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How Illiberal African Regimes Instrumentalize the ‘Global War on Terror’ – Matteo Mirolo


How Illiberal African Regimes Instrumentalize the ‘Global War on Terror’

By Matteo Mirolo

Volume 6 (2018), Number 9 (May 2018)

Described as early as 2001 as “the world’s soft underbelly for global terrorism” by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Africa’s place in the world security map has grown exponentially since the beginning of the ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT) that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the case of the United States (U.S.), this has been translated into the establishment of direct military presence—with a base in Djibouti—and the launch of several military initiatives such as the Africa Command (AFRICOM) or the Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP).

 With the current population boom and high rates of poverty and the growth of radical Islam—especially in North and West Africa—Western policy-makers were afraid that the continent would become a breeding ground for international terrorism. Therefore, aid programs accordingly modified their rationale from human development to security and started channeling a growing share of their funds to military and security sector assistance aimed at improving the numbers, training and equipment of African security forces.

However, one should not see the securitization of development solely as a strategic shift based on Western national interests imposed on African states. This vision implies that the said states have little choice other than to obey, lest they lose access to the funds that their budgets so badly depend on.  Rather, the securitization of development is a narrative rather than a unilateral and straightforward policy; its meaning is constructed by multifarious actors, as well as by the very process of applying the concept to realities on the ground.

In other words, African agency should not be removed from the equation. Indeed, it can be argued that African illiberal regimes—especially those which present a strong military and security structure—are able to adopt, adapt to, and eventually shape the GWOT narrative and turn the securitization of development to their advantage.

In Chad, President Idriss Déby Itno has succeeded in diverting Western-sponsored programs to improve the state’s security. This fund diversion has also turned into a personal quest for regime security through a careful set of policy decisions including image management, blackmail, and bargaining. In fact, the solidity of Déby’s regime can be explained by the financial, military and diplomatic dividends that he has extracted from his donors through an astute foreign policy.

Chad’s geopolitical context is conflict-ridden. To the North, there is the Libyan conflict; to the East lie Sudan and the Darfur crisis; to the West, Mali has been unstable since 2013; to the South, Boko Haram is active, and there are the long-lasting crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Since his access to power in 1990, Déby has proven himself capable of transforming this complex geopolitical context into a strategic asset by portraying his country as the last defense to avoid regional chaos. In order to build trust into his concept of a “Pax Chadiana”, Déby can rely on three assets: his will to deploy one of the strongest armies in Central Africa, a strongly voluntarist diplomacy, and image management that suits Western concerns for stability and securitization.

One could argue that Chad has turned into such a strategic ally for the GWOT that it could successfully blackmail its Western allies. A case in point was the September 2017 table ronde des donateurs that took place in Paris, where 20 billion dollars were promised to Chad by a wealth of investors and development aid organisations to fund its five-year industrialization plan (2017-2021), when Chad’s target was only set at five billion. In the months leading up to the conference, Déby was “raising the bids” by blackmailing his Western allies: he threatened them with removing all of his troops from counter-terrorism engagement in the G5 Sahel if he did not receive the expected funding. As Déby stated in May 2017,

“Chadians are disappointed with the lack of Western commitment […]. We are alone in this fight [against terrorism] […]. If nothing is done, Chad will sadly be forced to remove its troops [from the G5 Sahel].”

What is so striking about this piece of rhetoric is its carefully pondered timing. By threatening to destabilize the G5 Sahel just weeks after Macron’s election, at a time when the new French president could not afford any foreign policy setbacks, Déby maximized the power of his blackmailing. Furthermore, Déby knew that Chad’s participation was essential in stopping the flow of illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, and France was eager to enhance its diplomatic prestige within the EU by bringing home a deal exclusively negotiated within its African ‘backyard.’ By threatening to open up the valve of immigration flow from the Sahel to Europe if more funds did not swiftly arrive, Déby crafted an argument that would prove convincing to Europe’s chancelleries

Although Chad is one of the largest recipients of foreign aid per capita in Africa, Déby has not kept his word regarding structural transformations that he had promised after receiving several waves of international aid. The country is still 186 out of 189 in the UNDP’s Human Development Index classification. Déby’s untouchability extends to his illiberal political methods—arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of journalists and political opponents, amongst others.

