Anti-Terrorism in Africa: A multidimensional strategy!



The terrorist attacks which shook France for 72 hours between January 07th and January 9th, 2015, transposed in a rough way on the French territory, the horror lived in sub-Saharan Africa by the populations and the powerless states. Indeed, the balance of the attack is heavy, 3 shot down terrorists, 17 dead victims, about 20 wounded persons and the affected millions of French, all this in 3 days. Only the sporadic attacks of Boko Haram in Nigeria can boast about such macabre balance which very often are heavier. It is not only the macabre discount which has to prevail here, in consideration of the multiple victims of the terrorism in the world, but also the symbol which was scoffed! Yes, it is France, country of human rights, country embodying the freedom of expression which was quite hard struck by radicalism and intolerance. Charlie Hebdo embodied this vital freedom certainly lively and raw by moment but authentic. These attacks made several victims but could we think that freedom of speech would be the target of terrorist acts?

Africa is not unfortunately outdone in this ” inhumanity of terror “, the continent undergone with violence and powerlessness the repeated assaults by several terrorist groups which are mainly, AQMI (branch of Al-Qaeda), Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab. There also, the macabre discount is without appeal: we reach 15000 deaths to this day (from 2000 till 2014)! According to the Institute for Economics and Peace ( IEP), in its 2014 Global Terrorism Index, those 3 groups are among the 10 most active, violent and murderous terrorist organizations since their creation. As an example, from 2002 till 2013, Boko Haram, with about 10000 men, conducted 750 attacks in Nigeria, with a macabre discount of 3500 deaths, on the basis of a religious extremism ,which translates the will to establish an Islamist state (unconditional application of the Sharia in Nigeria).

Other international indexes come to consolidate the IEP Global Terrorism Index, in particular the AEGIS Advisory 2015 Strategic Risk Outlook and also GEOS 2014 Risk Map. Both, GEOS and AEGIS are specialized in country-risk classification and in strategic intelligence.

Having made this alarming observation, we are not going to come back on the causes, nor on the modus operandi (lone wolves, conventional attacks, kidnappings, hostage taking, cyber-attacks, etc.) of these terrorist groups, which have moreover their specificities both in the ideological and the operational approaches, but we are going to identify a strategy for a regional, coherent and inclusive response to the permanent threat of religious extremism.

Indeed, it is the sketch of a multidimensional strategy that we advise, to thwart better the expansion of terrorist ideology on the continent, while taking for model, the military operations theatre which is characterized by several fronts. So our multi-form strategy, takes into account simultaneously 8 fronts:

1/ The ideological front: terrorism draws its strength from an ideology of religious extremism. The “Sharia” is the classic model which attracts many candidates. The west is presented as ” the wound ” and the Islamist radical movements are the cure to this “wound”. It would be thus convenient, to beat terrorism on its favourite ground which is ideology. The African societies almost quite westernized, have to create for their youth a viable and pragmatic ideological alternative to avoid the attraction of radicalism. It is the introduction of an ideal of life, that will allow to make the difference between terrorism and democracy. The African countries thus owe within a short space of time, to set up multidisciplinary committees asked to think about this societal ideal (a model of African democracy), which could make young people dream, give them opportunities and so  divert their attention from religious obscurantism.

2/ The front of the development: at this level, it is a question of setting up tools which will allow to contain the attractiveness of terrorism. Indeed, the strong rate of impoverishment and illiteracy of these African societies, constitutes a melting pot for the recruitment of young people, in the middle of an identity crisis  and in search of marks. We thus suggest, an urgent implementation, of the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) measures , in every concerned country. Besides, it is important, to involve the civil society in this debate for an inclusive and participative response. Every African country could create at the community level, a prevention committee of sectarian drifts stemming from the diversion of Islam. Better, the creation of local watch and sensitization committees in every village of the threatened or border countries, would be a main advantage. These local committees would stress the sensitization of young people as for the risks of religious toughening and would serve as early warning devices.

