Africa: Bleeding Heart

One of the most widely known forms of terrorism which seeps into every part of the world with varying intensity is the terror that is spread by fundamentalist extremists. Africa being a land where the majority of the population is Muslim as well as being a land ravaged and devoured by the colonial rulers, it draws major inspiration from the Islamist terror, spearheaded by the ‘anti-west’ sentiment.

In the beginning of the 1990s, anti-Western sentiment reached a boiling point. Islamist extremists in Africa cashed in on the vast public discontent and began a series of terrorist attacks that have continued to grow and persist in the African society. It is imperative to look at major patterns of terror in various African nations to truly comprehend the breadth of the problem which is the religiously-inspired terror in the African continent.

Some of the earliest attacks were carried out in Egypt. Every few months, foreign tourists were the targets of incessant terror throughout the country. Militants, mostly associated with Gama’a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group), bombed everything from marketplaces to buses. Often, the attacks would occur as mass shootings. Egypt was most certainly one of the centres of Islamist terror during the 1990s. It was, however, far from being the only nation that was affected. Two bomb blasts occurred simultaneously in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998 in front of the American embassies. Although Kenya and Tanzania were the countries which were immediately affected by the bombings, further investigation showed that other African nations were involved in a web of terrorism. After the attacks, Al Qaeda proudly took responsibility and the United States responded by attacking targets in Sudan; a nation that was—and still is—suspected of being an Al Qaeda sympathizer. Almost a decade later, with many of the suspected terrorists still at large, the United States staged an attack against the suspected hideout of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah in June 2007 in Somalia. The highly unstable nation underwent a decentralized rule until 2006, when hardliner Islamists established Islamic courts to bring Sharia law to Somalia. In addition, Islamic control of the country had made it a comfortable retreat for terrorists. Israeli interests in Africa have also been the target of incessant and brutal attacks by Islamist extremists.

Africa provides a fertile ground for breeding of this kind of terrorism. Lack of education and health coupled with political instability makes it easier for the web of Islamist terror to operate. Kids torn from their families are given refuge and made the heirs of the extremists to carry on the work in their steed when they grow up. Anti-western sentiment reinforced by the scars of the past haunt them. It is the reaction of the population towards decades of subjugation which the extremists streamline in the direction profitable for them. Between the West and the extremists, the population is churned, whipped and beaten. After attacks by the terrorists and anti terrorist attacks by the western societies, the fibre of the social thread is badly mutilated in the region. Nobody bothers to reconstruct the social structure, a representative government, civic societies and the trust in the economy which is the primary factor for companies to invest in the region. The acts of supposed “justice” are done by the extremists and the western society under the banner of benefit of the common man but ironically, these parties somehow always manage to shower curses instead of boons. Nothing can be put in black and white when the intentions, acts and results of the attack and counter attack are hideously similar. The ground for the attack has to be broken so there are no attacks and hence counter attacks. Education and health would be instrumental in breaking the fertile ground. Political stability and trust in the government is also important. In this context, it is important to note the patterns of government and ruling parties in the African continent.

Himadri Agarwal

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