Chad is far from being a weak regime that passively sits at the receiving end of policies decided by other states. Chad is a state that structurally and rhetorically crafts the image of a stable and peacemaking force in the region and has therefore become a ‘darling’ of the Western securitization agenda, which has conferred to Déby a position of strength on the international arena despite his extensive use of illiberal methods.

Therefore it is essential to acknowledge Africa’s agency in the GWOT by bringing to light the relationship between the developed world and Africa as a two-way process rather than as an agent-to-object relationship. The power dynamics of ‘victims’ and ‘defenders’ are at times pragmatic, at others manipulative, but constantly fluid.


Matteo Mirolo is French and Italian and studies International Relations at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. He holds a B.A. in Politics and Sociology from the University of Cambridge. Passionate about African politics, he wishes to pursue a career in international security. He also contributes to Polemics, the magazine of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, where this article will be published in French.


More than Counter Terrorism Insurance in Africa – Dr. Glen Segell


More than Counter Terrorism Insurance in Africa

By Glen Segell

Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies

Volume 6 (2018), Number 8 (May 2018)

Africa’s wars of national liberation have all succeeded. The freedom fighters evolved from being called terrorists by the colonial powers to be state leaders. The new states have evolved from Stalinist-style socialism to Oligarch-type capitalism. Globalization evolved society from eroding traditional to introducing radicalization. The Soviet bloc collapse and Africa took out insurance. Yes, Africa made declarations, signed conventions, passed laws and trains for the counter terrorism of radicalization. This like having car insurance, you hope you have it, but never have to use it.

Each according to his ability will give and each according to his needs will receive was the communist ideological mantra that was induced into the continental efforts in preventing and combating terrorism that have a long history. The domino impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall and withdrawal of former Warsaw Pact forces from Africa led to saw an almost immediate influx of radicalism be it sectarianism, tribalism, ethnicity or religion to fill the void.

As early as 1992, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), meeting at its 28th Ordinary Session, held in Dakar, Senegal, adopted a Resolution on the Strengthening of Cooperation and Coordination among African States [AHG/Res.213 (XXVIII)] in which the Union pledged to fight the phenomena of extremism and terrorism. By 1994 a subsequent declaration also condemned, as criminal, all terrorist acts, methods and practices, and expressed its resolve to enhance cooperation to combat such acts.

The rise of terrorism forced the 1999 OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism adopted by the 35th Ordinary Session of the OAU Summit, held in Algiers, Algeria, that requires member states to criminalize terrorist acts under their national laws. It defines areas of cooperation among states, establishes state jurisdiction over terrorist acts, and provides a legal framework for extradition as well as extra-territorial investigations and mutual legal assistance. The Convention entered into force in December 2002 and to date, 40 Member States have ratified it.

With the insurance policy in place subsequent focus was action for combating terrorism. The 2002 AU Plan of Action on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism (CT) adopts practical CT measures that substantially address Africa’s security challenges, including measures in areas such as police and border control, legislative and judicial measures, financing of terrorism and exchange of information. However, this didn’t prevent terrorism and lessons learnt from around the world by law enforcers led to a proposal in July 2004 to recognize the growing linkages between terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crimes, money laundering, and the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

The insurance policy was further expanded in Article 3(d) of the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, which states that the objective of the Council, inter alia, is to ‘co-ordinate and harmonize continental efforts in the prevention and combating of international terrorism in all its aspects’.  Not all states were able to implement this, and radicalization and terrorism increased leading to a decision of the Assembly of the Union [Assembly/AU/ Dec.311(XV)] on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, adopted at its Kampala Session in July 2010, where it underscored the need for renewed efforts and increased mobilization.

In October 2010, an AU Special Representative for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation was appointed with the goal to mobilize support for the continent to fight the scourge of terrorism, assess the situation in various Member States and identify, with the concerned national authorities, priority security issues to be addressed.It was recognized that not all terrorism in Africa is against African targets by African residents.

