The past twelve months have seen increased terrorist activity in Africa leaving some not so pleasant senarios for 2012. In fact, I would say that 2011 saw terrorist groups moving almost at will on the continent despite greater security push back than every before. Sure, Africa’s terrorist groups are an extremely mixed bag, yet they seem poised to continue to reign havoc on citizens in their path.
Nigerian security forces killed and captured hundreds of Boko Haram loyalists in 2009 and 2010, including the summary execution of two of its leaders Alhaji Yusuf Mohammed and Alhaji Buji Foi. Some predicted the end of Boko Haram, yet in the past twelve months Boko Haram has risen to the level of the most active terrorist group on planet Earth carrying out more frequent and deadlier bombings. In the past the Boko Haram terrorists struck mostly in their own neighborhood of northern Nigeria, especially around Maiduguri, in 2011 they struck severe blows at security installations and the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Abuja. They ended the year with the horrific Christmas day bombings.
Al-Shabaab continued to raise havoc and fear in East Africa, particularly in Somalia. The al-Qaeda linked group struck often in southern villages and in Mogadishu during the year. The most notable event was the interjection of foreign countries into the battle against al-Shabaab. Kenya has for years had to deal with al-Shabaab in the Eastleigh district of Nairobi and in the far northern reaches of the country. In 2011 large numbers of Kenyan troops began to cross the border to seek and destroy al-Shabaab operatives after the abduction of tourists and aid workers. The United States re-inserted itself into Somalia through its use of drones, initially for intelligence gathering and later bombing suspected al-Shabaab staging areas. Israel even intimated that it was willing to lend a hand in the battle against al-Shabaab.
In North Africa, al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is much smaller than al-Shabaab or Boko Haram, but its region of operations has extended beyond its country of birth, Algeria, to most of North Africa and the Sahel. In 2011 AQIM was not very active, but a splitter group of black African terrorists calling themselves the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MOJWA, claimed responsibility for the abduction of three European, two of them women, from Tindouf refuge camp in Algeria on October, 23rd. Span and France have dispatched advisers to security forces tracking down AQIM.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) was born of aspirations to topple the Ugandan government but in recent years it has become more of a menace to peoples in the Congo, CAR and South Sudan. Though a ruthless and extremely vicious group the LRA has degenerated into less of terrorist group to more of bands of thugs and thieves. The Untied States sent special forces personnel in Uganda and the CAR to assist in hunting down LRA members.
2012 Predictions for Terrorism in Africa
- The next twelve months will most likely see the LRA being snuffed out or reduced into a very small, yet no less violent, local threat in the CAR, but far off its course of destabilizing or overthrowing the Ugandan government.
- The AQIM will not go much beyond their occasional abduction of foreigners, yet the MOJWA splitter group has threatened to step up jihadist operations in West Africa. They could well keep their word and become Africa’s newest terrorist threat. The deadly wild card here is the large number of Libyan weapons that have found their way into north Africa and the Sahel.
- Al-Shabaab will continue to be kept somewhat in check in Somalia, but they could reach deep into Kenya or Uganda in an attempt to intimidate those countries’ or cause over reactions by them or the United States resulting on easier recruitment of Muslims within East Africa. As long as Somalia remains void of an effective central government, the more chance that al-Qaeda will use it for training and hiding out. If the 2012 election in Kenya turns violent as it did last time, it could be a distraction to role in Somalia.
- Boko Haram will remain the most active terrorist group in Africa with its operations confined to Nigeria. Its operations may well ignite a widespread civil battle between Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims. The rumored involvement by the United States could become a reality if the oil rich Delta region falls into turmoil.