Mmegi Blogs :: The threat of terrorism in Africa
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Last Updated
Tuesday 14 August 2018, 13:54 pm.
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The threat of terrorism in Africa

Some few weeks ago a dark cloud engulfed the Horn of Africa when a car bomb exploded in a crowded area in Somali capital, Mogadishu, where more than 400 people lost their lives and hundreds of others were severely injured.
By Solly Rakgomo Thu 26 Oct 2017, 15:37 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: The threat of terrorism in Africa








This was the deadliest attack Somalia has suffered at the hands of terror organisations in many years. Even though Al shabaab have not yet claimed responsibility for the attack, many fingers are pointing towards the group as it has always been a thorn in the political flesh of the fragile Somali central authority that is mainly based in Mogadishu.

The threat of terrorism in Africa since 9/11 attacks in the USA followed by subsequent wars of regime change in countries like Afghanistan (2001), Iraq ( 2003), Libya (2011) launched by the USA and its Western allies has skyrocketed high. Terrorist groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and the Sahel, Al shabaab and a plethora of related groups have fully entrenched themselves in Africa. In actual fact in the month of October alone  security analyst Mariene Maloy states that there have been more than eighty five terror attacks worldwide with 17 of them carried out in Africa resulting in the death of more than 600 people. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation Research Report (2017) gives some shocking findings that since 2007, terrorism in Africa has increased by a whopping 1000%.

There are some distinct features that defines the nature of these terror groups. First is their operational methodology which is mainly characterised by weaponisation of fear. Through the targeting on civilian noncombatants, terror groups hope to use fear to achieve their objectives. They intentionally target public places so that even if they don’t kill and injure a lot of people, most people will see it and be affected in many ways. Through this fear they usually believe that their enemy will accede to their multiple demands. Besides bombing this fear is manifested in many other ways like assassinations, massacres, arson, kidnappings, hijackings, sieges, etc. The other feature is their knack to use propaganda, source funds, train and plan their deadly activities. Information and Communication Technology  (through  the use of internet) enable them to share their deadly aims, beliefs through creation of websites, posting videos especially on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. They normally recruit people via online and provide some training manuals for making improvised explosive devices. 

Through  these methods notorious groups like Boko Haram which operates in Nigeria and neighbouring countries has claimed more than 20,000 lives, displaced more than two million people, created 75 million orphans and destabilised neighbouring Cameroun, Niger and Chad.

One might ask what interventions do the African leadership provide to curb the scourge of terrorism in the continent. In the aftermath of Al Qaeda’s deadly bombings in both Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the Organisation of African Unity at

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the Convention on the Prevention and Combating Terrorism in Algiers (1999) laid a solid framework to deal with the scourge of terrorism which encouraged cooperation among state members.

In 2002, following the 9/11 attacks, the AU members signed a Plan of Action on Prevention and Combating Terrorism. Furthermore, in 2004, the AU came up with a Protocol to address the major weaknesses of the Algiers Convention. This protocol recognised the linkages between terrorism and mercenarism, weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, corruption, transnational crimes, money laundering and illicit proliferation of arms.

The main problem is that despite all the signings of these protocols by AU leaders, no tangible breakthrough is visible on the ground as thousands of people continue to be victims of terror groups. For example, the 2004 protocol was only operationalised ten years later as at least a minimum of 15 member states needed to ratify. Surprisingly countries like Nigeria, Somalia and Chad which tops in  the  terrorism prone list are reluctant to ratify as they are suspected to be uncomfortable with the protocol’s demand for eliminating corruption related bad governance. The other challenge that makes it difficult for Africa to successfully fight terrorism is the worrying fact that many African leaders usually adopt the rhetoric and tactics espoused by the west in its “war on terror”.

This is partly due to Africa’s over reliance on Western financial assistance to fight terrorism. One notable example was in Somalia. Following the civil war that created anarchy in the aftermath of the overthrow of Somali dictator Siad Biare, the United Islamic Court Group defeated the warlords and established a semblance of peace in Mogadishu.

However, as the US viewed United Islamic Courts (UIC) as a terrorist group, Ethiopia was given a leeway to invade the UIC and what resulted from that conflict was the birth of Al Shabaab which has become more deadly than the time it was founded. 

Furthermore, US emphasis on military and security led responses, which had been adopted by regional governments in Africa means that African Union efforts in places such as Somalia have been directed towards containing and suppressing terror groups like Al Shabaab instead of creating stable, inclusive and peaceful Somalia.

Lastly Africa’s terrorist groups are often linked with international groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda is true but often over exaggerated. This then creates a focus on the international rather than local roots of the problem. In this case African leaders miss opportunities to improve the situation and in most times avoiding the responsibilities to do so. This shocking reality shows that Africa still has a long way in eliminating terrorism.

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