15 Aug Security expert warns UN that Africa could be facing future terrorism attacks
A security expert has warned the U.N Security Council that the threat from the Islamic State extremist group is growing by the day in Africa and the continent could be “the future of the caliphate”.
Martin Ewi, from the Institute for Security Studies, said the Islamic State “has expanded its influence beyond measure” in Africa, with at least 20 countries directly experiencing the extremist group’s activity and more than 20 others “being used for logistics and to mobilise funds and other resources”. Ewi explained: “They are now regional hubs, which have become corridors of instability in Africa.
Ewi, who coordinates a transnational organised crime project at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa’s capital Pretoria, was previously in charge of the African Union Commission’s counter-terrorism program. Addressing the council’ he said the Lake Chad Basin – which borders Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon – is the extremist group’s biggest area of operation, areas in the Sahel are now considered to be “ungovernable” and Somalia remains an Islamic State “hotspot” in the Horn of Africa.
The Islamic State, otherwise known as Daesh, has previously occupied large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014 and set up a so-called Islamic Caliphate in the region it controlled spanning a third of both countries. Although the extremist group was formally declared as defeated in Iraq in 2017, its sleeper cells continue to launch attacks in different parts of both countries.
Ewi told a Security Council meeting on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report on the threat posed by the Islamic State that after the extremists established the caliphate in Syria and Iraq, an international coalition came together and mounted a military campaign to defeat the Islamic State.
He stated: “No similar coalition was mounted to defeat Daesh in Africa … meaning that the continent was left to bear the consequences of those who are fleeing Syria and finding safe havens on the continent.”
Ewi also described several other factors that have made Daesh successful in Africa, including the presence of natural resources which enable groups like Daesh to fund themselves, as well as the dire poverty for many African youths and Daesh’s ability to work with other terrorist and criminal groups on the continent.
He also cited the absence of new initiatives in Africa to fight terrorism and the “ostrich approach” of many countries that ignored early warnings of terrorist threats. He added: “The international community is then called upon to help at the time that the threat has gotten out of hand. We are seeing this phenomenon playing out in Benin and Togo, which are the latest coastal countries in Africa to experience concentrated attacks of Daesh and other terror groups.”
He added that this same phenomenon was seen previously in Mozambique when terrorism erupted, and also in Nigeria, Cameroon and many other countries.
To defeat Daesh in Africa, Ewi suggested “the strategy must transcend the group and include its alliances with al-Qaida and other criminal groups including bandits, herders, gangs and various organised crime groups.”
He urged the Security Council to mobilise equipment and funds to support the many peace support operations fighting against terrorism.