AfREC Postgrad Fellow Submits PhD Thesis on Counter-terrorism in Africa


A big congratulations to AfREC Postgraduate Fellow and PhD candidate in Political Science and International Relations (School of Social Sciences) Isaac Mensah who submitted his PhD for examination on 2 September 2020.

Mr Mensah’s thesis is entitled Countering Terrorism in Africa: A Critique of the African Union’s Approach and Effectiveness.

“The approach of the African Union (AU), the principal African regional organisation, towards countering terrorism on the continent leaves much to be desired. While a range of formal AU counter-terrorism measures have been adopted and security institutions developed, terrorism remains a critical and growing transnational socio-political challenge to African states and societies. Key deficiencies remain in both adequately conceptualising the problem and in mobilising the right kinds of political will and resources.

Working at the intersection of the conceptual frameworks of Critical Terrorism Studies and New Regionalism Studies, this study addresses the question of how the AU can be made more effective in countering terrorism in Africa. ‘Effective’ here is taken to mean an outcome in which the AU (a) reduces both terrorist attacks and the socio-political drivers of terrorism, (b) protects civilians and advances human security, and (c) takes ownership of the security agenda in Africa.

The qualitative study involves review of key scholarly literature coupled with interpretive analysis of primary sources including public AU documents and research interviews with key African counter-terrorism experts and AU security policy practitioners in Ethiopia and Ghana.

The thesis argues that while the continent-wide AU is in theory the most effective governance scale for countering terrorism in Africa, the organisation’s approaches and practices deserve critique and require reform. The AU defines terrorism narrowly; its approach is insufficiently holistic, overly militaristic and reactive; and, importantly, the AU and African states do not sufficiently control the (global) counter-terrorism agenda in Africa.

The study finds that the scope of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Africa should be broadened and deepened to include state terrorism and to address the socio-politico-economic and historical contexts in which terrorism occurs. It further argues for the development of a comprehensive, adequately resourced and African-led counter-terrorism programme to serve as a common platform for effective African responses.

AfREC would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate former AfREC Postgraduate Fellows Dr Basil Amuzu-Sefordzi and Dr Ahmed Elagali who have now successfully completed their PhDs in 2020 following their thesis submissions in late 2019. In doing so, they become the 3rd and 4th AfREC Postgraduate Fellows to complete their PhDs. All the best for your future careers!!

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