One example of activity in 2016 was a training exercise hosted by the American FBI, Senegal and Mauritania called Flintlock, a month-long counter-terrorism training exercise to which 30 militaries from the continent and beyond were invited. It was the first-ever attempt to incorporate law enforcement agencies into the drills of terrorist explosive device lessons from examples from the Oklahoma City and Boston bombings. The simulation also involved experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan. To be sure there is an American interest in assisting after the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The ball is rolling but who will stop it, when and how can best be voiced rhetorically for any that dares to speak usually quotes the insurance policy of the above noted declarations, conventions, laws, training and cooperation. They could add maybe naively that there is a comprehensive approach that includes enhanced military capacity, enhanced law enforcement, restricting travel and stemming access to resources, drying up potential sources of recruits, building global partnerships, and providing support to partners on the front lines.

Yet reality persists, and more than an insurance policy would be needed to confront Islamic radical terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, to degrade Al-Shabaab, to enable partners to combat al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and to arrest the growth of extremist groups like Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi, and Ansar al-Sharia in Darnah.

Rivalries in the Persian Gulf and Its Implications for Africa – Professor Hussein Solomon


Rivalries in the Persian Gulf and Its Implications for Africa

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 6 (2018), Number 7 (May 2018)

During the Cold War, the African continent was ravaged as proxies of Washington and Moscow fought their respective ideological and strategic battles. Whilst ordinary Africans were killed, maimed or rendered homeless because of a hot Cold War in the regional context; political elites secured largesse from the superpower rivalries. History seems to be repeating itself given rivalries between Iran and Saudi Arabia and between GCC countries and Qatar.

The Saudi-Iranian rivalry could be viewed at both a theological and realpolitik level. Theologically, there are 650 million Muslims on the African continent – the majority of whom are Sunni. In recent years, however, Iran has been making inroads into Africa’s restive Muslim population and have been increasing the number of Shi’a Muslims on the continent – notably in Nigeria, Cameroon and Senegal. This is not merely a theological thrust to Iran’s foreign policy but also strategic. More Shi’a Muslims gives Tehran an opportunity to establish Hezbollah-styled proxies across the continent. Indeed Iran-funded and controlled Hezbollah has a huge footprint in West Africa through the Lebanese diaspora in the region and effectively controlling the drug and arms trade.

Whilst such a strategy like Iranian support for the Shia’ inspired Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) led by Ibrahim Zakzaky holds benefits, there are definite dangers. When the IMN began confronting the military, including attempting to assassinate the Nigerian Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukul Burati, the Nigerian government declared the group as a terrorist group and killed over 300 of its members at a rally in December 2015 and imprisoned its leader Zakzaky. Tehran won no sympathy in Abuja when it attacked the Nigerian government for its imprisonment of Zakzaky. To make matters worse, the Saudi government encouraged Nigerian President Buhari to crush the IMN and financially supported the Sunni group, the Izala Society, which regularly attacked Nigeria’s Shi’a community. The one consequence of Saudi-Iran rivalry on the African continent is increased sectarian polarization and conflict. Another consequence of the Iran high-risk strategy is that it serves to undermine its strategic goals in Africa: African diplomatic and political support in international organizations like the UN where Tehran is a pariah state as well as access to uranium deposits for its nuclear programme.

The Crown Jewel in Iran’s Africa policy remains the most developed economy on the continent – South Africa. South Africa’s strong ties with the Islamic Republic was facilitated largely on account of the sale of cheap Iranian oil and gas to Pretoria. However, there are indications that Saudi cheque book diplomacy may well have resulted in Pretoria opting for closer ties with Riyadh. On 29 February 2016, then South African President Jacob Zuma was scheduled to travel to Iran on a state visit. Four days prior to this visit though, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair visited Pretoria. President Zuma then abruptly cancelled his visit to Tehran and led a South African delegation to Riyadh instead. There, several trade and investment agreements were signed.

A similar fate awaited Sudan’s relationship with Iran. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s Khartoum and Tehran retained strong military relations. Sudan also became a major transit point to re-supply arms to key Iranian allies – Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, by 2014, several factors merged which resulted in Khartoum jettisoning its alliance with Tehran in favour of Riyadh. In 2014, Sudan, the only African state to be governed by Sunni Islamic law, took grave offense at Iranian diplomats making use of their cultural centres to promote Shia Islam in the Sunni-majority country. Iranian diplomats were subsequently expelled from the country. Sudanese-Iranian tensions further escalated when Riyadh decided to execute Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr on charges of terrorism. In the meantime, Riyadh through political and financial incentives lured Khartoum into its orbit of influence. Riyadh offered Sudan an opportunity to break out of its diplomatic isolation and Saudi Arabia led the push to quash the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Given the parlous state of Khartoum’s finances with the splitting of the country along north-south lines, the deposit of US $ 1billion by Saudi Arabia into Sudan’s Central Bank enticed Khartoum to not only sever diplomatic ties with Tehran but also joined the Saudi military coalition in Yemen.

