Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1286, (10 - 16 March 2016)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1286, (10 - 16 March 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Despite some gains, terrorism plagues Africa

While Boko Haram recently took a significant hit at the hands of the Nigerian and Cameroonian militaries, terrorist groups continue to challenge states across sub-Saharan Africa, writes Haytham Nuri

Al-Ahram Weekly

Every day, sub-Saharan African states facing terrorist Islamist groups score a victory, but these organisations are still able to carry out attacks against civilians, especially the poorest who live in camps and villages, and target military forces.

This is the situation in Kenya and neighbouring states, which for years have battled the terrorism of the Somali Shabab group, and Nigeria and its neighbours in their war against Boko Haram, one of the most lethal terrorist groups in 2015.

In Nairobi, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced his government’s intention to build a maximum-security prison to hold prisoners affiliated with the terrorist Shabab, to isolate them from the Kenyan people and prevent the spread of their poisonous ideas, according to Kenyatta.

Although Kenyatta did not release a timetable for construction of the prison, he said his government is working to find the funds needed to build what the US military and security news website Defense One calls “Kenya’s Guantanamo”.

The Kenyan army announced the death of Shabab’s intelligence director and several mid-level commanders during a strike on a training camp in southern Somalia. Quoting the spokesman for the Kenyan military, Bloomberg reported that the intelligence chief killed was Mahad Karate, thought to be the deputy commander of Shabab.

According to the spokesman for the Kenyan military, Karate was the mastermind behind the attack on El-Ade military base, near the border with Somalia, that killed 180 Kenyan soldiers, according to the BBC.

The Kenyan air strike also killed 10 recruitment leaders with the organisation, as well as 80 other Shabab members present in the camp.

The Kenyan military statement said that Shabab’s intelligence unit, known as Amniyat, was responsible for the April massacre at Garissa University, in eastern Kenya, which left 147 people dead, including students, staff, professors and workers at the institution.

Although 400 Kenyans, both civilians and military personnel, have been killed since Nairobi joined the war on terrorism, Shabab has come under great pressure, reducing its forces and capacities.

The area under the organisation’s control shrank sharply in 2015. Shabab now controls only 40 per cent of the southern part of Somalia, sandwiched between areas under government administration supported by Ethiopia (west along the Somali border) and the African Union (more than half of the country’s coastline), according to Kenya’s military spokesman Colonel David Obonyo.

The autonomous state of Puntland still controls 30 per cent of the country, while the rest is under the Republic of Somaliland, a self-declared state recognised by no other country.

Al-Hajj Warraq, editor-in-chief of the Sudanese Hurriyat and a close observer of conflicts in East Africa, says that the death of Karate, if confirmed, will be a major blow to Shabab and may signal a turning point in the conflict.

“Also exacerbating Shabab’s dilemma is the death of a quite a few of its leaders, most prominently the former leader of the group, Ahmed Abdi Godane,” Warraq said.

Godane was killed in a US air strike in September 2014, leaving a vacuum in the organisation and giving rise to splinter groups.

“The splinter groups are small so far,” Warraq continued, “but increasing pressure can expand the scope of divisions in doctrinaire organisations.”

Far from West Africa, in the Lake Chad basin, the Nigerian army and its allies in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon are also making headway against Boko Haram.

The US Pentagon intends to send dozens of special forces advisors to the frontlines of the Nigerian war on the terrorist Boko Haram, following the recommendation of the commander of US Special Forces in Africa, Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, according to Dionne Searcey, the New York Times’ correspondent in West Africa.

Searcey reported that approval for the recommendation is expected, adding Nigeria to several other areas where US advisors are operating.

In eastern Syria, US military advisors are offering advice to fighters with the so-called moderate opposition in their war against the Islamic State group. Hundreds of US advisors are also involved in training missions in Iraq, Libya and Somalia.

The recommendation came following a period of tense relations between Abuja and Washington, after the US stopped an aircraft deal between Israel and Nigeria due to concerns that the aircraft would be used to violate human rights in the areas of fighting in northeast Nigeria.

Nigeria had previously expressed its dissatisfaction with the US refusal to supply it with weapons, suddenly suspending the final phase of US training exercises on its territory. But in July, newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari visited Washington, where he was warmly received, prompting a resumption of a more than five-decade-long military relationship between the two countries.

According to both the Nigerian and Cameroonian militaries, 1,890 people abducted by Boko Haram were rescued two weeks ago. The abductees, including 800 Nigerian villagers, were rescued during an offensive by the two armies on villages in the far northeast of Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon, last Friday. Some 37 Boko Haram militants were killed along with two Nigerian soldiers.

Last week, President Buhari announced that his country and its neighbours (Chad, Niger and Cameroon) had “destroyed the fighting capacities of Boko Haram”.

Reports reveal that in the far northeast areas of Nigeria, life has returned to normal in the largest city in the region, Maiduguri, as Boko Haram has lost large areas formerly under its control.

Spokesman for the Nigerian military Sani Usman announced last week that an attempt by Boko Haram to launch a suicide mission in Dikwa refugee camp had been thwarted. The camp had already sustained a twin attack carried out by two women, which killed 58 people.

Nonetheless, Nigerian border towns and cities are still subject to suicide attacks by Boko Haram. In addition, three million people in Nigeria remain without any real humanitarian aid after fleeing their home areas in fear of Boko Haram attacks. Although the Nigerian president stressed to his government the importance of resettling these people in their towns this year, the country needs $1 billion to undertake the operation.

Nigeria, the continent’s biggest oil producer, is currently suffering in light of depressed global oil prices and increasing corruption, which is delaying rescue missions and humanitarian aid.

“Given the difficult humanitarian situation, it is hard to know when people will be able to return to their villages because it is not a matter of setting a date, but a complex process of accommodations that must be provided with the beginning of the resettlement,” according to Oxfam’s branch in Nigeria.

In the now six-year conflict between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram, 17,000 people have been killed. The terrorist group was classified as the most lethal in the world in 2014 and 2015.

add comment

  • follow us on