Terror in Africa
THE massacre of 148 students of the University College, Garissa, Kenya the other day must rank as one of the most gruesome terrorist acts on the African continent or anywhere in the world.
The blood-curling mayhem unleashed on innocent lives by the terrorists and the climate of fear they have created on the continent should nudge the global community to look into the character of Africa’s terror experiences while appeal goes to all men of goodwill and international organizations to come together to deal with the menace in all parts of the world.
The attack, on the Kenyan university, brings back the horrific memories of the 2013 attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, the same Kenya, in which 67 people were killed. And it is a measure of how sophisticated the terrorists have become or how lethal they could be, that the toll is now much higher.
With this Garissa experience, the message to Africa is that terror by Islamic extremists is on a scale yet un-contemplated, a fire threatening to engulf the whole house and to put it out, requires the concerted efforts of all.
In Garissa, the students were asleep when the killers struck, cutting down lives at will. The Somalia-based Al Shabab militant group has claimed responsibility, as their spokesman even said with relish that in that orgy of killings, they “sorted the students and released the Muslims” among them, indicating that the attack was motivated by the same radical religious bigotry currently menacing the world.
It is reassuring that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta responded promptly and has provided regular briefings to his people and the rest of the world while world leaders, including Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, have commiserated with him and the people of Kenya, stressing that the global community must take urgent and coordinated actions in the resolve to rid the world of terrorists.
Understandably, Kenya has been in mourning, as families retrieve and bury the remains of their beloved ones. Indeed, the spectacle of promising youngsters hacked to death for no justifiable reason must tug at humanity’s heartstrings, and beyond the lamentations, all citizens of the world must rise up against bigotry and terror.
Garissa is located in the north-eastern part of Kenya, close to the border with Somalia, a country that has become a base for deranged extremists.
Kenya of course, has been a constant target by the terrorist group, Al Shabab, for sending troops into Somalia to help maintain a semblance of order in a country whose collapse has generated negative ripple effects in the entire East African region.
Also, since Somalia’s descent into something of a failed state, the population of Somalis in Kenya has risen, bringing with it much danger.
Unfortunately, the festering crisis in Yemen, another failing country, right across the ocean, is sure to worsen the situation. Experiences in Libya, Mali, Central African Republic and the Sudan have also shown the world that extremist groups are now exploiting and will continue to exploit the collapse of nations in Africa to build operational bases for themselves.
Terrorism in the world today is clearly, “warfare without borders.” And in no other place than Africa is this assuming a more frightening dimension as the marauders brandish a consistent template of cruelty and barbarity.
The lesson from this unconventional warfare is that Africa must not leave the problem to Kenya alone, just as the world should not leave it to Africa.
For a start, armed forces (of each nation) cannot individually tackle the challenge.
Hence the need for a regional standing force, specially trained to handle insurgency. This requires greater collaboration between nations, especially in intelligence gathering, sharing and execution of plans.
In the Nigerian experience with Boko Haram, success commenced in earnest with the joining up of forces from Cameroun, Chad and Niger and with which the war was taken to the insurgents.
In West Africa, the challenge in Liberia was effectively handled by a regional high command, ECOMOG, led by Nigeria. In East Africa, Kenya stands out to serve as the pivot for a regional force for the community, to be supported by Tanzania and Uganda or any other East African country.
As each regional grouping in Africa establishes a command against terror, with the African Union actively involved, the chances of routing terrorism out of the continent would certainly be brighter.