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Traditional counter-terrorism approaches, with their emphasis on the military, are failing. This is seen in the fact that there is an average of three terrorist attacks per day in Africa. This study calls for more holistic solutions, with an emphasis on development and better governance to curb the scourge of terrorism.



1. Understanding the Terrorist Threat in Africa and the Limitations of the Current Counter-Terrorist Paradigm

For the young schoolgirls of Chibok in northeastern Nigeria, 11 April 2014 was to be no ordinary day. As the girls aged between 16 and 18 years sat for their physics paper at the local school, militants from the Islamist sect Boko Haram stormed the school and abducted more than 230 young girls. They were taken to one of Boko Haram’s hideouts in the sprawling 60,000 square kilometre Sambisa forest.1 Various attempts to rescue the girls ended in failure, while subsequent reports indicated that at least some of the girls had been taken to Boko Haram’s other camps in Cameroon.2
Hussein Solomon

2. Islam in Africa

Those who have researched and/or travelled to Africa are struck by the distinctive, moderate and tolerant Islam practised on the continent. Indeed Eva Rosander1 has referred to this phenomenon as ‘African Islam’. By this she means an Islam that takes local context into consideration and is accommodating and flexible — not one that is dogmatically rigid. This African Islam is intimately tied to the mystical and spiritual aspects of Islam known as Sufism, or, in Arabic, tasawwuf. 2 Unlike the formal ritualistic aspects of those subscribing to a more scripturalist Islam, which stress the chasm between man and god,3 Sufi brotherhoods or paths (tariqa in Arabic) stress the need to bridge that gap through love and knowledge of the true inner self. Many African Muslims were Sufi in orientation. This form of the Islamic faith is more personal and more emotional, stressing the love of god as opposed to the fear of god. Moreover Sufi Islam coexisted4 with the richness of pre-Islamic folk customs.5
Hussein Solomon

3. Al Shabaab in Somalia: Between Clan and Faith

The dominant narrative regarding the emergence of Islamist militants in the form of Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujahideen2 (Movement of the Striving Youth),3 commonly referred to as Al Shabaab (The Youth) in Somalia, is beautiful in its simplicity. In the absence of central government authority, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) took control over much of south and central Somalia. Fears of the growing radical Islamist agenda of the UIC prompted the Ethiopian armed forces to invade the country in December 2006 with 14,000 troops.4 The rule of the UIC abruptly ended and much of its older leadership fled Somalia.5
Hussein Solomon

4. Ansar Dine in Mali: Between Tuareg Nationalism and Islamism

When Captain Amadou Sanogo staged his coup against Malian President Toure on 22 March 2012, one of the reasons he gave for his actions was that Toure did not supply the Malian armed forces with sufficient heavy and new weapons to take on the Tuareg rebellion in the north. Little did Captain Sanogo realise that his coup and the resultant power vacuum in the capital, Bamako, would result in the Tuareg Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) seizing control of northern Mali and the important towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.1 The secular and Tuareg nationalist MNLA was soon displaced by Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) Islamist fighters and their allies, AQIM.
Hussein Solomon

5. Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Contesting Ethnic, Religious and Regional Identities

The scale and intensity of the attacks have been unprecedented even by post-independence Nigeria’s own tragic standards. Between July 2009, when the current campaign of violence against the Nigerian state was initiated, and January 2012, more than 935 people were killed and thousands wounded in 164 attacks by a shadowy Islamist sect.1 Moreover these attacks seem to be intensifying, with more than 253 people killed in 21 attacks in the first 3 weeks of January 2012.2 The Appendix, clearly demonstrates that between 30 December 2010 and 14 July 2014, more than 70 attacks took place.
Hussein Solomon

6. Responding to Terror: An Assessment of African Union Counter-Terrorism Strategies

The terrorist threat is escalating, spreading across the continent with an alarming 22 countries in Africa targeted by terrorists.1 This has caused great concern in Addis Ababa, seat of the AU. For some years, both its predecessor (the Organisation of African Unity — OAU) and the AU have worked to end the scourge of terrorism on the continent. The fact that terrorism has intensified in scope is clear evidence of a counter-terrorism strategy that is not working. From a broad overview of the existing counter-terrorism regime, we turn to understanding the reasons for the AU’s inability to eliminate the terrorist threat posed to the continent and its people. Finally, a case study of AMISOM in Somalia is provided where several of the themes discussed are unpacked in more concrete terms.
Hussein Solomon

7. Responding to Terror: An Assessment of US Counter-Terrorism Strategies in Africa

With the end of the Cold War, it seemed that Africa lost much of its strategic significance among Washington’s policy-makers. In 1994, the CIA aimed to shut down 15 of its stations in Africa.1 A year later, a US Department of Defense document explicitly stated, ‘America’s security interests in Africa are very limited … [w]e see very little strategic interests in Africa.’2 Washington’s strategic neglect of the African continent was to haunt it when, a few years later, its East African embassies were bombed, as alluded to in Chapter One. In November 2002, the simultaneous terrorist attacks on the Kenyan port town of Mombasa3 highlighted the vulnerabilities of the African continent to the terrorist scourge. Given the events of 9/11 and its after-effects, it is understandable that the US would actively work towards eradicating terrorist cells or bases anywhere in the world — including Africa. In this regard, US Major-General Jeffrey Kohler bluntly stated in 2003, ‘What we don’t want to see in Africa is another Afghanistan, a cancer growing in the middle of nowhere.’4
Hussein Solomon


In the course of the year 2012, there were more than a thousand reported terrorist incidents in Africa — approximately three per day.1 There is every indication that such terrorist atrocities on the continent will continue and even intensify in the short to medium term. Three reasons account for this.
Hussein Solomon


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