JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
THE TERRORIST ATTACKS THAT TOOK PLACE at Westgate Mall, in Nairobi last month shocked the whole world. It’s a pity because even though these incidents happen almost every day, we don’t get used to them. We will never get used to them because they’re very terrifying. Since the Westgate Mall incident, I find it hard to imagine the trauma endured by those who witnessed this horrific attack. I’ve been asking myself many questions. Why did innocent people have to die? Is this really in the name of Islamic faith? Do I deserve to die just because I don’t practice Islam? I do have personal answers to these questions, but I surely wouldn’t risk my life by sharing them with an Islamic extremist. The attack highlighted a big challenge for Africa, one of which confrontation will be very expensive. What happened in Kenya wasn’t the first terrorist attack on African soil.
Having said the above, let’s look at terrorism in Africa at glance. The West, North, and East of Africa all seem infested with terror. Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Nigeria, continues its series of attacks targeting the non-Muslims. I was shocked by a story I read more than a month ago, where at least 142 people died after gunmen suspected to be from this group set up checkpoints and gunned down travellers on a highway in Borno.
Boko Haram wants to impose Sharia law in the North –East of Nigeria, actually, the whole of Nigeria. On September 29, last month, at least forty male students were massacred at the agricultural college in rural Gujba of Nigeria’s Yobe state. “The well-armed insurgents broke into college dorm at night and opened fire at young people while they were still asleep”, Russia Television reported. The death of so many innocent people is very disturbing and poses a challenge to Goodluck Jonathan’s government to step up its security measures. It is my belief that if this is too much for them, there wouldn’t be anything wrong to request assistance from countries like the United States. An international involvement of some sort will benefit all of us across the globe.
Mali is also on the same fire. Yesterday, according to Adama Diarra of Reuters, “a suicide blast killed two Chadian troops from the UN mission in Mali and injured six other peacekeepers in an assault on a checkpoint at the entry to the northern town of Tessalit”. After the coup last year, Jihadist groups seized control of Northern Mali. “Once in power, they instituted their harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah Law, meting out amputations and whippings as punishments and forcing women to wear the veil in public”, report Baba Ahmed and Krista Larson of Yahoo News. Earlier this year, the French government deployed hundreds of troops to fight these terrorists. Along with the Malian army, the coalition was able oust all these groups from power. After the national elections in July this year, the situation in Mali is much better now, but not perfect.
At the inauguration of the Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the French president, Francois Hollande said, “We have won this war, we have chased out the terrorists, we have secured the north and finally…we have, you have organized an uncontested election and the winner is now the president of Mali”. There are reports though, that suggest these jihadists may have retreated into Niger. “Although the French operation swiftly defeated Islamists who overran Mali’s army last year, experts have warned that many may simply have gone to ground, regrouped and sought opportunities to strike as France reduces it presence.”, writes Adama Diarra of Reuters. If this is all true (which is very likely), then surely the war isn’t over yet, we just took a break.
Early this year, jihadists were believed to have crossed over from Libya to Algeria to gain access to the oil and gas plant. These al-Qaeda-linked terrorists led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar (on the picture above) took over 800 people hostage at the Tigantourine gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria. At least 39 foreign hostages and 29 militants were killed. After the fall of Gaddaffi, many parts of Libya are being run by militias, and for sure some are linked to al-Qaeda. The ban of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will surelyradicalize many elements of that group. So clearly the challenge is very much broader.
Terrorism remains a threat to our generation. Countries like Iraq have become a sanctuary for terrorists. Even though the U.S. has spent billions on the war on terror, there still exist groups such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, which are all linked to al-Qaeda, or at least have the same ideology. While al-Qaeda has been under pressure in the Middle-East, because of Obama’s relentless drone campaign, the incessant attacks by these affiliated groups remind us that we have a long way to go in fighting these evil people. The threat demands that the international community works tirelessly to win this fight. Every nation needs to contribute, because it affects us all. And for a poor continent like Africa, means to fight terrorism will be very expensive. But we have no other option other than to commit ourselves. PM
© PHUMLANI M. MAJOZI