Congress Holds Hearings on Terrorism in Africa

The Perspective

November 20, 2001

As the campaign against terrorism intensifies with the first phase of the war aimed at routing the Taliban and the al-Qaeda Terrorist network from Afghanistan progressing, the second phase is already beginning to take shape. Gradually, the campaign is shifting its focus to countries harboring terrorists, those aiding and abetting terrorists by providing them safe havens or financial means to carry out their plans. Given the global reach of the terrorist network, no region or country appears insulated, but a few have already begun to receive enormous attention.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa held its first public hearing on the role of Africa in the war on global terrorism. Introducing the hearing and outlining its purpose, the Chairman of the Committee, Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), said:

"U.S. policies toward all regions of the world have been forced to adjust to the post-September 11 world. It is clear that in the fight against terrorism, no region can be ignored, especially not Africa. The general weakness of African governments as well as the civil strife, which exists in several countries, makes parts of the continent hospitable grounds for terrorist operations. International terrorist cells are believed to be operating in several African countries. The abundant natural resources of the continent provide a ripe target for unscrupulous exploitation, including by terrorist organizations seeking funds."

Chairman Royce was even more specific in singling out the Taylor regime in Liberia as a cause for concern:

"The subcommittee is particularly concerned by recent reports that al Qaeda has been dealing in diamonds with Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front and Liberia’s President Charles Taylor. It is far overdue that we got serious about Liberia and Charles Taylor."

In addition to Liberia, Mr. Royce cited al-Qaeda links to other countries in Africa.

"Osama bin Laden is no stranger to Africa. He took shelter in Sudan between 1991 and 1996. U.S. authorities have charged him and al Qaeda operatives with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairoba and Dar es Salaam. On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned Sudan and Somalia, among other countries, not to harbor terrorists who may be fleeing Afghanistan. The current global economic slowdown, intensified by the terrorist attacks, will hit Africa hard, further roiling political waters and perhaps contributing to opposition to the U.S. - led anti-terrorist effort. With all these developments, Africa must be placed in the U.S.’ strategic spotlight."

Acknowledging Africa’s critical role in the war on terrorism, and the Bush administration recognition of this, the Chairman Royce noted:

"African governments have been largely supportive of the U.S.-led coalition against global terrorism. The comments of former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa deserve to be highlighted. On Tuesday, this statesman said, ‘There was no other alternative for the United States but to go into Afghanistan in order to apprehend Bin Laden and his terrorist group. In that regard I support the United States without any reservation.

"The Bush administration has recognized Africa’s centrality to the war on terrorism. National Security Advisor Rice, while speaking on October 30 to over 100 African ministers gathered in Washington for the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum, said ‘Africa’s history and geography give it a pivotal role in the war [on terrorism].’ Nevertheless some Africans have expressed concerns that U.S. attention and resources devoted to Africa will be shorted in favor of the Middle East and South Asia. This should not be the case under any circumstances. Africa is critical to our war on terrorism." • e-mail:

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