By: KIRURI WAHOME
There is no denying the ubiquity of global jihadism as its manifestations are felt in all corners of the world.
In the past few years, we have seen a surge in the number of terrorist attacks across Africa.
This can be attributed to the explosion of global jihadist networks gaining a foothold in the continent.
From the Maghreb, Western to Eastern Africa, there has been a proliferation of extremist jihadist organisations leveraging on the existence of multitudes of disenfranchised youths to swell their numbers and advance global jihadism.
By: definition jihadism, unlike jihadi, which carries spiritual weight, connotes sanctioning the use of violence as a means of expelling non-Islamic influence in lands that are traditionally Muslim.
The goal is the culmination of the creation of a true Islamic government.
Al-Qaeda is normally associated with global jihadism and its adherents and sympathisers are not shy about overtly declaring this.
Indeed, to many experts and analysts, the term global jihadism typifies a relatively new phenomenon that crystalised in the mid-1990s after Al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden adopted a doctrine that focused on fighting the US.
This was a marked departure from the earlier Islamist ideology of the 1960s through the 1980s, which sought separatism from local regimes.
Al-Qaeda birthed new extremist groups that have taken jihadism to a new level. Islamic State or IS, Isis, or Isil immediately comes to mind.
Its ambition to establish a caliphate in the Levant has made it the most serious threat to stability and order, not only in the region but globally as well.
IS FOOTPRINT IN AFRICA
In Africa, we have witnessed the great impact IS has had.
Following allegiance to IS, Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group intensified its expansionist campaign in northeastern Nigeria to include the neighbouring states of Chad and Cameroon.
Similar behaviour was observed in Libya as IS-affiliated groups briefly captured the town of Derna.
In Egypt, extremist groups affiliated to IS have carried out brutal attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. In Tunisia, attacks in a museum and tourist hotel are the hallmarks of IS.
Why has global jihadism taken root in Africa in such a short time? In East Africa, the collapse and absence of an effective central government and structures in Somalia stands out as a cause.
In West Africa, high levels of corruption and the marginalisation of predominantly Islamic northern Nigeria has ignited hatred towards Lagos and created many unemployed youths who are only too eager to join Boko Haram.
Disillusionment and disappointment with the Arab Spring coupled with the collapse of central government and fragmentation of militias are now ailing the Arab states in Africa.
These and many other related factors are threatening to make Africa the next breeding ground for global jihadism. African governments need to change their policies vis-à-vis counterterrorism.
Long-term counterterrorism strategies must be in tandem with development, youth empowerment, war on corruption, and greater freedoms and democracy. So long as Africa continues to marginalise its vast youth population, stifle dissent, engage in nepotism, blatant corruption, and looting of public resources, it will continue to attract radical extremist groups that are assured of ready recruits.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION