AFRICA : NEW TERROR BATTLEGROUND AFTER MIDDLE EAST
IS AFRICA NEW TERROR BATTLEGROUND AFTER MIDDLE EAST
Africa gradually moving to become a terror-stricken continent after terror outfits loosen their grip on middle-east. Though this is something that wouldn’t surprise the world, as terror groups have been operating on the second largest continent of the world since 1990s. The world’s most unforgettable man Osama bin laden has once operated from south Sudan. He planned an attack to eliminate then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Then in 1998, the same terror outfit blew up European embassies situated in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar-e-salaam.
Africa is a poverty-stricken continent, though has ample natural resources which has been alluring terrorists in the present era like never before. In recent years it has been noted that these terror-fit organizations have moved their bases from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan to the east and West Africa. Even al-Qaeda is reported to move its base back from Afghanistan to Africa. The situation in present Africa is complex because they aren’t just meddling with each other, here they are attacking Africa’s not-so-strong governments, killing and kidnapping African citizens thereby meaning spreading terror, radicalization and poverty in the continent.
In the past few years, there has been a dreadful attack in various parts of Africa including Congo, Somalia, Mali, Sudan, Chad, and Nigeria. Nigeria is the most populous country of Africa and one of the continent leading’s economic powers. North of the country is laden with poverty and since the early 2000s has been blighted by violent rebellion waged by terror-outfit Boko Haram. In 2010, Islamic State’s West Africa Province , more commonly referred to Boko Haram was formed , notoriously known for savagery across Africa. This outfit promotes extremism and goes by the motto westernization is sinful, it makes forbidden for Muslims to engage in any activity associated with the western way of life, like, voting in elections, wearing western clothes, and above all receiving secular education. Boko Haram strongly opposes Westernization of Nigerian society. The governments of Nigeria have failed to quell the insurgency.
In 2018 this organization kidnapped around 110 girls from the north-east state, the fate of many girls still remains unknown to this date. Again in 2020, this organization carried out mass-scale abduction of schoolboys from the state of Katsina. They abducted three hundred school kids in broad daylight on 16th December 2020. This is the world’s biggest mass kidnapping but majority of the world’s population may not have heard about it or read it in newspapers as it hasn’t made it to the front page. There is hardly any international dialogue on such a pressing issue as most media has buried the story. Had it happened in any part of the world, it would have triggered a global crisis, it would have secured urgent attention of the world. But sadly in Nigeria, the government is dragging its feet and world leaders are looking another way. This is something which is not new to Nigeria, 7 years back in 2014, 276 Christian females were kidnapped by this terror-fit organisation and there is still no information about few of those abducted girls. This abduction garnered international outrage; still many are missing while survivors are attempting to rebuild their lives. The Nigerian government as usual once again been caught off guard. The government has failed to control them and now it is been forced to negotiate on their terms. This organization took more than 57000 lives in the past decade, has displaced more than half a million people. All these abductions have been carried out by same organization Boko Haram, a name which literally means western education is prohibited but why the usage of western weapons to conduct brutality is not forbidden, this is one of the most pertinent questions left for such organisations to answer.
A week later three-hundred forty four kids were released by the outfit. As Nigerians celebrate their release they are many underlying concerns that needs to be addressed. The terms on which Mohammad Buhari’s government secured the release is still unknown, did they pay the ransom or something else. There is also another pertinent question left to answer that what if the terror-outfit had brainwashed the kids to wage war against the government. As seen in previous cases of abductions done by the same organization, kids after coming back were convinced that western education is sinful. Boko Haram may have released the boys for now but its fight against westernization is far from over. There is as such no guarantee that such kidnappings of young students wouldn’t happen in the future.
This deadly terror organization is not just posing threat to Nigeria but to the whole world. But the world is paying scant attention to this crisis. School is considered to be a second home for a child and the safest place for a child after home, but in Nigeria, going to school means risking their lives. Kids are being terrorized for going to school. The students were attending classes when terrorists stormed the premises. When students heard the shots they jumped out of the windows to escape, some were successful many were not. Some of the abductors were even younger than the teen-age boys they kidnapped.
Nigeria’s security forces have launched an operation but they were quite inefficient in handling the situation. Such an incident itself is horrific but what is portends is even more dreadful, these extremist groups are expanding going beyond their traditional stronghold in north-east Nigeria. They have already terrorized that part of the country, now they are augmenting their reach. Mass scale abductions, parents left in agony and tear- this is not manufactured victimhood. Had it happened in any developed so-called modern country, the response would have been much different, the world would have been burning in fire, and there would have been international pressure on the leader of the concerned country to act. But none of this is happening in Nigeria, there is hardly any international outrage or call to action. The world seems to be busy with other things, there have been few sympathetic statements, few tweets on how saddening the situation is, few articles and that’s it. The international community could not have been bothered less. Nigerian government seems to be missing in action. This is not an isolated incident, there have been numerous cases of mass-scale abductions in Nigeria but the government has clearly failed to quell the insurgency.
Africa is gradually becoming a terror battleground which would have horrid consequences on the continent. Being a terror battleground means dealing with more and more terror attacks. The second consequence of this is radicalization, all these terror groups are constantly looking for youth to be recruited in extremist groups. They kidnap young people who have lost faith in government so that they could brainwash them and train them to be part of the terror-group. This is the prime reason why Africa becomes an ideal hunting ground. Africa has already too much on its plate be it corruption, poverty, unemployment and now the terror is adding up. It is a continent laden with poverty with one in every three Africans living below the global poverty line. Youth constitute around 60% of unemployed in Africa’s populace. This vulnerable youth is exploited and radicalized by these terror groups. The third consequence of Africa being a terror battleground is economic suffering. Being a terror-stricken continent it would greatly hit at the tourism industry, a perfect example of it could be Afghanistan and Syria. Every year less than twenty-thousand tourists visit Afghanistan In 2011 before the start of the civil war and al-Qaeda terror attacks, the average number of tourists to Syria was nine million which dropped to almost less than 10% of this number after terror attacks. Sadly it would take another decade for Syria to achieve the same number. This may be the near future of Africa too if not urgently addressed by world leaders. The terror groups specifically target foreigners, few are executed and others are released for ransom which is about more than two million dollars as per U.N report. No companies around the world would be keen to do business with terror-stricken continent. This continent also stands to lose on development, the only question which is left to answer that are African government well equipped to fight terror and everything which comes with it? Sadly the answer is no, it already has more than enough on its plate, poverty , poor governance, human rights issues and terrorism may be the proverbial last stroke which invariably means the entry of foreign forces. Many united nation peacekeeping forces are already in place in Africa but augmented militarisation would certainly mean increased restrictions for people. Afghanistan and Syria may present a perfect example that this path may not necessarily have a happy ending. All of this heading to a vicious and sadistic cycle –the spread of terror, then added militarisation, then human rights issues then the evil of radicalization and then once again back to terror. This is not the crisis that could be kept on the back-burner and dealt with when convenient. Africa and other world leaders and organizations are required to make a collaborative effort to tackle the problem of terror and avoid such a horrific fate on the continent.