It is no longer news that terrorism is now an, if not the main, issue in African politics today. The terrorist did their very worst on 2 April, 2015. The Garrissa University terror attacks in Kenya by the notorious al-Shabab terrorist group which left 148 innocent students dead should at least be enough to convince even the most ridiculous doubting Thomas of the reality of the threat pose by these groups on our existence as a continent. The question then is how to fight it!
There have been various suggestions on how to deal with this disturbing trend. One central aspects in all the suggestions is the role of the Military. The perhaps only point of disagreement is methods or mode of its (Military’s) involvement.
Before we go on, we need to make some important clarifications. We have no issue against using the military to tackle terrorism can at best provide mixed results. This is from the fact that the military operates on conventional principles in prosecuting convention wars. National Armies are expected to observe certain laws in war such as treaties governing “Prisoners of War” and the likes. Professional Armies are by law prevented from training under aged as soldiers. Extraterritoriality often extended to friendly or allied militaries, particularly for the purposes of allowing that military to simply pass through some territories during war. All these do or may not apply to unconventional groups like guerrillas or terrorists. It is therefore illogical to fight unconventional elements using conventional means!
It is time for a more pragmatic approach to tackling this issue. The recent successes recorded by local hunters, in Nigerian towns of Mubi, Michika, and Madagali, and the efforts of the local group called Civilian Joint Task Force(JTF) in rolling back the notorious Boko Haram in Nigeria provides a vital clue to kick start the process. The success recorded by these efforts proves that the military may lack the thorough analyses as a result of poor institutional and system processes to really root out this menace.
To curb the menace of terrorists, there is need for a trans-border approach. We say these because terrorists are groups without territories of their own. This is where the African Union(AU) and other sub-regional blocs come in.
Like I argued in my earlier article, AFRICA: THE CHALLENGE OF TERRORISM, the AU needs to do more than just depend on army recruits from member states. It must itself have its own standing High Command for its own specific operations and enforcements of its sanctions. The Union which has a rich history of armed struggle against colonialism, having through it powerful Liberation Committee, trained guerrilla groups against colonial and apartheid regimes, must rise up to its new challenge without much ado. The Union must ignite its historic spirit of struggle, and face this monster of terrorism.
It is on this note that I recommend an Anti-Terror Department (ATD) or any other suitable name under the direct supervision of the African Union(AU) for the specific purpose of combating terrorism. The ATD must be well-funded by member states, voluntary donations from individuals and organisations whose objectives are incidental with those of the African Union. It must have a secretariat of its own, and an effective means of propaganda. You heard us right “Propaganda” in the fight against terror.
We are equally recommending the ATD be trained under the guidance of professional soldiers in the art of conventional warfare. The ATD must be granted the full powers of extraterritoriality throughout the continent. This condition is not negotiable.
In some cases some governments for foreign policy reasons or any other politically-motivated reasons sponsor or harbour terrorist groups. This is where the efficacy of the propaganda machinery of the ATD will be put to test. The AU must do all within its powers: political, economic, social or any other to put pressure on such government by cutting of its arms supplies.
Volunteers for operations for the ATD must be regularly paid from funds available at its disposal. They must all be of African descent. Their camping base must be in strategic places in North, Central East and Southern Africa for effective operations.
The Garrissa University attacks should be seen as early warnings by the AU for further attacks whose next port of call is highly unpredictable.
We are aware some may take our recommendations as too simplistic. We agree. But a quick reminder here is that the United States led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation(NATO) have for more than a decade been in Afghanistan fighting Al-Queada and the Talibans the only mistake has been fighting terror using conventional methods!