When al Shabaab started its terrorist campaigns in Somalia, it was a local issue that many overlooked because it was a new thing in the region. When the US embassies in Dar and Nairobi were attacked by al Qaeda in 1998, the perception about terrorism started to change and shift. The final straw came in 2001 after al Qaeda attacked and brought down America’s symbol of hegemony, the twin towers in downtown New York.
Let us look at how slowly but looming terrorism is creeping in the EAC. Three countries among six members of the EAC, namely Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda know first-hand the pangs of terrorism. Close to the EAC now, Mozambique is embroiled in a cat-rat battle. Islamist militants known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, meaning the “followers of the prophetic tradition” (Bloomberg, August 20, 2018) linked to an Arabic terrorist group, the Islamic State (IS), attacked the town of Palma, killed hundreds and left thousands displaced. The Palma was attacked because the biggest gas deposits that are currently in the process of developing are in the area. Thus, for militants, attacking such an area sends a message to its followers that it means business.
Many refugees have fled to Tanzania. There are unconfirmed news that some Tanzanian villages along the border have already been attacked. This means, Tanzania will soon be pulled into the conflict provided that it also has gas reserves close to those of Mozambique.
There is something that our countries and governments need to fix in order to arrest or mitigate the reasons that help terrorist groups to recruit our youth. What unifies all terrorists is their drive to achieve political goals or power by way of manipulations and violence. Such groups, particularly sectarian ones, place God on top of everything they do and claim divine mandate to explain their activities. The groups dupe many ignorant and poor people that they can bring about changes and improvement in life. They attract political swashbucklers who want to surreptitiously use them to reach their political goals.
If Karl Marx were alive today, he would to add to his great observation that religion is the opium of the people that, indeed, drugs them. Such an avowal applies to modern-time terrorism as it is hidden ideological get-up-and-go. Many of the founders of modern-time terrorist groups, the Assassins (Islamic group) and Zealots (Christian group) in approx.. 74CE were either illiterate or semiliterate.
God–who is known to be a loving and the most merciful creator–would, under no circumstances sanction destruction on his people. As well, no sane God can use mortals to fight for his course.
Terrorist groups use violence and fear to make a political statement aimed at meeting political ambitions. Terrorism gets traction or slips into oblivion depending on the realpolitik of the day. Many terrorist incidents were not as pronounced as today. This is because, sometimes back, mass media was not as globalised as it currently is. What’s never changed, however, from the birth of terrorism, is the commission of brutalities and spreading of fear to the general public.
The internet has changed the way the world disseminates and gets information. Anybody with a gadget can do what’s a venue for professionals without necessarily being a professional. The arrival of free media such as Facebook, YouTube and many more have enhanced dissemination of information quickly and widely.
Bad governance in many countries is to blame for rising cases of terrorism. In failing to solve the problems of their people, bad governments create a loophole for them to be duped into partaking of terrorism. Poverty forces ignorant people, especially youth, to seek other means to survive even if such means are detrimental to them and others.
Our countries must collectively address and arrest the root causes of terrorism discussed above. All countries need to practically fight collectively. Who’d think that Mozambique would suffer what it is now facing? Essentially, those joining terrorist groups are poor young people whom terrorist group promise a better life that their government has failed to deliver.
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.