The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) yesterday warned that the partnership and concerted efforts by al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Somalia’s al Shabab group and Nigeria’s Boko Haram presented a clear and present danger to the African continent.
“The effective collaboration between the three terror groups has created a dangerous network of terrorist organisations from the western to the eastern tip of the continent,” Hallelujah Lulie, ISS researcher in conflict prevention and risk analysis, said this week from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
“This ‘al-Qaeda-sation’ of Africa and proliferation of terrorism networks creates a significant security threat to countries in the region and the continent as a whole,” Lulie said.
“The rising threat of terrorism and its expansion on the continent at the moment affects West Africa and the Sahel the most. Significantly, the proliferation of terrorist groups caries the serious risk of attracting international intervention as fighters from various parts of the globe are drawn to them.”
The West has lately shifted its war on terrorism on the Sahel, where al-Qaeda-inspired groups such as Mujao and Ansar-Dine occupied vast swaths of land in northern Mali and imposed Sharia Law, and destroyed historic shrines and libraries.
As the African Union twisted and turned and not knowing what to do – as in the case of most African conflicts – France took the lead and launched fierce military operations in association with the depleted Malian army to dislodge Islamist fighters from Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.
But the war is still going on in the mountains of Kidal near the border with Algeria, and five French soldiers have already lost their lives.
It is believed that Islamist fighters were heavily armed and well trained, were still putting up fierce resistance.
Nigeria’s Boko Haram has also joined the fight, military sources said.
ISS warned that the alliance of these groups may also inspire other rebel and political groups with local agendas to join the network and resort to violent means to pursue their goals.
Lulie blames this surge in terrorism on the dynamics of local conflicts and the international militarisation engagement.
ISS fears that African governments, already allergic to political tolerance and freedom of expression and criticism, could take advantage of this surge in terrorism to label political opponents and dissenting voices as terrorists with links to al-Qaeda.
“Such attempts undermine the underlying issues by ruling out political dialogue and consultation and weaken attempts to address the real issues by sweeping them under the carpet of ‘transnational terrorism’,” Lulie said.
(with the assistance of ISS Pretoria, final editing by Issa Sikiti)
*Photo by Tumblr.com. Somalian radical group Al-Shabab in training.