August 8, 2014
Pham on Outcomes of the Africa Summit
“The key thing is to ask in counterterrorism — this may sound rather trite, but it’s true — first, is there a real terrorist threat, of what we would define as terrorism, and second, what does the partner define as terrorism,” said J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center of the Atlantic Council. Pham, who formerly served as a member of the senior advisory board of AFRICOM, noted several instances in which the U.S. has trained anti-terrorism units that then have been used to repress people within the country, because some African partners view terrorism as “those who are opposed to the regime” or “people who had ethnic and other issues with the government.”
“In Nigeria,” he said, “Boko Haram is clearly a terrorist threat, but, not everyone who opposes the Goodluck Jonathan regime is an Islamist terrorist with links to al-Qaeda affiliates, either. We have to define terrorism and not let terrorism be defined for us.”
Pham said that much of the U.S. Africa policy has been reactive. “But, in order to be sustainable in the long-term … the only way you can guarantee success is if our partners have skin in the game.”
“Because the message in the summit is that Africa — yes, there are still problems on the humanitarian level, on the conflict and violence level, on the development level, but it’s an emerging continent with a lot of potential and a lot of resources,” he said. “Africa by and large can increasingly carry its own weight.