On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, the Wilson Center Africa Program co-hosted a private roundtable discussion on, “Countering Violent Extremism in Africa: Successes and Failures,” with the Defense Attachés Association and the African Defense Attachés Association. Rear Admiral Bill Truelove, the Dean of the Defense Attachés Association, offered welcome remarks, followed by an introduction by Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Director of the Wilson Center Africa Program. The roundtable was attended by 32 members of the Defense Attachés Association.
The discussion centered on the evolving nature, scale, and scope of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa; a review of the efficacy of current approaches to countering violent extremism (CVE), including the role of international partners with a particular focus on U.S. engagement with Africa; and, an overview of key successes, lessons learned, and recommendations for more effective CVE in Africa.
Speakers also addressed trends in CVE efforts and activities, including changes in threats and responses on the country, regional, and international levels. In general, the threats posed have become more diffuse and complex, including the splintering of many violent extremist groups, alignment with global terrorist groups, and the spread of their activities to new grounds.
Although Africa has been a world leader in coordinating military operations to address violent extremism, and there has been progress toward recognizing that preventative action is necessary to address the evolving threats, there is room for improvement and building off of current approaches. Key recommendations include more holistic approaches that involve the three Ds: Diplomacy, Defense, and Development; cultivation of more African ownership of CVE efforts; better preparation of uniformed personnel for CVE involvement, not just counterterrorism; continued collaboration with external partners; more flexibility in the design CVE programs so that they are better able to counter the fluid and dynamic nature of violent extremism threats; more efforts to address grievances stemming from poor governance, corruption, and abuses of the rule of law; fostering more regional cooperation; ensuring the inclusion of women and youth in CVE; and, funneling resources towards non-military approaches, such as development, trade, and education.
Overall, this was a forward-leaning, timely discussion of a topic of great importance to Africa and to the wider global community.
This event was held under Chatham House non-attribution rules.