Iran’s proximity to Eritrea also concerned GCC countries especially when the Iranian Navy started using Asmara’s ports. It provided Tehran with a strategic foothold in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Saudi Arabia and its GCC partners worked quickly to win over strategic Horn of Africa countries like Djibouti and Somalia. Both these countries severed ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Somalia expelled Iranians who it said were propagating Shia Islam. Djibouti, meanwhile, allowed Saudi Arabia to construct a military base on its territory, whilst Saudi ally, the UAE, has constructed a military base in Somaliland, to check Iranian influence. Even Eritrea, was won over from its embrace with Tehran when it allowed Riyadh to establish a military base in Assab.

The Iran-Saudi rivalry is not the only one affecting the African continent. Ratcheting tensions between Qatar and its erstwhile GCC partners is also spilling over onto the African continent where both sides are seeking to isolate the other. Both parties are making use of threats and financial incentives to keep African countries onside. Riyadh has already leaned on countries like Mauritania, Chad and Niger to sever diplomatic ties with Doha. All three African states subsequently withdrew their ambassador from the Qatari capital. Sudan tried to remain neutral in the dispute on account of US $ 3 billion Qatar invested in the country. However, they were compelled to join the rest of the GCC countries given the political support and financial incentives offered to Khartoum as outlined earlier in this paper. In response the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, embarked on a six-nation tour of West Africa in December 2017, which was the quintessential example of cheque book diplomacy. In this instance, the cheque book was the US $300 billion sovereign wealth fund – the Qatar Investment Authority.

Whilst individual African states might receive short-term benefits from such cheque book diplomacy, the long-term security risks for Africa, far outweigh any short-term benefit. Consider the territorial dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti. After these countries, downgraded their ties to Doha under Saudi pressure, Qatar withdrew its 400-strong force of peacekeepers from the Red Sea island of Doumeira which both states claimed. Taking advantage of the vacuum created, Eritrea promptly seized the disputed island, thereby threatening the entire peace process. Consider too, the case of the hapless Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (aka Farmaajo). His presidential campaign and his government is heavily financed by Qatar. This prompted both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to financially support the separatist regions of Somaliland and Puntland. The UAE hasupgraded the ports of both breakaway Republics and also negotiated a twenty-five year lease with Somaliland for a military base in Berbera. These developments serve not only to undermine the Somali Federal Government but also diminish efforts to fight Al Shabaab terrorists who invariably take advantage of the tensions between Mogadishu and the breakaway regions.

This saga is far from complete and expect many more twists and turns as rivalries in the Persian Gulf continue to negatively impact the African continent.

An Interview With Professor Abel Esterhuyse on the Interface between Terrorism and Armed Force on the African Continent


An Interview With Professor Abel Esterhuyse on the Interface between Terrorism and Armed Force on the African Continent

RIMA Occasional Q & A , Volume 6 (2018), Number 1 (April 2018)

  1. According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation there has been a 1000 percent increase in terrorists attacks on African soil since 2006. In your opinion what accounts for this escalation?


Three key factors, in my view, shaped the rise in violent terrorism on the African continent.  Firstly, it is impossible to isolate the Islamic and Muslim communities in Africa from what is happening in the rest of the Islamic world.  The deep divisions within the Islamic world and the radicalisation of certain segments of the Muslim communities outside Africa is definitely also affecting the followers of the faith in Africa.  This process was further inspired and given impetus by the political turmoil in a large part of Islamic Africa that culminated with the Western-inspired regime change and military involvement in Libya, Mali, and other places.  Secondly, large ungoverned spaces are a reality of African political geography.  It provide many rebel and dissident groups with safe havens to hide from the security forces, radicalise and build their institutional capacities.  This reality is rooted in the historical reality of Africa’s states’ borders, the size of many African states, and the fact that the reach of the central government is often limited because of physical geography of many of these states. Thirdly, and this is something that the more liberal peace building communities and NGOs in Africa do not want to hear, but Africa as a continent is under-militarised.  Not only is African defence budgets too small; but it is also not used to full effect and efficiency.  As a rule, African armed forces are too small, and lacking in professionalism and capacity.  Thus, the lack of military and security governance is a key factor in explaining the growth of international terrorism in Africa.