3/ The military front: here, it is a question of striking militarily all the terrorist groups at their heart. Still it is necessary, that the African armies are equipped and trained for such an option. Having said that, a joint answer for example, at the level of ECOWAS with the support of the western countries could allow to weaken the terrorist threat in the sub-region, following the example of the backward movement of AQMI in Mali (at least of its weakening). At this level, it would be necessary in every African country, to create as a matter of urgency units specialized in the in-depth action (special forces) to act in a surgical and effective way against these groups. The air or logistic support of western countries would be ideal. We recommend as a sub-regional answer (ECOWAS), the creation of a mixed elite unit based on the French GIGN (Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale) or the US SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics), to mutualize the resources of the African countries in this merciless fight. So you should not ignore, the capitalization of decisive experience of a country as Chad which demonstrated its operational and tactical capacities to face these groups. Finally, the outsourcing of the fight against terrorism, remain a complementary option, to halt the advance or the nuisance of these groups. This outsourcing would materialize for any country in the region, by the use of Private Military Companies (PMCs) likely to have the necessary skills and adequate equipment.

4/ The intelligence front: intelligence is at the heart of the fight against terrorism in Africa. It is a question for African countries, to consult at the sub-regional level in order to mutualize and share the necessary means to this end. Besides, most of those countries display a deficit in intelligence for which they pay a very high price. It would be thus wise, to polarize the efforts around a sub-regional synergy for intelligence. There also, the western support through training and logistics, would be an asset. Finally, national capacity building regarding strategic intelligence, remains the keystone of this terrorist problem.

5/ The religious front: the unprecedented mobilization of the Muslim communities in Africa, is more than necessary to denounce religious radicalism and its consequences which also strike Muslims. Moreover, there is only one Islam and many extremist Islamist aberrations. It is these abuses which must be denounced, because they negatively affect this noble religion. This option can seem utopian, because many African societies are already eroded by religious sectarian aberrations and thus avoid the sensible subject.

6/ The legislative front: this chapter is certainly one of the most important, because it concerns the revision of the legal arsenal of the African countries, to adapt it to the terrorist threat. Indeed, the national legislations have to evolve, so as to incorporate in a coherent and realistic way, provisions that would facilitate the intervention of security and defence forces in the fight against terrorism.

7/ The international front: an international cooperation is more than vital, to allow the African countries to prevent and push back terrorism. The support in capacity building, in training and in logistics would be the basis of this stronger anti-terrorist cooperation.

8/ The financial front: finally, this last aspect of our strategy, determines almost our whole proposal, because the sinews of war remains money. We recommend that the African countries, organize discreet national and international fund raising for the antiterrorist fight, following the example of the fight against Ebola, which mobilized donors. Of this financial solidarity will depend the outcome of the anti-terrorist struggle.

In conclusion, the fight against terror, in order to push it back or why not annihilate it (ideal), constitutes the world major priority today. It would be thus convenient for the African countries, to take advantage of this upsurge of international solidarity and consciousness, to strengthen their national strategies and so contribute actively to this struggle for freedom and democracy. A multidimensional and joint strategy is thus imperative to reach that goal.


9 thoughts on “Anti-Terrorism in Africa: A multidimensional strategy!

  1. wissamabdallah77

    This is a very interesting post, thank you for sharing your thoughts. But i do have one little comment on the level of ‘freedom of expression’ in France particularly at Charlie Hebdo office, a very interesting article was published days after the brutal attacks on the 7th of this month, stating “…
    80-year-old Maurice Sinet, political cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo for 20 years, was fired in 2009 for his anti-Semitic cartoons mocking the relationship of former French President Sarkozy’s son with a wealthy Jewish woman.”
    I just find this a little bit confusing.


    1. jfcurtis Post author

      Thank you for your comment. I wrote this post to emphasize the fact that Africa needs a coherent response to face terrorism. My introduction was meant to show that the country which embodied freedom of speech was a victim of religious fundamentalism. What is important here is that no matter what confusing cases might be found on the subject of freedom of speech, there is no better model than the French society, on that matter! France invented freedom of speech or at least introduced it (1789) and led the struggle for it and still do! This right to freedom of expression is undermined or does not exist in totalitarian states, it is their choice, or even in religious states (one religion officially prevails) but here, we are talking about France, a country with no religion (secularity), but where many religions express themselves freely even those who do not believe in any god! Yes, the symbol of freedom of expression was scoffed on January the 7th of 2015.


  2. Pingback: Anti-Terrorism in Africa: A multidimensional strategy! | Leadership Arise

  3. T.Lederer

    While I think it is probably unfair to outline even most of my issues with this post because I suspect some of the author’s points have probably been lost in translation, there are inaccuracies here that cannot be ignored.

