Terror attacks turn rampant in 2014 as Africa heightens countermeasures
22 December 2014, 16:04
Nairobi - A string of terror attacks spewed blood and brutality across eastern and western Africa over the past year as African countries scrambled to tackle the immediate threat and seek long-term strategies to address the root causes.
Analysts say, however, events during the past year show that adoption of a holistic strategy is in urgent need as Africa's serrated response so far has largely been ineffective against an expanding terror threat that has constantly been changing tactics.
The year 2014 goes down as one of the bloodiest. The five-year death toll in terrorist attacks in Nigeria alone exceeded 10,000 while the death toll in Kenya from recent terror attacks hit 800, including 300 security personnel. The organized terrorist groups targeted mosques, churches and markets.
In the first half of 2014, 2,053 civilians were reportedly killed in 95 different attacks in over 70 towns across Nigeria, including the capital city Abuja, mostly by bomb blasts and attacks on markets, villages and in mosques, targeting pro-government Muslim worshipers.
Under the onslaught of joint African forces, Al-Shabaab -- a notorious Somali terrorist group -- was largely expelled from cities and towns in Somalia but still managed to stage attacks, not only in Somalia but also in neighboring Kenya, targeting churches and Christian pastors and later singling out Christians in attacks to incite religious hatred.
Anneli Botha, a counter-terrorism researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) in Nairobi, said the attacks launched by Boko Haram -- Nigeria's Islamist group -- and Al-Shabaab gained momentum in 2014.
Both groups showed "they are no longer limited to a specific country, but rather pose a threat to overall security in western and eastern Africa," Botha told Xinhua.
"These insurgencies need to be addressed by a heightened response," Olusegun Akinsanya, veteran Nigerian diplomat and ISS regional director, told Xinhua.
"We need partnerships and the implementation of strategies agreed upon at the continental (African Union) level to fight the groups," said Akinsanya, calling for the enforcement of the outcomes of an AU Heads of State Summit on Terrorism which was held in Nairobi on Sept. 2.
The African Union Peace and Security Council summit called for heightened response to all terror attacks, reiterating that an attack on any African country should be considered an attack on all.
African leaders agreed at the Nairobi Summit to accelerate the setup of a strong counter-terrorism unit and to appoint senior intelligence officials to form a continental intelligence pool.
This proposed intelligence pool would assist in the combat against the insurgents. They also proposed that a Regional Intelligence Fusion Unit be activated to assist in the fight.
"Joining military efforts to bring peace and security was the inevitable answer to our terror and security threats," Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said, adding that Al-Shabaab, sensing danger from intense military pressure in 2012, joined Al-Qaida, which funded its radicalization of the youth in mosques to support its terror attacks.
Ineffective military action
Botha called the military intervention in northern Nigeria and Somalia an ineffective solution. The mass arrests and storming of the mosques in Kenya seemingly enhanced the reach of the Al-Shabaab.
"Overall, none of these countries understand the driving factors behind these organizations or developed and implemented effective counter strategies," Botha explained.
"The leading reasons for the security issues in these regions is the poor governance, security forces abuse of power and relative deprivation leading to marginalization and frustration often on religious, ethnic and geographical lines," Botha warned.
Global Peace Foundation Executive Director Daniel Omondi told Xinhua that counter-terrorism measures in Kenya have failed to nip the vice in the bud and required a comprehensive review.
Battle of winning youth
Analysts underline the danger of losing to terror groups the battle of winning the youth, a cause that has been exacerbated by poverty and high jobless rate and may well define Africa's security future.
"Our youth are susceptible to extremism due to unemployment and low self-esteem," said Omondi.
Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaida affiliate, used its long presence in East Africa to massively recruit and train local youth as fighters.
Kenya has been an epicenter of youth radicalization due to poverty, absence of social safety nets and weak policing.
Kenyan security forces in October raided mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa to flush out radicalized youngsters. According to the police, the mosques were used as recruitment venues for terror networks.
Hassan Abdikadir, a youth advisor at the U.N. Human Settlements Program (U.N.-Habitat), said that terror networks have recruited vulnerable youth to swell their numbers.
"A majority of Kenyan youth lack sustainable revenue streams and terrorists are promising them treasures," Abdikadir said.
Omondi regretted that jihadists have spread tentacles in the urban slums and remote villages where poverty and social marginalization are serious.
"Some reports indicate that Al-Shabaab and other terror groups are enticing unemployed youth with a monthly salary of 600 U.S. dollars. This is a wake-up call for policymakers, civilian leaders and security chiefs," Omondi said.
The government should scale up youth employment programs to reduce crime, terrorism and drug abuse, Omondi said.
Analysts say African governments should focus on long-term interventions like education, vocational training and income generating activities to prevent youth from joining militant groups responsible for spreading terror.
Countries should also employ soft power rather than brute force to contain radical ideologies that fuel terrorism.
"We require a paradigm shift in order to win the war against terrorism that has engulfed this region. Security organs and their civilian partners must adopt a holistic approach to fight terrorism effectively," Omondi said. Enditem
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