Establishing a network requires years of dedication, trust, and a common purpose. For violent extremist and terrorist organizations another essential element is required: stealth or the ability to not attract attention of the security forces, as its survival depends on it. Terrorist organizations and individuals dedicated to the views and objectives of violent extremism have managed to capitalize on vulnerabilities in both Eastern and Southern Africa to expand its reach. In Somalia, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and more recently the northern part of Mozambique, or countries where the threat of violent extremism and terrorism already manifested, extremists managed to create hotbeds of activities, attracting like-minded individuals from within these regions and beyond to travel to, and participate in the conflict, train, and develop new skills, and build networks. There are also countries, like South Africa used as safe-havens, for its unique set of vulnerabilities, from where acts of terrorism are planned, facilitated, and executed.
This paper, Trans-regionalization of Terrorism in Eastern and Southern Africa, provides a keyhole picture to this network of violent extremism and terrorism in Southern and Eastern Africa and serves as an introduction intended to call on governments and law enforcement institutions to learn how terrorist organizations, capitalizing on vulnerabilities and displaying high adaptability, build networks and expand across borders, threatening peace and security in Southern and Eastern Africa.
With the financial support from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, since 2020, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been implementing a project on supporting the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) and its regional Counter- Terrorism Centre of Excellence (CTCoE). The project benefits fourteen EAPCCO members1 in enhancing national and regional capacities to effectively prevent and counter violent extremism and terrorism, and transnational organized crime.
One of the objectives of the project is to produce evidence-based research and knowledge products, relevant for the law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners in Eastern Africa. The CTCoE developed this paper, a new installment in a series of publications addressing various terrorism- and transnational organized crime-related challenges faced by Eastern Africa,2 with the support from UNODC as part of this objective.