    1. You state that terrorism draws its strengths from religious extremism. This statement is simply not true because it implies that terrorism can only be religiously motivated. Terrorists have drawn upon a diverse range of ideologies (nationalist, ethno-racialist, environmentalist…) to justify their actions. Furthermore, there are many who would argue that given terrorism is a tool of the weak, it is in fact religious extremism that draws its strength from terrorism.

    2. In relation to the Charlie Hebdo attacks you argue that “only the sporadic attacks of Boko Haram in Nigeria can boast about such macabre balance which very often are heavier.” I am not sure whether there are many Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis, Libyans, Egyptians, Rohingyas in Burma, West Papuans in Indonesia or, if you want to include so-called ‘narco-terrorism’, anyone in Central or South America who would agree with this statement.

    3. Your eight point strategy is not new and can be summarised in one sentence: “do more of what you are already basically doing… just do it better.” In some way or other, Nigeria or other nations are doing various things to contribute to these eight areas and it doesn’t seem to be working. Rather than a “more just better” plan, it seems a fundamental rethink about how we fight insurgencies (because that is what Boko Haram is) needs to occur.


    1. jfcurtis Post author

      First let me thank you for your time spent in reading my post on “anti-terrorism: a multidimensional strategy”. However, I would like to emphasize the fact that nothing in this post was lost in translation despite my French origin. Besides don’t think that there is anything unfair in your comments, they are your point of view which is respected!
      Now, I shall answer to each of your three points:
      1/ You should not take my statement out of its context! Here, as specified in the title, i talk about terrorism in Africa! Yes the most common cases of terrorist attacks in Africa are all religious motivated. Just go through the major cases of terrorist attacks on the continent.
      2/ The point here is not to count the number of dead and the victims of the attacks in the world! I suggest you read that paragraph again and you will understand the point made. The point is about the symbol not the victims! So there are no comparisons made with respect to all victims!
      3/ I was not pretending to bring new points to fight terrorism but just remind what is important to be achieved. Besides mainly of my strategies have not been yet introduced by any african government. For instance introducing a new ideology for younger people, an attractive alternative!!! Tell me which African country has done that until today? Another example is the creation of local watch and sensitization committees in the communities. Which country has done that? On the military front which African states confronted to terrorism has contracted with PMCs especially a country like Nigeria rich as it is? Finally tell me where you have seen any financial solidarity to fight against terrorism in Africa.

      To conclude you can see that I don’t have that many inaccuracies as you call them! Just a modest contribution to bring change and suggest new paths to fight terror!


  4. T.Lederer

    Thanks for your reply. First off, my comment of some points being lost in translation was a figure of speech, it’s not to be taken literally. The points you make in your post are interesting and raise (healthy) debate on a very important topic.

    1/ Whilst I agree that religion is often used as a vehicle to justify certain acts of violence, it is popular grievances that are often motivated by delegitmate governance, local perceptions and other factors that are at the root of insurgencies, that often resort to “terror as a tactic”. To brand even the most common cases of terrorist attacks in Africa to be all just religiously motivated tends to over-simplify a much more complex problem whilst simultaneously creating a divide (us vs. them) with religious (particularly Islamic) communities.

    2/ If the point being made is the symbol then I would suggest the victims are, of course, part of the overall symbol of attacking peoples freedoms, speech or otherwise. Without such shock and awe, including the death of innocents, the tactic of terror completely loses it’s meaning. Not acknowledging other terror attacks and holding France (who also has a questionable human rights and freedom of expression record) up as a victim of radicalism and intolerance, second only to the horrific attacks by Boko Haram, which killed 1000’s, again widens the gap in achieving the overall objective and over simplifies the problem.

    3/ Even though your eight-point plan may be a reminder of what is important to be achieved, it misses the point. Even in places where these actions have been achieved as a part of a broader COIN strategy, it has failed. Hence the need for a complete rethink on the issue. I would be interested to hear what your new ideology for young people would be. Also, in relation to your watch and sensitisation committees, how will they be set-up and in cohort with whom? On the private military front the use of PMC’s in Sierra Leone and Angola would be two such examples for historical context. The current use of PMC’s in the Franco-American led Operation Barkhane in the Sahel and Sahara regions is a current example of PMC’s contracted into military operations. Here, also, your financial solidarity comes with continued international political interest in the region through the “war on terror” and an attempt to clean up after interventional mistakes made in recent years.

    As you stated, you are suggesting new paths to fight terror. I humbly ask for clarification on what these paths may be.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s