  1. It has often been asserted that Africa’s armed forces have been largely trained to conduct conventional battles and therefore are ill-suited to engage in asymmetric warfare or embark on counter-insurgency operations. Would you agree with this?


The assertion that African armed forces are conventional in orientation is rooted in the reality that African armed forces are often trained by conventionally minded forces of super and major powers from outside of Africa.  Conventional training is not necessarily bad for armed forces.  The basic military drills and discipline that accompanied this kind of training are a necessity for professional armed forces.  There are two key problems though.  African armed forces do not necessarily build their own institutional knowledge of African conflicts and security.  Stated differently, African military personnel often do not read and write. How often do you find the autobiography of a retired African general in bookstores around the continent of Africa? And because African officers and military personnel do not engage in serious writing, African armed forces cannot develop their own tailor-made doctrines.  Thus, they rely on doctrines from outside of Africa to train their forces for an operating environment that is substantially different than what these doctrines were developed for in the first place in western and eastern countries.  Secondly, the dynamic nature of the African security domain requires from the African armed forces to train and conduct a wide range of operations that often necessitate the integration of regular and irregular operational strategies.  Thus, for African armed forces, it is not a case of preparing for the one or the other – for regular or irregular warfare; it is a case of developing a tailor-made doctrine to integrate various types of action in one operational sphere and often work with police, and even private military companies, within that particular operational sphere.  Recent operations in northern Nigeria against Boko Haram are a good example in this regard.


  1. Following on from this, what needs to be done (training, equipment, doctrine) to assist Africa’s armed forces to conduct successful military operations against the likes of Al Shabaab and Boko Haram?


It is quite clear that African armed forces need to build their own institutional memories and capacity.  There is a strong and important imitative dynamic in warfare around the world.  Armed forces always tend to emulate the success of other armed forces.  The problem arises if you emulate the armed forces of countries that have not been successful in fighting irregular wars – if one has to be honest about the track record of western armed forces during the last 20 years and more.  Conventionally, the armed forces of the West have driven the other players off the field; it is like playing rugby against the New Zealand All Blacks – expect to lose. In the domain of irregular warfare, however, their track record is a disaster and not something than can and should be emulated by African armed forces.  The driving force behind any successful military operation is doctrine.  It is doctrine that informs the institutional structure, training and equipment of the armed forces; it is the software that drives the military hardware. But no serious doctrinal development is possible without institutional memory.  The institutional memory relies on the experience of soldiers and the codification thereof in writing.  Without soldiers writing about their experiences, it is impossible to develop a truly home-grown military doctrine for the uniqueness of your own armed forces and the operational environment they need to operate in.


  1. We have witnessed in recent years many Western boots on the ground in the Sahel and support for AMISOM in Somalia. What could be done to increase inter-operability between African armed forces and their Western counterparts?


This is firstly a matter of upscale and downscale.  There is at present a disequilibrium between the training, doctrine, and equipment of most Western armed forces and those of most African countries.  That disequilibrium is informed by the cornerstones of the Western military tradition – superior technology; group cohesion and exceptional discipline; an aggressive Clausewitzian military doctrine of kill or be killed; military doctrines based on generations of deeply analysed military history; and a state capacity that is able to appropriately finance the military endeavours.  Most African armed forces are struggling with many of these realities of military capacity and it is time for African political and military leaders to prioritise their commitment to their armed forces and to address these matters on a strategic level.  But it is secondly also a matter of African armed forces stepping up to the plate and doing their part.  African armed forces have to become more effective and efficient with what they have.  The essence and driving reality for increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of armed forces is a good quality leadership.  African armed forces can do a lot to increase their interoperability with western armed forces through the quality of their command and control – good leadership.  That is the essential starting point for interoperability.  Of course, the alignment of training and equipment helps; it helps even more if these factors are cemented through regular joint field exercises.


