Islamic fundamentalism is not JUST any other African problem!

20 May

So the past month has been awash with comments on the abducted 276 Nigerian Chibok girls and the ever increasing terrorist attacks in Kenya. These attacks have been carried out by two notorious groups connected to the Al Qaeda: the Al Shabbab outfit based in Somalia and the Boko Haram based in Northern Nigeria. The attacks and abductions have been merciless and vile to say the least. Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Goodluck Jonathan have been criticized left right and center by citizens and other observers who argue that they can do more to end these attacks and improve security in Kenya and Nigeria. President Jonathan was further criticized in the media for attending the security Summit called for by Francois Hollande in France instead of visiting Chibok. While the two Presidents can be found wanting in other areas, I contend that these two Presidents are hamstrung and the best they can do for now is align more with the West to get assistance in the form of weapons, intelligence and finances to fend off these groups.

The visit by Goodluck Jonathan to France to meet with the EU countries and the neighboring African Presidents was necessary. It is a clear fact that these African countries do not have the necessary human resources to collect vital intelligence to fend off these Islamist groups. By visiting the Northern city of Chibok, the President of Nigeria would have just paid a solidarity which would not have achieved much except to raise the villagers’ expectations for nothing.

America, UK and France including the rest of the EU have significant knowledge of the operations of these Islamist groups from years of sophisticated intelligence gathering. The West also has the financial and military resources to alleviate this crisis that seems to be slowly engulfing Africa. It will not pay for any African to continue clamoring for African solutions to African problems in this instance – Islamist fundamentalism is not an African problem per se. What is happening in Kenya and Nigeria is a mere shifting of battlefields from the West to Africa by the Islamic militants.

A clear mapping exercise will reveal that most of the attacks that have occurred in Kenya and Nigeria started as targeting European, American and Jewish interests in Africa. Talk about the 2013 Westgate attack in Nairobi, talk about the 2011 UN suicide bombings in Nigeria and many more. That these groups are now attacking local citizens such as the poor girls in Chibok and Kenyans on public transport and vegetable markets in Nairobi are just sick diversionary tactics. Their main goal is to score major victories on the UN compound and the US Embassy in Nairobi. What they are looking for is a score like they made in Libya when they killed the US Ambassador Chris Stevens. In Nigeria clearly they want to instill fear in the government by invoking religious feuds so that they can have their way in the economic and political structures of the country. Al Shabbab would definitely want to rile Kenyan citizens and push for the withdrawal of the KDF from Somalia. This is unrealistic and has to be opposed with all might by the African Union and the UN.

Enter the West’s hypocrisy

Due to the might of their intelligence gathering mechanisms the West has managed to bolster security measures in their own backyards and their interests in Nigeria and Kenya. Recently travel bans were issued in Kenya and even evacuations back to the UK and America for citizens on holiday from Kenya. While there is nothing wrong in the West protecting its citizens, one can also understand the frustrations of the Kenyan and Nigerian governments that the West is now playing into the hands of the Islamist groups and also fuelling the platforms for these groups to continue with their terror activities. For instance, when the American, British or Israeli intelligence officers acquire credible information, do they share it with the Kenyan government to apprehend the suspects? The West has been found wanting in this instance because just in the same week the Chinese Premier was in Nairobi, threats for the attacks spiralled to unprecedented levels in Kenya. Of course everyone knows that the Chinese are bringing loads of investments into East and West Africa and the West is lagging behind. Al Shabbab and Boko Haram are fully aware of these dynamics and they want to sow seeds of fear and uncertainty in the countries. The West therefore cannot condone this by sitting on information and not assisting the two governments on the basis that they want to appease their egos over their geo political and economic fights with China.

So what should Africa do?

The arguments raised by Goodluck Jonathan that he could not visit Chibok because of security fears were justified. Some years ago, I saw live on TV Al Qaeda militants attacking Hamid Karzai whilst he addressed a rally. What will stop these Boko Haram militias from doing so in Nigeria? All the same, the situation raises questions on what the Nigerian government is doing enough to secure such vulnerable areas as Chibok – citizens who vote and pay taxes live there daily and they need protection. To argue that government officials will not go there because of insecurity will not hold water forever.

More importantly, the two governments of Kenya and Nigeria need to review their government systems. Corrupt Kenyan Immigration officers allegedly continue selling travel documents to many Somali young people linked to Al Shabbab. Nigerian borders are so porous that terrorists find it so easy to move between Chad, Benin and Cameroon. The police and military services need to be strengthened and more collaboration established between the different African countries.

The African solution to some of these problems will NOT come from the Kenyan government attacking each and every Somali national they bump into in Mombasa and Nairobi. In the same manner extrajudicial shootings of suspected Boko Haram suspects will not end the attacks in Nigeria. What are needed are more robust intelligence gathering mechanisms by the two countries working in tandem with the Western countries. The Kenyan and Nigerian nationals especially religious and community elders who live amongst some of these rogue elements in Al Shabbab and Boko Haram need to play an active role.  They also need to help the authorities and not continue to be quiet while the two countries burn from economic stagnation, stigmatization and more deaths and misery.

In the end one will find that although not appealing and looking strategic in the eyes of the African, President Goodluck Jonathan needed to go to France and consult with his fellow African statesmen just to get things moving. There is no point asking 3 or 4 besieged and clueless African Presidents to meet in Africa to find African solutions to a perceived African problem when we know clearly that the problem is not African per se. The African countries whether by omission or commission do not have the financial wherewithal and the necessary intelligence gathering technics to tackle such problems.and the Western countries need to know that no amount of travel bans to African countries will end terrorism. They must not mix up their long held battles with China and Kenya and lump them up with the terrorism problems Africa is facing.

After all is said and done, Goodluck Jonathan went to France and came back with threats to annihilate Boko Haram from the face of the earth. How about a report back to ECOWAS or to your African brothers in Addis Ababba, Mr Goodluck on this unAfrican problem?

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2 Responses to “Islamic fundamentalism is not JUST any other African problem!”

  1. noncie May 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Interesting.

    Like

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  1. Islamic fundamentalism is not JUST any other African problem! | tchabvuta - May 20, 2014

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