The LRA, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, AQIM, and Other Sources of Instability in Africa

Don Yamamoto
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
April 25, 2012

Thank you very much Madame Chairman and Members of the Committee.  In the face of terrorist threats and insecurity in Africa, military solutions in the first incident, while important in some cases, may prove counterproductive if not implemented and addressed in the context of other measures.  We must therefore consider addressing the wide range of economic, political, and social factors that fuel conflict and insecurity and take a comprehensive, holistic long-term approach. 

The situation in Mali, for instance, represents a microcosm of the complex problems challenging Africa, and the need to address security concerns within a wider context.  There are four distinct yet interrelated crises facing Mali which must be managed separately yet simultaneously.  First, a return to civilian authority and the reaffirmation of democratic institutions will ensure a strong united country able to address other crises; second, a democratic government must reach out and engage and dialogue with the Touareg people of the north addressing their concerns; third, Mali faces a humanitarian crisis of well over 190,000 internally displaced as well as refugees in neighboring a country; and fourth, Mali and its neighbors together have a stake in confronting the challenges posed by AQIM and other splinter groups such as Ansar Al-hadeen. 

These challenges cannot be addressed in isolation but as interrelated issues.  Security is fostered by the establishment of sound leadership, accountability to the people, transparent and democratic processes addressing the needs and aspirations of the population. 

We look to security challenges through a wide lens and that includes five pillars articulated by the president in Ghana in 2009 and those five are strengthening democratic institutions, fostering broad-based sustainable growth, combating disease and improving public health and education, mitigating armed conflict, and helping Africans with transnational threats.  Whether it is AQIM, Al-Shabaab, or Boko Haram, extremist ideology even those masquerading in religious terms are anthical, illegitimate, and repulsive to the vast majority of Africans. 

Extremism is a violent cancer that exploits porous borders, capitalizes on human suffering, and feeds on undemocratic environments.  Our engagement will be difficult but necessary and must be based on several fundamental principles.  First, regional ownership. Leaders must inspire their people and countries must own the process to address the challenges effectively.  Our African partners have consistently said, "African security is Africa's responsibility."  Second - promotion of good governance.  Our security engagement cannot be separated from our long-term goals of good governance, civilian control, security forces, and respect for human rights.  Extremist ideology takes advantage of political and economic vulnerabilities.  They destroy lives and strengthen instability.  Building credible government institutions at all levels and assisting legitimate authorities to respond to the needs of their people are a vital objective.  And th[ird] and final, the development and economic opportunity are crucial for improving the security environment in Africa.  Efforts to address insecurity in Africa are often hampered by poor infrastructure and the inability of national or local authorities to provide adequate services, educational or vocational opportunities.  The road that we face will be long.  It will be hard.  It will be difficult; but through patience, hard work, coordination with our African partners, and promotion of democratic values, human rights, and opportunities will make a significant difference in the lives of Africans and for future generations.

Thank you Madame Chairman.