The fight against insurgency in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, received a timely boost from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which now has a Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre (RCTC) in Tanzania.
The centre will coordinate regional counter-terrorism efforts.
Already, insurgents have spread their tentacles into the southern parts of Tanzania, where they are plotting and launching attacks into the oil and gas-rich Cabo Delgado.
A recent report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime recommended that SADC member states should build capacity for sharing intelligence.
Speaking at the launch of the RCTC in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Monday, Botswana’s Minister of Employment, Labour Productivity and Skills Development, Machana Ronald Shamukuni, said the centre should be strong-willed.
“Strong and sustained multilateral cooperation, understanding and analysis are required in order to support the member states in addressing the challenges posed by terrorism, violent extremism and its associated transnational organised crime activities,” he said on behalf of SA’s Naledi Pandor, the chairperson of the ministerial committee.
The setting up of the centre has been in the pipeline since 2015 when it was mooted at the SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Since then, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) has been engaged in dialogue with the SADC over the formalisation of the RCTC, and how it could fit into the broader picture of the UN.
The International Crisis Group (ICG), in its latest report, titled “Winning Peace in Mozambique’s Embattled North”, said for the RCTC to be successful, it needs to coordinate with partners beyond the SADC because Islamic extremism is a continent-wide problem.
“To be maximally effective, it will require input from the member states of the two East African regional blocs, the East African community and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, given the spread of al-Shabab’s networks in that region
“To facilitate all this cooperation, the AU should look to ease communication and cooperation between member states of all these regions. Ideally, it should develop a common assessment of what ISIS is doing on the continent’s eastern side. Armed with this information, authorities will be better able to close the net around those helping al-Shabab from abroad,” ICG said.
The SADC’s executive secretary, Elias Mpedi Magosi, said the RCTC should now move on to have comprehensive legislation and policies, accelerated formulation of national counter-terrorism strategies, plans of action, and the strengthening of NCTCs and Financial Intelligence Units.
He also spoke about the importance of strengthening criminal justice systems through capacity building and training, to effectively detect, prevent, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate terrorism-related offences.