SANF 22 no 08 – by Clarkson Mambo
A regional centre has been established to counter potential acts of terrorism in southern Africa.
This follows increased incidences of terrorism in the region and the fact that terrorism knows no boundaries, hence the need for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to remain alert to such threats.
The SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Centre (RCTC) was launched on 28 February in Dar es Salam, the United Republic of Tanzania, where it will be based.
The RCTC will be responsible for ensuring that the region remains peaceful and stable, allowing SADC to achieve its longstanding goals of a united, integrated and prosperous community.
Speaking at the launch of the centre, the SADC Executive Secretary, His Excellency Elias Magosi said stability is key to deeper integration and sustainable development, adding that institutions such as the RCTC are critical in promoting peace and stability in southern Africa.
“The Centre was created to ensure enhanced coordination, strengthened partnerships, as well as to foster timely response to terrorism and violent extremism within the region,” he said.
The RCTC was established in line with the outcome of the 35th SADC Summit held in August 2015 in Gaborone, Botswana that adopted the Regional Counter-Terrorism Strategy and its Plan of Action as a comprehensive, integrated and operational framework geared towards preventing and countering terrorism, as well as enhancing cooperation and coordination.
Its creation is also in line with the SADC Treaty, the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation of 2001 and the SADC Mutual Defence Pact of 2003 whose ultimate objective is the preservation of peace, security and stability in the region.
The main mandate for the RCTC will be to advise SADC on counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism policies, programmes and deployments within the SADC Region; coordinate the implementation of the SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Strategy, and lead the review process of the strategies.
Researching, assessing, analysing and timely dissemination of information to agencies tasked with national counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism agencies is also a key responsibility.
Magosi said overcoming terrorism and violent extremism will only be achieved if Member States work together to fight all forms and manifestations of “this real threat.”
“As terrorist groups adapt, we must also adapt our tools and actions to ensure that we counter their efforts and stop them in their tracks. The fight against terrorism and violent extremism, therefore, calls for a united front and robust response from all SADC Member States,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the chairperson of the SADC Ministerial Committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation currently headed by South Africa, the previous chair Botswana said the RCTC has come at a an opportune time when the region was experiencing acts of terrorism in northern Mozambique.
The representative of Botswana, the Minister for Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Hon. Ronald Shamukuni thanked Tanzania for agreeing to host the RCTC.
He said this was testimony of “the country’s longstanding commitment to regional cooperation on peace, security and development which was first championed by the father of this Nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, and has been carried forward by successive leaders of this country.”
Julius Nyerere, who is a symbol of freedom in Africa was instrumental together with other African leaders in the formation of SADC and the African Union, formerly the Organizational of African Union (OAU).
Nyerere played a critical role in supporting the liberation of the continent from colonial rule as Tanzania hosted the OAU Liberation Committee that provided diplomatic support and materials to the liberation movements, who now govern several independent countries in Africa.
At his country’s own independence in December 1961, Nyerere was ready to delay the independence until the neighbouring countries of Kenya and Uganda could gain independence at the same time, but they reached this goal a few years later.
“With the reality of the threat of terrorism we have witnessed in our region, the establishment of the SADC Regional Counter Terrorism Centre could not have come at a better time than now, to ensure that there is a dedicated structure to coordinate regional counter-terrorism efforts,” Shamukuni said.
“Strong and sustained multilateral cooperation, understanding, and analysis are required in order to support Member States in addressing the challenges posed by terrorism, violent extremism and its associated Transnational Organized Crime activities.”
The Minister for Defence and National Service for Tanzania, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, who is a former SADC Executive Secretary, said fighting terrorism required unhinged cooperation “as terrorism is not an ordinary war, where the enemy is clearly visible.”
“Some supporters of terrorist groups are part of our society, terrorism is borderless, and perpetrators of terrorist acts can receive support from within and outside the country. The effects of terrorist acts have serious economic, social and security implications for innocent civilians.” sardc.net
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