Terrorism in Africa

John Patrick Letourneau

Africa is quickly becoming the premiere haven for international terrorist groups. Its lack of strong, centralized governments has fostered political and military chaos – a breeding ground for transnational terrorist organizations.

Just last week, the State Department declared yet another militarized Islamic group as terrorist: the Nigerian-based Boko Haram and its offshoot Ansaru. The expansion of these groups in recent years, particularly their attacks on United Nations targets, provided the impetus behind the State Department’s recent designation.

Obviously, the Middle East is the highest priority of the United States government. Nations once considered stable are now on the verge of total anarchy. It is important that the people of these states’ voices are heard and their cries for freedom answered. Without stable democracies in the region, it will be very easy for al-Qaeda to rejuvenate its now-scattered base.

However, the lawlessness of the African continent is intimately connected with the ongoing events in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda has spread into the deserts and jungles of several African nations under the name of “al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magrheb.” People should not forget the French intervention in Mali in January of this year. The al-Qaeda offshoot had expanded far into the north of the country, capturing the ancient city of Timbuktu while imposing shariah law. What prompted this terrorist offensive was the lack of strong leadership within the

Malian government.

Islamic terrorism also appears in other parts of Africa. The Shabab in the East African nations of Somalia and Kenya have been carrying out attacks on civilian and governmental targets with impunity for years now. Little has been done by Western nations to ensure that groups like this cease engaging in mass terrorism.

Despite the widespread influence and expansion of these groups, the American public is still fixated on the Middle East. News stations fail to recognize the importance of the rise of these terrorist groups and have failed to inform American citizens. Without public support and recognition, the United States government will not be able to adequately engage these terrorist organizations before it is too late.

If action is not taken in Africa, these groups will continue to spread and will continue to gain power. The US has already taken some steps in offensive tactics in Africa with the expansion of the drone program, but it is still not enough. The following quote comes from HBO’s series The Newsroom, but I think it is rather indicative of the current situation on the African continent: “Africa is the next place US soldiers will go to die.”

                         Contact John Patrick Letourneau at [email protected]