Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Head of UNDP Africa, on finding workable solutions to radicalization in Africa

Jul 20, 2015

Members from the Governments of Kenya, Somalia, Nigeria, Tanzania, United Kingdom and Sweden; representatives from the European Union, Africa Union, Pan African Parliament and IGAD, representatives from the United Nations, members of academia, civil society and faith based organisations, colleagues and partners, Ladies and Gentlemen Good morning.

I am pleased to welcome you to UNDP’s experts meeting on “Framing the Development Solutions to Radicalisation in Africa”. This is the first consultation of its kind that UNDP has held on the continent. We are delighted that so many colleagues and partners were able to join us here today.  I would like to thank my colleague Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya and her team at UNDP’s Kenya Country Office for hosting us here in Nairobi.

Violent extremism has had a devastating effect on on people’s lives, families, and communities in Africa. Peace, stability and development has been compromised by violent extremists and warlords who operate seamlessly across territorial borders. Evidence suggests that the challenges posed by radicalization continues to grow. UNDP studies estimate that there have been over 3000 attacks and 18,000 have been killed since 2011 . High profile attacks such as the abduction of 276 girl students in Chibok Nigeria in April 2014, beheading of 21 Coptic Christian migrant workers in Libya in February 2015 and the murder of 147 students at Garissa University in Kenya in April 2015 are just a few of the atrocities committed by these groups.

Moreover of the 13 countries that the 2014 Global Terrorism Index identifies at risk of a substantial increase in terrorism, seven(7) of these are in Africa including Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cote d-Ivoire, Ethiopia and Uganda  whereas countries in conflict including DRC, Egypt, Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria and Mali are predicted to see increased terrorism. The same study states that 17 of the 50 countries with the highest levels of terrorism are in Africa.

Insecurity arising from extremism has led to the highest displacements seen since the Second World War with much of that in Africa including over 1.5 million displaced in Nigeria, over 1 million in Somalia, half a million in the Central African Republic and 600,000 across the Sahel . The Boko Haram crisis alone has led to the deaths of over 10,000 civilians, over 4 million food insecure and abduction of 100’s of school children including girls  whereas in the Central African Republic, a fundamentalist Christian militia known as anti-Balaka (or anti-machete) has killed, mutilated and displaced thousands of Muslim civilians, with the stated intent of eliminating Muslims from the CAR .  We are also seeing protracted crises as a result of these groups including the Lord’s Resistance Army which continue to operate and has resulted in one of Africa’s longest running conflicts including more than 20,000 children abducted, 100,000 civilians killed and over 1.5 million displaced .    

Women and children have been disproportionately affected. The alarming growth of gender-based violence including targeted killings of women and girls is most often justified by reference to religion, culture, tradition and social norms and not merely incidental but integral to extremist groups’ strategy of domination and self-perpetuation . Children have also faced abduction and kidnapping not to mention the loss of their education with 100’s of schools closed or targeted when going to school. No Child should have to die for going to school or fear to learn and no teacher should ever fear to teach girls and boys.

Violent extremism has also affected our organization in very personal ways: the attacks in Algeria in 2007 claimed the lives of 41 people including 17 UN staff; multiple attacks in Somalia in October 2008, June 2013 and April 2014 led to the deaths 14 UN Staff and of at least 3,000 AMISOM Soldiers since they started operations ; the attack in August 2011 in Abuja which killed 21 and wounded 60  and in Mali where 42 peacekeepers have lost their lives & 160 wounded

Whilst the human cost of fundamentalist violence is obvious – death, injury, pain, bereavement and fear – there have also been economic costs including loss of property, military and security spending, medical and health expenditure for survivors, the cost of humanitarian support to displaced people and refugees, loss of household incomes due to death or inability to farm  and loss of jobs and trade or possibilities of investment because of repeated attacks and insecurity. For example according to the IMF foreign investment in Nigeria has fallen by 30% as a direct consequence of terrorism from 2010  whereas Kenya has seen a 25% reduction in tourism this year, a vital revenue earner and source of employment .

UNDP recognise that radicalisation and violent extremism pose a major challenge to development but through our presence in all 54 countries in Africa and our mandate which builds national capacity for development, we can contribute to a range of approaches and mechanisms which undermine the pillars propping up extreme behaviour and strengthen the capacities of institutions, groups and communities to respond to this challenge. What is needed are comprehensive and integrated approaches to deal with all dimensions of the problem and counter the magnetic effect of violent extremism by promoting the UN ideals of tolerance, human rights and respect for rule of law. It is important to help countries provide opportunities particularly to young people, to root out exclusion, injustice and discrimination and those other causes which drive people to violence.

This meeting is critical to help UNDP articulate a range of development solutions to radicalization in Africa using new thinking and approaches. Equipped with your expert advice and recommendations, UNDP will work with our partners including Regional Organisations, Governments and Community Organisations to discuss ways to confront radicalization which address all dimensions of the problem including the needs of women, children and youth. The spirit of collaboration and mutual learning which will underpin our discussions over the next 3 days reflects the need to develop a common understanding to respond to strengthen security, resolve disputes peacefully in ways perceived to be fair, and expand the options and capabilities of young people to improve their lives.

I thank you for your attention and I look forward to a successful workshop.

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