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Africa’s Weakness Will Ensure that Terrorism Will Escalate – Professor Hussein Solomon

July 7, 2015


Africa’s Weakness Will Ensure that Terrorism Will Escalate

By Hussein Solomon

RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 3 (2015), Number 5 (July 2015)

His name was Seifeddine Rezqui, a 23-year-old engineering student from the rather ordinary town of Gaafour 50 miles from the capital Tunis. He had a passion for football and was a Real Madrid supporter. Rezqui also had a penchant for rap music and participated in break-dance competitions[1]. Yet, Rezqui also went under another name – Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani – and the Islamic State (IS) labelled him a “Soldier of the Caliphate”[2].  As a “soldier of the Islamic State” he hid his AK-47 in an umbrella and then proceeded to mow down tourists on a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia. 38 were killed – largely British tourists – and scores more were injured[3].

A week after this terrorist atrocity in Tunisia, 22,000 African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali government troops started withdrawing from large swathes of the Lower Shabelle region including the strategic towns of Qoroley and Awdhegele in the face of a major Ramadan offensive by Al Shabaab. Mohamed Aweys, the district commissioner of Awdhegele admits, “This is a complete setback because Al Shabaab is gaining ground”[4]. A week before the AMISOM retreat there were already indications that things were not going right when Al Shabaab stormed Lego village killing 80 Burundian soldiers[5].

The terrorist atrocity in Tunisia and the Al Shabaab offensive in Somalia also underline an important truism – that Africa has not been able to get its counter-terrorism act together despite numerous legislative measures enacted and various declarations that such atrocities will not be repeated. Earlier this year – in March 2015, IS targeted Tunis’ Bardo Museum in which 21 foreign tourists and a policeman were killed[6]. Following this attack various measures were announced by Tunisia to beef up its security forces and to take the fight to IS. The attack on Sousse illustrate however, that these were ineffective.

In the case of AMISOM, their current retreat in the face of the Al Shabaab offensive could have easily been predicted. From its inception AMISOM was understaffed and under-funded despite the best efforts of the United States and various European powers. AMISOM suffered from two major weaknesses. First, the lack of political commitment from Africa itself despite the rhetorical declarations of support for the mission. Second, AMISOM has to defend a government in Mogadishu which has no interest in building an inclusive polity. The clan politics as well as corruption of the Somali Federal Government merely provided more ammunition to the Islamists of AMISOM.

Africa is a continent big on rhetoric but it is in the realm of action where it falls short. These weaknesses have been and will continue to be exploited by the likes of the Islamic State and Al Shabaab. Is it any wonder then that currently there are 3 terrorist attacks on African soil every day or that 22 African countries are affected by terrorism? Unfortunately, the terrorist menace on the African continent will merely intensify in the years ahead as the continent’s long-suffering citizens are saddled with leaders who think more about lining their own pockets than the welfare of their people.



[1] Colin Freeman and Hassan Morajea, “The gunman who loved Facebook and Real Madrid,” The Sunday Telegraph, 29 June 2015, p.2

[2] “IS group claims responsibility for massacre at Tunisia beach resort,” AFP. 27 June 2015. Internet:// Date accessed: 2 July 2015.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “African Union troops retreat in Somalia as Shebab attack,” Times Live. 3 July 2015. Internet: Date accessed: 7 July 2015.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “IS group claims responsibility,” op. cit.

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