African governments still face pressing need to enact counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency measures to protect their homelands.
Leaders attending the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union agreed they have made some progress in dismantling terrorist networks, but the war is far from over.
Kenya is one of the countries that has been hit hard by terrorist group Al-Shabaab, with many people killed.
During the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) meeting, President Uhuru Kenyatta highlighted the major shift in how his administration deals with counter-terrorism.
Key among them is the establishment of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre, which is the focal point for the coordination of processes managing returnees in the country.
“Other measures include rehabilitation programmes and initiatives that enhance de-radicalisation processes through amnesty for all returnees from Somalia who wish to abandon criminal affiliations to rejoin the society,” the Head of State told the council meeting.
The President said African countries should step up their support to the continental Peace and Security Council to ensure continuous progress in countering terrorism and violent extremism.
The continent, he added, must stand ready to provide the required backing, be it administrative, military or financial, to enable the council to carry out its mandate effectively.
Kenya Defence Forces are part of the AU mission forces in Somalia (Amisom) who have started exiting the country.
But President Kenyatta said the “unfortunate timing” of the troop withdrawal is still a major challenge as there is no prospect of Somali forces taking effective charge of national security any time soon.
Already, the first batch of 1,000 troops under Amisom have left Mogadishu but the country still faces challenges in transitioning from the multinational force to the local one.
The new Somali Government has been ensuring its national security forces are trained to protect the country as another 1,000 troops get ready to leave next year.
Said President Kenyatta: “Indeed, I would like to call on the UN and the AU to ensure practical and realistic Amisom exit timelines that should be subjected to regular reviews.”
But more focus, he noted, should be made on returnees, especially those in Africa.
“On return to Africa, those foreign fighters then link up with other extremist armed groups across our continent, which have affiliation to either Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State,” President Kenyatta said.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, AU PSC chairman, who is also Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki called for a comprehensive approach to combat terrorism in Africa.
President El-Sisi said a comprehensive approach to curb terrorism remained a priority for Africa if the scourge was to be eliminated.
Mr Guterres welcomed the African leaders’ efforts to fight terrorism, expressing the need to build cooperation between AU and UN to ensure a sustained and coordinated approach to combat the vice.