May 10, 2016

Senator Corker Opening Statement at Hearing on "Terrorism and Instability in Sub-Saharan Africa"

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Hearing: Terrorism and Instability in Sub-Saharan Africa

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Chairman
Opening Statement

As much of the world concentrates on the ISIS threat and instability in the Middle East, the committee takes this opportunity to consider efforts by the United States and other partners to counter extremism in the sub-Saharan Africa area.

Long-term development has been the norm across much of Africa, including here in our committee with the recent signing of the Power Africa legislation - which we’re all very proud of and appreciate the way the administration has led on that effort also - that we hope will help bring investment to a key sector for economic growth and opportunity.

Whereas in the Middle East we have been reacting to abhorrent state and terrorist violence and the uprooting of millions of people, in Africa we have had the opportunity of years of influence through diplomacy, development and partnerships, to improve outcomes.

However, violent extremism is not a new phenomenon in Africa. 

Three sub-regions have exploded with terrorist elements, some decades old: Al Shabaab and its predecessors have long troubled Somalia and its neighbors in East Africa, including attacks on American embassies in 1998; Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have evolved since 9/11 into a vicious regional threat across the Sahel and beyond, and they have fought the Algerian government since 1991; Boko Haram, which has declared allegiance to ISIS, will stop at nothing to carry out its grotesque attacks against civilians and communities across Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin.

All three of these conflicts have drawn international intervention and resources because the terrorist elements involved are seen as aspiring to the kind of international terrorism perpetrated by Al Qaeda and ISIS. And some are beginning to show increased sophistication in attacks.

Beyond these three conflicts and terrorist-ridden regions are several complex crises that breed on instability brought on by many factors, the most egregious of which appears to be the complete lack of government responsibility for its citizens, through corruption and greed, rather than any lack of resources.

This includes, most recently, South Sudan and Central African Republic and of course the decades long atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo; all three of which have cost billions of dollars to mitigate through massive peacekeeping operations.

While the world seeks ways to address the direct threat of emergent terrorist groups, in a reaction mode, we have had a chance, and still do, to improve the prospects for many countries in Africa by leveraging long-term relationships and development.

I am also concerned that there are efforts to gain traction in destabilizing other countries we consider relatively stable now. 

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today the lessons they have drawn from their direct engagement in these regions. And I hope to understand what the underlying factors are that contribute to the terrorist threat in the region and what U.S. efforts have been made to build a better response across the whole of government and with partners in the international community.