We are pleased to release this month’s issue on ‘Africa in Focus’.
In the past months, East and West African countries have experienced significant levels of terrorist attacks carried out by three primary terrorist groups: the Nigeria-based Boko Haram, which has pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS); the Somalia-based Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab; and Al Qaeda’s North African-based affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). On 15 January 2016, AQIM carried out an attack in Burkina Faso, which claimed 30 lives. On the same day, Al Shabaab attacked an African Union army base in El Adde, Somalia, killing over 60 soldiers. On 30 January, Boko Haram launched attacks in Dalori, Nigeria, leaving over 80 people dead. Since then, there have been further terrorist attacks, with the latest being an attack by Boko Haram in Kuda, Nigeria on 16 June, which resulted in the deaths of 24 people.
In all, porous borders, weak governance, undertrained and ill-equipped militaries, and flourishing drug trades have facilitated the staging of terrorist attacks by local Islamist militant groups across Africa. Regional troops operating under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have worked to push back Al-Shabaab militants from taking over the country. In Nigeria, significant efforts, along with outside support, have worked to blunt Boko Haram’s operational strength.
Notwithstanding stark differences between the regional threat milieu in Africa and elsewhere, the links between IS or Al Qaeda with local militant groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab provide some lessons for governments and security agencies. This is particularly so, as IS’ and Al Qaeda’s reach and appeal extend beyond the Middle East and Africa; IS and Al Qaeda have also expressed a clear interest in either establishing links or merging closely with local militant and terrorist groups in the Indian sub-continent, as well as in southern Philippines and parts of Indonesia.
In this issue, Fr. Atta Barkindo discusses how the recent alignment between Boko Haram and IS has led to increased recruitment and terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in the country. In addition, the proximity of Boko Haram’s support base to Libya also provides IS with the opportunity to move easily across borders and embed itself within the local militant movements there in order to expand its reach and influence in the African region.
Our focus on the implications of terrorism on regional security is amplified by views shared by Eric Watkins, who highlights the economic implications of terrorism, in particular, by Al-Shabaab, on the Kenyan government’s ambitious pipeline project. Watkins explains how concerns about terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab militants was one of the primary contributing factors for the decision by Uganda and the relevant oil companies to divert the pipeline project to Tanzania’s port, instead of Kenya.
In light of the March 2016 attack by Al Qaeda al-Jihad in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on a beach resort in West Africa’s affluent Ivory Coast, and earlier attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, Rohan Gunaratna explores the growing presence of AQIM in the region and notes that the competition for power and influence between Al Qaeda and the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in Africa will substantially increase the threat of terrorism in the region. He recommends a robust international and state response predicated on intelligence-led and community-based efforts.
Africa / Commentaries / Conflict and Stability / Terrorism Studies
Last updated on 22/06/2016