Closing ceremonies were held on Friday, 15 April, in Dakar, Senegal, for an Africa Center for Strategic Studies-hosted workshop titled “Preventing Terrorism: Developing Comprehensive Solutions to the Challenges of Radicalization.” The workshop was co-hosted with the Government of Senegal’s Ministry of Defense.
The Africa Center, working with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, organized the April 10-15 workshop, with 64? participants exploring comprehensive solutions to the challenges of radicalization and violent extremism in Africa.
Participants represented Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Djibouti, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, the U.S., UK, the Netherlands, and Norway. African attendees included security, development, and other civilian officials representing a number of ministries, including foreign affairs, development, education, youth, employment, religious affairs, culture, communications, defense, home affairs, interior, national security, and justice.
Also attending were representatives from the United Nations, African Union, European Union, Economic Community of West African States, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and World Bank. Representatives from nearly a dozen NGOs and civil society actors also participated.
Addressing the participants at the opening ceremony on Monday, 10 April, were Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Director, Africa Center for Strategic Studies; Ambassador Robert F. Godec, Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State; Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal; and Maître Ousmane Ngom, Minister of State, Minister of the Interior, on behalf of the Government of Senegal.
“We come here,” Ambassador Bellamy stated, “knowing that it is not enough to focus simply on the effects of terrorism and on suppressing them. We also know that an overly simplistic focus on the root causes is insufficient – for example, drawing simple correlations between poverty, political repression or social exclusion on the one hand, and extremist recruitment and terrorism on the other.” Ambassador Bellamy further elaborated by saying that, “what we know today is that the factors leading to radicalization, violent extremism and eventually terrorism are complex. They require the attention of wide range of actors, both civilian and military, both governmental and non-governmental. They require international action, since the sources of radicalization may be specific in some societies, but can also flow swiftly across borders and through globalized media networks.”
Ambassador Godec noted that “military power, intelligence operations and law enforcement alone will not solve the long-term challenge. More force is not going to prevent young men and women from embracing violence as a solution to political and social problems. Rather, they need viable alternatives to vent their frustrations, satisfy their ambitions, and to challenge injustices using peaceful means.”
Ambassador Godec continued by stressing that the participants will discuss ways of “developing more holistic approaches within and between governments and civil society in order to address radicalization challenges. Through forums like this, we can begin to address these challenges more successfully and thus strengthen and increase the effectiveness of all of our activities.”
U.S. Ambassador to Senegal, Marcia Bernicat, highlighted the United States’ partnership with the Government of Senegal in hosting this workshop in Dakar, where, she noted, participants would see the Senegalese approach to reinforcing societal resiliencies against radicalization.
According to Dr. John Kelly, Associated Dean for Academic Affairs, participants concluded the workshop affirming the importance of working across security, development, culture, and communications sectors to respond effectively to the political, cultural, and socioeconomic factors and recruitment dynamics contributing to violent radicalization. Participants identified engaging Africa’s young people as a resource to be tapped, rather than as a threat to be managed, as a critical component to these efforts.