The problem of terrorism in Africa has become a focal point of attention for the international community as the terrorists seek to find safe refuge there. Afghanistan and West Asia’s situation remains turbulent due to insurgency, which also has a ripple effect on the African continent.
Factors contributing to the rise of terrorism in Africa: There are 446 million Muslims in Africa out of its total population of 1.2 billion. The Muslim population in Africa constitutes 27 percent of the total global Muslim population. The developments in West Asia have an inseparable connection with Africa. In fact, one of the most dreaded terrorists Osma Bin Laden took refuge in Sudan after being expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991. The August 7 bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 exposed the vulnerability of the African continent to terror outfits like Al Qaeda. In this terrorist act, 224 people were killed and 4500 wounded. As Osama Bin Laden became America’s most wanted man, he was expelled from Sudan in 1998. Later he took refuge with the Taliban in Afghanistan to recommence his nefarious terrorism activities.
The Sufi tradition in Africa has been very widespread but it has been replaced by the Salafi interpretation of Islam due to financial support from Saudi Arabia to build hundreds of mosques in different parts of Africa. Also, poor governance and the economy along with rampant poverty and unemployment have significantly contributed to the rise of terrorism in Africa.
Terrorism remains widespread in Africa: The three worst-affected regions in Africa by terrorism are Somalia, a major coastal state of northeast Africa, the Sahel region, and the Lake Chad region. In Somalia, the Al Shabab has been trying to capture power by unleashing violence. The situation in Africa has direct repercussions on countries like Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as Mozambique. The Sahel region comprising of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso is also very badly affected by terrorism. In the Lake Chad region, the countries especially Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger remain under the grip of terror outfits.
Various terror outfits are operating in Africa. The terror outfits like Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIB), and Ansar Dine owe their allegiance to Al Qaeda. The Islamic State of Somalia (ISS) is connected to IS and Mozambique has also witnessed the escalating threat from the IS. The Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), a breakaway group from Boko Haram has been able to make a dent in the Lake Chad region. Another insurgency-hit country Mali has been witnessing the growth of Ansar Dine. At the same time, Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) has been flourishing in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso since 2016. Political instability in Libya has only added to the rise of terror in the Sahel region. The situation becomes even more complex as these terror outfits are divided along ethnic, religious, and regional lines. Also, there is a rivalry between terror outfits like Al Qaeda and IS and their affiliates.
The effect of terrorism: The terror outfits such as Boko Haram thrive on kidnapping and ransom. More than 30,000 people have died in the last decade because of its activities. Besides, 3 million people have been displaced. In the Lake Chad region, 2.6 million people have been displaced due to Boko Haram. Similarly for terror outfits like Al Shabab piracy, kidnapping, and extortion of local businessmen, farmers, and aid groups is the major source of income generation.
As the terror outfits lose their ground in West Asia they are now focussing on Africa. Their fundamentalist views and anti-West stance have enabled them to gain much ground in Africa. So far the counter-terror strategies of the UN and other major powers such as the UK, France, and the US have been ineffective in controlling terrorism in the region.