At the AU summit, Buhari supports the establishment of an African counter-terrorism stand-by force

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* Accuses leaders of using political will to advance security
Deji Elumoye in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has endorsed the African Union Commission’s recommendation to establish a counter-terrorism stand-by force on the continent.

Just as he urged African leaders to muster the political will that would foster synergies, improve intelligence gathering and add urgency to fighting violent crime.

President Buhari also called on Africa’s political leaders to respect the right of citizens to make their choice in elections, saying that the right to vote and determine who leads them should not be taken lightly.

Speaking yesterday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, during the 16th Extraordinary Session of the African Union Assembly on Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa of the African Union, the President said resources destined for countries’ development are being invested in the fight against it driven by violent crime, leaving many governments with fewer opportunities to invest in people to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Presenting a report on terrorism and violent extremism in Africa at the meeting, President Buhari highlighted four points of recommendation for immediate action.

He said: “In the West African region, we are working very hard to fight terrorism through ECOWAS. The Multi National Joint Task Force in the Lake Chad region and the G5 in the Sahel have further demoted the insurgents, significantly reducing their ability to harm our citizens.
“Mr. Mr. Chairman, however, these efforts must be reinforced and complemented by the African Union through the African Union Peace and Security Architecture.

“For this reason, Mr. Chairman, we support the main recommendations of your report. Recommendations that we believe should be implemented immediately include:
“Increasing troop levels in counter-terrorism situations and improving the intelligence capabilities of deployed troops, including enhancing operational co-operation among contingents in theaters of operations;
“Ensuring the readiness of the African Standby Force to intervene immediately when a Member State faces a terrorist threat;

“Step up the fight against cybercrime, money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, people smuggling and counterfeit goods that facilitate terrorist financing; and

“Ensure that specialized institutions such as the African Center for Terrorism Studies and Research and AFRIPOL are adequately resourced to effectively carry out their mandates.”
In confirming the terrorism report, the President underscored the need for political will to forge a “coordinated continental approach to countering insecurity.”

“For this reason we commend the Chair of the Commission for his comprehensive report on terrorism and violent extremism in Africa. The report is very enriching, resonates and it is up to us as the African Union assembly to show the political will and forge a coordinated continental approach to addressing insecurity as we need to anchor peace and stability on our continent,” he added .

In his opinion, the recommendations, if implemented, will go a long way in increasing the ability of affected states to respond to terrorist and violent extremist threats in their respective countries.
He said: “Your Excellencies, this summit offers us as continent’s leaders another opportunity to rub our heads and make far-reaching decisions to address the challenges of terrorism and violent extremism on our continent.

“The activities of these sinister groups have not only resulted in the loss of precious lives and property.
“They have taken a drastic toll on our economies as well. Governments’ ability to address infrastructure needs and other development challenges in line with our Sustainable Development Goals is severely limited.

“Resources earmarked for development programs will be channeled to combat terrorists and violent extremists currently plaguing our continent.”

Earlier, the Chair of the African Union Commission, HE Moussa Faki Mahamat, presented the Commission’s reports on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism and on unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.

The report looked at persistent threats, assessed current response mechanisms, and decided on the specific actions and measures needed to strengthen the collective security of member states exposed to terrorism and violent extremism.
The report also recommended actionable measures needed to contain the continent’s recovery.

Buhari urges African presidents to respect citizens’ right to elect their leaders

In a related development, President Buhari, in a bilateral meeting with the President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, called on African political leaders to respect the right of citizens to make their choice in elections, stating that the right to vote and to determining who is leading them, not doing so should be treated lightly.

He said in order to strengthen the continent’s democratic fabric and ensure the elections run smoothly, “We need to convince people that we respect them, by allowing them to vote whoever they want.”
The President acknowledged that the road to democracy in African countries had not been easy and recalled that he had been to the Supreme Court three times before becoming President.

“I had to openly disinfect the minds of our colleagues. We’re a developing country, that shouldn’t demoralize us.

“We have to go through these processes. We have to trust that these institutions are doing the right thing. Present the evidence. Do not give up. Keep pressing,” Buhari explained.
He explained that the value of one’s case, not religion, ethnicity, or section, would determine success in political endeavors. He explained that his meritorious cases were thrown out in court by judges who came from more or less the same sentimental backgrounds as he did.

“Well, I say strive for merit. Don’t focus on ethnicity or other divisive factors,” the president said.
Commenting on the relationship between Nigeria and Malawi and that of the southern African sub-region in general, President Buhari said his predecessors, particularly the late General Murtala Muhammed, set out the continental rule of engagement and placed the countries of southern Africa on Nigeria’s list of priorities.

He said: “We are very aware of the problems facing South African countries, more than most.
“Murtala effectively left the country to General Olusegun Obasanjo and confronted the problems of apartheid in Europe and America. He was very energetic and patriotic. We will continue on this path,” Buhari added.
President Buhari said he very much appreciated his meeting with President Chakwera and assured that he would pay attention to the issues raised at the meeting.

The foreign ministers of the two countries were instructed to take the matter forward.
In his remarks, President Chekwara described President Buhari as a statesman and a role model. He added that his country is ready to learn from Nigeria’s experiences in agriculture, infrastructure development and dealing with security and violent extremism, which he said were creeping into the South African sub-region.

While the two countries are together under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, he said his country would like to see a speedy trade relationship with Nigeria.

President Chekwara asked for a meeting of technical experts to be held to discuss trade pacts, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and agreements.
He said: “There is no way we are going to be without a relationship with Africa’s largest economy. Our older brother should hold our hands and we go together.”

The President of São Tomé Carlos Vila Novo and his wife also met President Buhari and the First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari.
The President of Sao Tome was assured that Nigeria would continue to play a brotherly role in sister African affairs.

President Buhari also received the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who thanked him for accepting the invitation to the Extraordinary African Union Summit in his country.

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