Why the World Needs to Pay More Attention to Terror in Africa

by Dan Mountain

While the world spectates the demise of Islamic  State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the dangers of its viciousness against local residents in the philosophy are far from over.

As an entity ISIS is diminishing. However, its ideology remains very much alive and has travelled across the world.

One region in which it is having a potent effect is Sub-Saharan Africa. From Al-Shabaab in Somalia to Jama’a Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin in Mali the ideology behind ISIS has subverted numerous countries across the region.

Moreover, between 2010-2017 the number of violent Jihadi attacks has increased 300%. Evidently, while the eyes of the world are fixed on the Middle East and the conflict in Syria, little attention is being paid to similar issues in the Sub-Saharan Africa in comparison.

More specifically, Nigeria has been hit particularly hard by this epidemic. Boko Haram and the closely related Islamic State of West Africa located in the north of country, have been terrorising the local people for years.

In fact, Boko Haram has surpassed ISIS in becoming the most dangerous terror group in the world, having been responsible for 30,000 killings in the last decade according the Council of Foreign Relations. Nevertheless, in order for one to understand why Boko Haram is so dangerous and why they commit such heartless acts of cruelty it is important to appreciate the current situation in Nigeria.

Boko Haram, meaning ‘Western education is a sin’ fights to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Muslim dominated north easterly region of Nigeria. In endeavouring to carry out this ultimate goal, they have repeatedly provoked a response from Nigerian armed forces in coalition with neighbouring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon launching numerous offences against the extremists since 2009,  when Boko Haram first became violent. However, in recent times, this has led to a stalemate between the opposing parties.

Currently, Boko Haram controls territory around the Lake Chad region, one of the poorest areas in the world. Within this territory, Boko Haram operates with ruthlessness and cruelty.

Abubakar Shekau, a leading fanatical figurehead, has advocated extreme area. This includes raiding villages, the kidnapping of young women and selling them into slavery or coercing them to become human bombs. Yet these brutal methods have not attracted even a fraction of the attention paid to similar conflicts in the Middle East.

What makes the severity of this conflict worse is the response from the Nigerian army. In an attempt to deprive Boko Haram of both shelter and potential recruits the army has cleared rural villages and packed their residents into camps located in the city of Maiduguri. However, these camps receive little government aid, including food and  medical supplies. Additionally, there have also been multiple accounts of rape in the camps.

Evidently, the humanitarian situation in Nigeria alone demands more international attention then it is currently being given. While Islamist groups in Sub-Saharan Africa may appear to be weaker than those in the Middle East, it is important not to compare the two at face value.

General Mark Hicks, the Commander of American Special Forces in Africa compared Boko Haram to the early days of the Taliban. While Boko Haram may appear internationally incapable, if the conflict in Nigeria is not dealt with promptly then the international community may be forced to act against a more powerful and widespread organisation in the future.

Lately, Boko Haram seems to be conforming to this prediction. Their tactics have become more sophisticated and advanced. For example, at the  time of writing they have attacked multiple military targets in Borno and Yobe state. Moreover, they have also acquired more sophisticated weaponry, including anti-aircraft guns and a T-55 tank.

A probable reason for this is that Boko Haram has increasingly coordinated and developed links with other Islamist groups in the region and the wider world, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

This scenario is a dangerous one. The Nigerian army is already thinly stretched. If Boko Haram become more advanced they could plummet Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, into chaos. If this happens an already poor region of the world will be devastated.

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