Thursday, June 26, 2014

From Al-Shabaab to Boko Haram

He will win who knows how to handle both superior and
Inferior forces.- Sun Tzu the Art of War

The President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, commenting on the absence of inter-regional trade remarked that "it won’t be until we have sufficient security against internal, regional and continental threats that we can be sure of real development. After securing security, we can be confident that our achievements will be safeguarded, and also have the capacity to construct infrastructure such as regional railways, airports and highways that will facilitate trade and help us to integrate faster".
He's right. Across the continent, there are rising issues of insecurity from local conflicts in South Sudan and Central African Republic to attacks in Nigeria and Kenya. These attacks blight the "Africa rising" spirit across the continent.
Unfortunately, African governments are taken by surprise at these attacks and rather than tackle the issue, it is politicized. The attacks on Nigeria and Kenya by groups that are probably connected-considering the similarity of their modus operandi- show a lack of regional cooperation.  As president Kagame noted it is sad that African leaders have to be summoned by former colonial rulers to discuss their security challenges (President Hollande convened a meeting on the 17th of May and the United Kingdom on the 12th of June). 
The emergence of both Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram show that underneath the "jihadist" agenda lies grievance towards authority institutions for past brutality and the desire for revenge. These are consequences of mis-governance and divisive leadership. Said Barre ruled Somalia for 22 years and the repressive leadership he provided caused the failed state Somalia has become and birthed the organization that transformed into Al-Shabaab. Also, the divide and rule strategy of Nigeria's founding fathers, nurtured by military rulers embedded the ethnicity and mistrust that plagues Nigeria today and makes every clan feel cheated such they vote for sectarian interests that are personally injurious to them.
As UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, noted "terrorism thrives when conflicts continue to simmer, or where rights are systematically violated, or where discrimination is institutionalized, or where there are few prospects of a secure and stable livelihood”.  African rulers need to stop encouraging ethnicity and repressiveness because there are consequences, lasting consequences that can break a society. Iraq, Somalia and Libya are recent examples. Zimbabwe may go the same route when Mugabe dies or there is a revolt.The focus on security institutions by these groups tell African military forces to rethink their strategies by relying more on intelligence than on the blunt and arbitrary use of force. 
A failure to coordinate security and social policies means there will be no enduring growth. Whatever developments occur can be wiped out by these avoidable conflicts. For instance, the economic indices for Nigeria are presently good but the North is Nigeria's food basket. The attacks by Boko Haram have disrupted farming activities and livelihoods. This has caused higher food prices and food insecurity and directly impacts the Federal government’s policy of reducing food imports. Kenya is also witnessing a downturn in her tourism industry. The September mall attack is projected to cause a loss of $160 million in revenue for the country. The increased attacks will continue to tarnish the nation's fame as a tourist hub. For instance, the US shortly before the May 17 attack issued travel advisory warning to citizens. 
What to do?
First, governments have to ignore the politics (for Nigeria, it is that BH is sponsored, for Kenya, it is that the Kenyatta government is being undermined) and address the root causes. Neither country can do it alone. They have to collaborate and identify linkages that exist between these groups. Al Shabaab’s killing of 70 students, bombing of a sports bar in Kampala in 2010 during a World Cup match, the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi in 2013, the attack on a Nairobi market on May 17, 2014, the Mpetkoni attack on June 15 and the murder of 17 African Union soldiers bear resemblance to Boko Haram's attacks of schools, military posts, social life and villages in Nigeria.  
Tied to this is the issue of governance. African leaders need to focus on creating enduring legacies rather than pit one group against another. 
Also, the menace of corruption especially in public institutions has to be addressed. From Nigeria to Kenya, it is easy to bribe border control officials. A situation where immigration officials requests for inducement breeds free flow of drugs, arms and ammunition and mercenaries. 
In addition, Africa rulers should realize that though the continent is diverse, geographical divisions across the content are similar: a developing south versus an underdeveloped North. Recognizing this should change a government’s outlook of viewing problems as "national"
Social justice and human rights have to be engrafted and become part of "government culture". One would have thought that the experiences with Niger Delta Militants would teach Nigerian Military that rules of engagement have changed. That Boko Haram transformed into what it has become showed that Nigerian government learnt nothing from that experience. 
 Finally, governments have to creatively address underemployment and unemployment. Youths are incentivized to join terrorist groups because they are idle, disillusioned and are offered incentives. That a youth can set a village ablaze for N2, 000 shows the deep levels of unemployment and poverty that exist in the country.
According to World Economic Forum research, there are 44.7 million unemployed youths in Sub Saharan Africa and 147 million underemployed youths. That is the population of South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Sierra-Leone and Togo combined. Graduates- fully and half baked- are being daily added to this number. Left unchecked, the effect is a shoe waiting to drop. A stitch in time saves nine

0 Thoughts:

Post a Comment