Terrorism: Africa’s New Game Changer?

Terrorism: Africa’s New Game Changer?
President Uhuru Kenyatta

AFRICANGLOBE – AS  Africans on the continent and the Diaspora look forward to celebrating the 51st edition of Africa Day on May 25, it’s time to take stock and also ask some hard questions. 

Is terrorism on the continent the latest threat to Africa’s growth and development, and how does Africa hope to fight this new enemy?

“Africa rising” is the latest buzz term but how will the world’s new growth point rise amid internal conflicts and terrorism?

Does Africa have the capacity to fight the war on terror, which major Western powers are dismally losing despite pouring in large amounts of resources? Will Africa in the long term defeat the Lord’s

Resistance Army, M23, Seleka, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram and many more?

I pose these open-ended questions following two very disturbing developments, developments which have a bearing on Africa’s position in the geo-political sphere.

The first development regards the travel advisories and the evacuation of tourists from Kenya by some Western countries.

The terror group Al-Shabaab has been fighting Somalia and other East African countries like Kenya for some time now. They were responsible for the Westgate Shopping Mall bombing in Kenya which claimed dozens of lives.

Despite that, the United States, UK, France and Australia never issued the alarmist travel advisories like the ones they issued last week. The evacuation of tourists on short notice was also unprecedented, with Kenyan authorities maintaining that this had not happened in the past three decades.

Excerpts of media reports state that the British Government advised the country’s citizens to avoid travelling to Mombasa, Eastleigh in Nairobi and areas within 60 kilometres of the Kenya-Somalia border. In its latest update published in the British High

Commission website, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) further advises against non-essential travel to Garissa and slums in Nairobi and other towns.

“The FCO warning cited Nairobi’s high density settlements, including Kibera, a tourist attraction with foreigners and aid workers visiting it after it was cited as one of Africa’s largest slums.

“British citizens were advised to take a comprehensive travel and medical cover before visiting Kenya. The advice cites recent blasts in Mombasa and Nairobi, warning of a high threat of terrorism and kidnapping.”

As indicated above, the advisory was followed by a sudden evacuation of hundreds of British tourists, with chartered planes being sent from the UK to evacuate the visitors, some of whom had been in Kenya for less than three days.

One of the British companies, Thompson Tours, also told potential tourists on its website that it was cancelling all flights to Mombasa until October 31, 2014: “As a precautionary measure, we have also taken the decision to repatriate all customers currently on holiday in Kenya, including our Air Fare passengers back to the UK on Thursday and Friday this week. We understand that many customers will be very disappointed about the cancellation of their holiday to Kenya. However, in these types of situation we have to follow the FCO advice,” said Thompson Tours.

Such actions are never taken individually. We have since observed that one country takes the lead before the United States, other EU countries and Australia follow suit.

This is what happened in the Kenya scenario, where terrorism is being used as an excuse to destroy the country’s vibrant tourism industry.

As the evacuation was taking place, the US ambassador to Kenya Mr Robert Godec on Saturday, revealed that the embassy would reduce its personnel due to terrorist threats. He also said that the US would bring in more marines to Kenya. “The US government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at both Kenyans and the international community,” Mr Godec said.

The war on terror was internationalised by former US president George W. Bush after the September 11 bombings in New York. How is it then that the West seems to be privy to intelligence information, which they are not willing to share with other stakeholders, but would still want them to take an active role? Has the war on terror become the new game changer on the continent? What is the bigger picture?

Some schools of thought cannot help wondering why the West’s drastic and very damaging actions conveniently coincided with the Chinese premier Li Keqiang’s visit to both Kenya and Nigeria where China outlined its win-win Sino-Africa policy and also signed mega deals for infrastructure development.

Another school of thought believes that when Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto won their fight against the International Criminal Court, the West felt slighted, and it was only a matter of time before they hit back at Kenya. Terrorism gave them that excuse.

With this open sabotage on the Kenyan economy, and that of the East Africa region and the Horn of Africa, who can blame the tough talking by President Kenyatta on the West’s hypocrisy and double standards?

President Kenyatta on Sunday hit back at the West.

One hopes that the tough talking will be followed by practical action on the ground, as his stance was widely supported by Kenyans.

According to Kenyan media, President Kenyatta did not mince his words as he lashed out: “Now they are issuing travel advisories and evacuating their citizens over the terror incidents, and we are telling them that they can go if they want. We aren’t afraid; we will do our own things here. We are there to promote domestic tourism and we will shop for tourists in other nations.

President Kenyatta added, “Terrorism was not born in Kenya; in fact it started in their country (US). We supported them then and if you remember well, there was a time when President Bush (George) said ‘it’s either you are with us or against us’, so if they do not reciprocate the same, it’s their own problem.”

It was about time that the desire for foreign direct investment saw that the indigenous component can still do it. Then we have the issue of abducted girls in Nigeria who have been missing since April 14.

One of the first reactions from Western nations was the all too familiar olive branch extended by French president Francois Hollande — a Paris peace and security meeting with West African leaders, including Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.

The last time another French leader (Nicolas Sarkozy) extended such an olive branch, doors were opened for NATO forces to enter Libya and fight on the side of rebel forces resulting in the murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

We will ignore the UN Security Council resolutions and the African countries that voted in favour of that deadly no-fly zone in Libya.

It was, however, surprising that it was at the Paris meeting also attended by British and American representatives that the West African leaders from Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Chad and Cameroon found each other and also had other amazing discoveries regarding terrorism in general and Boko Haram in particular. They left the meeting reinvigorated to declare total war on Boko Haram.

It’s almost a week since the Paris meeting, and instead of the total war they declared, it seems as though the meeting gave Boko Haram impetus to carry out more deadly terror attacks, killing hundreds of innocent civilians in the process.

The Nigerian leader issued a statement after the Jos market attack on Tuesday, but that was about all from this eminent meeting as the other leaders do not seem to see the escalation of the terrorist attacks.

So much for French interference in African affairs, using former colonies to leverage itself and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world.

Contrast the French approach in West and Central Africa with what the United States of America, the UK, France and Australia are doing to the Kenyan economy in the name of fighting terrorism, and you ask once more whether terrorism has become the latest game changer.

By: Hildegarde