Africa and the Challenges of Terrorism

The security situation in Africa is volatile due to a myriad of factors with the two most principal factors being terrorism and political fragility. Historic neglect of the armed forces combined with politicization of national security matters has permitted aggressive non-state actors to flourish and develop into non-conventional transnational military threats that threaten the Westphalian system and territorial integrity of African nations.

There has been a notable escalation of terrorist activities in Africa in recent months with the most affected countries being Libya, Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Cameroon and Egypt. In these nations, non-state actors utilizing terrorist tactics have developed sophisticated military capabilities that have enabled them to take on national armies; and there have been instances were terrorist organizations have overwhelmed national armies and even threatened the survival of several sovereign nations as unified geographical entities. The most notable of these cases was the insurgency in Mali which saw a confederation of terror groups, ethno-nationalist organizations and political rebels unite and overrun the North of the country and completely defeat the national army in that zone of conflict. Without French military assistance, Mali would have been split into several squabbling geo-political entities.

Persistent armed conflicts have played a major role in facilitating the emergence and growth of terror groups as it has created safe havens for terror groups to operate, and also increased the availability of military-grade weapons in sectors of instability. Most African nations have further augmented their core vulnerabilities by poorly managing their national borders hence allowing anti-state groups to exploit this weakness to conduct illegal activities. Western intelligence agencies have assessed these core vulnerabilities and concluded that Africa is likely to become an outpost of terrorism.

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Security challenges always encompass a human element. Regardless of the fact that nations are facing an existential threat; people have also lost their lives and sources of livelihoods to internecine warfare between national security agencies and terror entities. Africans have been needlessly killed, burned, abducted, defiled, drowned, enslaved and displaced during terror-related security crises. The available statistics definitely do not reveal the full scale and horror of such conflicts. This is due to the fact that most of these conflicts occur in remote and poor regions where the populations have the least.

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