The Old Malignancy
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Sixty alleged terrorists on motorcycles attacked a military checkpoint in Kpinkankandi on the Togo side of the border with Burkina Faso recently, killing eight soldiers and wounding 13. The troops were there to stop al Qaeda, Islamic State and other terrorists entering their country from Mali, Niger and elsewhere.
As Al Jazeera explained, the incident was the latest in a concerning rising prevalence of terror attacks in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the last three years, more than 5,300 terrorist events have claimed the lives of 16,000 people in West Africa, according to Ghanaian Defense Ministry numbers. United Nations officials in Niger, for example, are pleading with the international community for more resources to fight the terrorists there.
Some analysts weren’t surprised to see terrorists identify Togo as a possible destination for exporting their brands of hate. In the Conversation, Folahanmi Aina, a doctoral candidate in Leadership Studies at King’s College London, said that “violent extremism could thrive” in impoverished, politically unstable Togo.”
Looking at an individual country might not do justice to the issue, analysts say. Calling Sub-Saharan Africa a new “locus of terrorism,” Foreign Policy magazine noted how militant organizations give a sense of belonging and greater meaning to alienated, disenfranchised youth who have little hope of economic gain under the current global economic system. That’s one reason why Nigeria has been fighting the Islamic State-affiliated Boko Haram and other militant groups for years.
Unfortunately, terrorism helps keep people in poverty and alienation, according to an African Union report that ReliefWeb shared. In addition to shattering lives and halting economic activity, it undermines investor confidence and the civil society that is necessary to move forward.
The problem is not isolated to Western Africa, either. In the east, Al Shabab is wreaking havoc in Somalia, Kenya and elsewhere. As the New York-based think tank, the Soufan Center, wrote, the US is sending troops to the region with the express mission of eliminating Al Shabab’s leadership. The Wagner Group, Russian private military contractors, are also now operating throughout Sub-Saharan Africa in defense of governments seeking to hold the terrorists at bay.
The chaos in Somalia the terrorists create helps pirates prey on shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa. Similar piracy is now occurring in West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, reported the Washington Post, adding that the war in Ukraine has diverted worldwide attention from these terror networks.
Disorder spreads unless checked.