Is Terrorism Proxy or New Form of Colonialism?

Published on 18th August 2020

When reading about terrorist attacks in Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and elsewhere, I ask, who is the beneficiary of this backward trend? 

The fact that there is no international agreed upon definition of terrorism makes it a contentious phenomenon to legally deal with under national and international laws and in various disciplines of social science. Terrorism is a multidisciplinary phenomenon in nature. It spans from sociology, psychology, criminology to political science. There is no way one can define terrorism and meet the needs of all stakeholders, especially after the US declared the global war on terror without necessarily seeking a globally agreed legal definition.

Many people think terrorism started in 1998 when Al Qaeda, an Islamic fundamentalist group, attacked the US embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in East Africa, or when the same group attacked the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001. This is so because before then, there were few buzzwords in the media about the phenomenon.  

Terrorism started many years ago. Academics trace its genesis on Zealots and Assassins who committed violence against their apparently more powerful enemies, to make a political statement and send a warning. The two are ancient Christian and Islamic groups respectively. About year 74 CE, a Christian group known as Zealots or Zelos (ardor or strong spirit in Greek) committed suicide after being surrounded by Roman soldiers. Such an act was viewed as unique, particularly at the time. Since then, other terrorist groups used suicidal tactics to target their enemies. Assassins, a sect of Ismaili Shia, (which means one who kills a public figure by stealth and treachery, out of fanaticism or greed) also rose up. What has never changed is the aim of terrorism, namely to seek to achieve political gains by way of violence. 

Groups such as Italy’s Red Brigade, Germany Baader-Meinhof gang and Red Army Faction, among others, were famous at certain times before disappearing or being vanquished. What made such groups unique from the modern-time terrorist groups is the fact that, although they were known internationally, they would narrow their mission to their countries. One may say that the nature of communication at the time, mainly under the Cold War, might have hindered the groups from rapidly expanding their geographic reach as modern time terrorist groups have. There was no internet and other advanced means of relaying information – an advantage that modern-time terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda or the ISIL enjoy and manipulate. 

Who benefits from terrorism, especially in Africa? 

Our former colonial powers do. Refer to how France is busy in Chad, Cameroon, Mali, and Niger under the decoy of purging terrorists who oft-attack these countries. Why are major modern-time terrorist attacks aimed at countries that have resources such as oil, uranium or fish? Former and new colonial powers are busy occupying Africa militarily by establishing their military bases which aim at flexing their military muscles and securing areas of influence. If missionary centers and garrisons enabled Europe to easily colonise Africa, what’ll be the ramifications of military bases?

Look at a tiny country, Djibouti. It is a hub of foreign military bases. If you ask why it easily allowed its soil to be used for various military bases, you’ll be told that it is sovereign and receives money from countries, mainly superpowers, who have established their bases in its territory for regional interests. Such a myopic and selfish take is destroying Africa for the second time.

When the US sought to occupy the Middle East, it propped up Saddam Hussein. Similarly, when it sought to occupy the Maghreb and cox countries such as Egypt, it created Muamar Gaddafi and Mohamed Morsi. Interesting, when it comes to paving the way for military occupation in these countries, the citizens ran the show at their peril. Where are they now? Aren’t they mourning and yowling?

Why is Africa repeating the same mistakes that cost it hugely? Africa must unite in order to survive. I repeat the same as my humble submission. Africa must unite or perish. Djibouti or any African country, under the pretext of national security can sell its freedom to any superpower while neighbours watch. But when the results of such myopia start to bite, all of them, like axiomatic rats in rattrap, will find themselves caught in the same trap of military occupation.

Apart from those who are aiding the political and military occupation of Africa, those carrying out or supporting terrorist actions on religious or myopic reasons must know that they are paving the way for cultural imperialism, which also is a type of colonialism whose goals are indirectly economic and political. Refer to how Africans spend billions of dollars in pilgrimages to Mecca and Rome.

Terrorism is either proxy or new form of colonialism. Africans are the big losers while their tormentors are big beneficiaries.

By Nkwazi Mhango

Mhango is a lifetime member of the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL) and author of over 20 books among which are Africa Reunite or Perish, 'Is It Global War on Terrorism' or Global War over Terra Africana? How Africa Developed Europe and contributed many chapters in scholarly works.

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