2014, as the result AFRIPOL has been established. Both initiatives encourage member States “to initiate, harmonise, and strengthen African legal instruments for the fight against transnational crime and terrorism and to promote the tools necessary for their implementation” (AFRIPOL, 2014, para.7).
Secondly, in its declarations, conventions and code of conduct of Inter-African Relation against terrorism, AU has established standards and a continental agenda for preventing and combating terrorism, which is not only condemned but also criminalized in Africa. African Heads of States and Government have “denounced, among others, extremism and terrorism particularly based on political sectarianism, tribalism, ethnicity or religion as undermining the moral and human values of the peoples, particularly fundamental freedoms and tolerance” (Ewi and Aning, 2006:35).
Thirdly, it works closer with member states to identify, detect, confiscate and freeze or seize any funds and any other assets used or allocated for the purpose of committing a terrorist act or crime, and to establish a mechanism to use such funds to compensate victims of terrorist acts or their families. Besides this AU has entrenched its member states to criminalize as offence any attempt(s) to organize, instigate, facilitate, finance, encourage, or tolerate terrorist activities or harbour terrorist elements.
Fourthly, the regional bloc in 2004 established the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), in Algiers- Algeria to serve as a structure for centralizing information, studies and analyses on terrorism and terrorist groups and to develop Counter-Terrorism capacity building programmes (AUPSC, 2013). Also, the ACSRT provides a forum for interaction and cooperation among Member States and Regional Mechanisms such as the AU Special Representative for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation established in 2010. S/he serves, concurrently as ACSRT director and undertakes a number of important assignments to mobilize support for the continent to fight the scourge of terrorism, assess the situation in various member states and identify, with the concerned national authorities, priority issues to be addressed (AUPSC, 2013).
Fifth, there is specifically progress in fighting against human trafficking. For example the AU Commission Initiative against Trafficking (AU.COMMIT) as well as the Africa-EU Strategy and Action Plan 2011-2013 which among others intends to assist Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in developing and implementing regional action plans to strengthen protection, prevention and prosecution of human trafficking, in line with the Ouagadougou Action Plan and AU.COMMIT, that covers countries of origin, transit and destination. More effort is done by AU, RECs at the national level to monitor, implement and evaluate all mechanisms used in the fight against all forms of crime and terrorism to the best practices in the Continent.
Challenges facing AU in the fight against Crime and Terrorism
First; inadequate resources: as it stands today, AU is yet to overcome some of its internal short comings and build its own financial and human resource capabilities. This makes it to largely rely on member states that also have their own financial difficulties or may turn to dictate the organisation. This situation makes it easy for crime and terrorism to go on unchecked. A case in point is the massive human trafficking in West African countries and repeated kidnapping or other activities of Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.
Second; institutional framework: member states which are signatories to regional or international conventions and protocols are reluctant to ratify and/or establish new national legislation(s) to fight crime and terrorism. AU needs to ensure that these instruments are ratified and domesticated uniformly in national laws in order to create competent institutional framework with new structures to co-ordinate and monitor the situation. For example, definitions of crime vary from one country to another that means a criminal act in one country is not necessarily a criminal act in another. As for terrorism, some most Southern and West African countries are reluctant to commit themselves to the fight against terrorism as is partly linked as an external priority that is imposed on African states.
Third; the development of science and technology: Advancement in science and technology poses several challenges to fighting crime and terrorism in Africa. This is because the security agencies, mainly the police forces in many countries are not equipped to match with forces of technological advancement related crimes such as cyber-crimes. For example there is an increase in cyber-crime in Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Ghana leading in the vice on the continent. Lastly but not least is the; legacy of the OAU: "the AU is yet to overcome a legacy of the OAU, namely a tendency to adopt landmark decisions and make pronouncements without ensuring effective and appropriate follow-up" (Ewi and Aning, 2006: 42).
Conclusion and the way forward
The fight against crime and terrorism in African context need strong commitment of AU and its member states on the base that AU cannot work in isolation thus member countries should work in collaboration with AU to improve living condition of its citizens. Second, member countries of the AU should honor their financial commitments with the AU as we know financial resources are vitally important to run its activities and responsibilities. Thirdly, AU member states should be encouraged to ratify and domesticate these treaties to full fight against crime and terrorist acts. Also, African states security agencies especially the police forces must get acquainted with modern technology to be able to cope with the new criminal acts that are related to crime and terrorism.
AUPSC, 2013. “The African Union Counter terrorism Framework,” Accessed on 16/04/2014; from http://www.peaceau? .org/en?/page/?64-counter-terrorism-ct
Biswaro, J. M., 2012. The Quest for Regional Integration in the Twenty First Century: Rhetoric versus Reality-A Comparative Study. Mkuki na Nyota: Dar es Salaam.
Algiers Declaration on the Establishment of the African Mechanism for Police Cooperation– AFRIPOL. From http://www.peaceau.org/uploads/algiers-declaration-afripol-english.pdf, 14/04/2014.
Ewi, M. and Aning, K. (2006). “Assessing the Role of the African Union in Preventing and Combating Terrorism in Africa,” African Security Review 15.3, pp. 32-46.
Nye, J. S. (1968). Comparative Regional Integration: Concept and Measurement. International Organization, 22 .4, pp 855-880.
Institute for Security Studies (ISS). 2011. African Counter Terrorism Legal Frameworks a Decade After 2001. Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.
Conrad John Masabo is graduate student at the Pan African University Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences. He holds a B. A. Ed (History and Political Science) from University of Dar es Salaam and currently studying an studying an MSc in Governance and Regional Integration.
Marobe Wama is graduate student at the Pan African University Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences. He holds a B. A. (International Relations) from University of Dodoma and currently studying and studying an MSc in Governance and Regional Integration.
Tekla Paul Mlyansi is graduate student at the Pan African University Institute for Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences. She holds a B. A. (Sociology) from St. Augustine University of Tanzania and currently studying and studying an MSc in Governance and Regional Integration.