Dakar, Asharq Al-Awsat—Senegalese President Macky Sall has warned that Africa is facing a mounting terrorism crisis, particularly citing the threat of militant group Boko Haram, saying that the continent is in the “heart of the storm.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from the Senegalese capital Dakar, Sall said: “For years, Africa has unfortunately been confronting the challenge of terrorism which is threatening the course of development in the continent. This is a global threat that includes Europe, Asia and America, and which has now reached Africa.”
He added: “We have no choice but to confront this threat, but ultimately stability and development will win out. We are now in the heart of the storm and we must confront these challenges and organize our response in terms of solidarity and resource-sharing. Therefore the biggest challenge is the battle for development. Our mission is to be at the service of the people and to provide them with the necessary resources for development.”
Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram has been expanding its operations across Africa in recent months, with international media reporting on Thursday that the group, which originates from Nigeria, has been abducting boys from neighboring Cameroon. Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from Nigeria’s western Chibok region earlier this year, prompting an international outcry with the US and UK sending experts to help in the search.
Sall told Asharq Al-Awsat that Dakar is seeking broader counterterrorism measures across Africa, and particularly with Nigeria, and said he had spoken with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan about the prospect of closer cooperation between the two countries.
“Yes, we are always discussing this,” he said. “Primarily . . . [during] the Economic Community of Western African States. We held an emergency meeting in Ghana to discuss the situation in northern Nigeria and northern Mali. These are two hot issues that all countries are working on, including our international partners.”
Sall played down African criticism of French intervention in the continent, describing this as “positive.”
“It was fortunate that France intervened in Mali,” he said. “If they had not intervened, Mali would have disappeared and been completely hijacked by the terrorists. As for the Central African Republic, if France had not intervened there would have been genocide.”
France mounted Operation Serval in January 2013 to confront jihadists in northern Mali, deploying around 5,000 international troops to confront fighters from the militant groups Ansar Al-Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. France also led a military intervention in the Central African Republic in late 2013 to seek an end to the ongoing civil war there.
“These interventions must be viewed positively, without drumming public sentiment against them,” he added.
“The international community must keep pace with what is happening in Africa. This is because terrorist organizations have many means of achieving their objectives and countries are not always equipped to deal with this. We need international and African solidarity during this difficult period.”