Short CV:

Abel Esterhuyse is an associate professor of strategy in the Faculty of Military Science of Stellenbosch University at the South African Military Academy. He is also a research associate of the Centre for Conflict, Rule of Law and Society (CRoLS) at the Bournemouth University in the UK. Prof Esterhuyse teaches a wide variety of courses in the School for Security and Africa Studies of Stellenbosch University, regularly publishes on contemporary security, defence and military issues and has a keen interest in (South African) military history.  He served for five years (2010-2015) as the editor of ScientiaMilitaria: The South African Journal of Military Studies.  His most recent research on “The practice of strategy: South African defence in stasis” was published in the 1/2018 edition of Defence& Security Analysis.

תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪Abel Esterhuyse‬‏


The Case for Senegalese Exceptionalism? – Professor Hussein Solomon


The Case for Senegalese Exceptionalism?

By Hussein Solomon

RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 6 (2018), Number 6 (April 2018)

West African countries have been mired in conflict since achieving independence. Inter-state and intra-state wars have been the bane as has been the poor civil-military relations witnessed in the numerous coups and attempted coups in the region. Senegal, meanwhile has remained a stable albeit flawed democracy all this time. In recent years, the region has suffered the ravages of Islamist extremism in the form of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, Boko Haram, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, Murabitoun, and countless other groupings as the various extremist organizations disintegrate and coalesce in new formations. Once again, Senegal has remained the exception with no militant Islamist grouping operating on its territory. This is all the more remarkable if one considers that 96.1 percent of Senegalese are Muslim. What accounts for this exceptionalism and what can neighbouring states learn from the Senegalese example?

To understand why Senegal has largely been inoculated from extremism, we need to understand that the overwhelming majority of its Muslims belong to four main Sufi brotherhoods which all subscribe to the notion that the country is a civil state (dawla madaniyah). A civil state implies that religious leaders respect that people are sovereign, that they elect politicians who enact legislation. In a civil state, the political leadership also recognizes that religious leaders have a legitimate role to play in the public sphere. Far from Western secular notions of the separation of Church and State, Senegal then creates the space for both to co-exist in the public sphere. This also implies that Salafist notions of capturing political power in order to make better Muslims through legislation has little traction in the country.

An important caveat needs emphasis here is that the Senegalese state creates the space for all religions equally and not only the majority one. Consider the following: the country recognizes seven public Islamic holidays annually and six for those who are Roman Catholics which only constitute 3.6 percent of the population. Indeed, Senegal goes further and actually subsidizes those Catholics who wish to visit Rome in the same manner that Muslims go on pilgrimage to Mecca. In this way, Senegal celebrates its religious diversity.

It is also important to note that Senegalese education ministry officials work with Muslim imams to ensure that a mutually acceptable curriculum is embarked upon which not only provide learners in Muslim schools with a religious education renown for its tolerance but also the requisite skills to function in the market place. The close interaction between state and Islamic authorities also achieved other social benefits when government officials and imams embarked on a joint programme against female genital mutilation.

The proximity between state and Islamic authorities however also constitutes a danger. Islamists often point to the co-option of the leaders of Sufi brotherhoods by the political leadership. These religious authorities then are also blamed for the failures of the political leadership. One way to avoid this is to ensure that whilst Muslim religious leaders interact with government they stay aloof from politics and refrain from endorsing specific candidates during elections.

Islamists are also adept at exploiting existing grievances in a society for their own ends. Two issues here are of central importance. Youth unemployment and the ongoing separatism movement in southern Senegal. 60 percent of the population is below 25 years of age and they suffer high unemployment rates. Over the years Senegal’s dependence on mining, fishing, agriculture and more recently tourism and construction has not provided the necessary lift to the economy to absorb the millions of unemployed youth. The government, together with its international partners, needs to prioritize industrialization with a view to reducing unemployment and poverty in the country. In the south, meanwhile, The Movement of Democratic Forces in the Casamance has led an armed insurgency since the 1980s. Various peace initiatives have failed and whilst there is a de facto ceasefire holding, urgent steps need to be taken to ensure that the conflict does not flare up again.

In conclusion, if Senegal can ensure cooperation with religious authorities without co-option; if it can fast track economic development to absorb restless unemployed youth; and if it can bring to a peaceful conclusion the Casamance separatist insurgency, it will retain its exceptionalism in West Africa.

An AK-47 Illustration of Africans – Dr. Glen Segell


An AK-47 Illustration of Africans

By Glen Segell

(RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 6 (2018), Number 5 (March 2018

If I were to travel to Africa with a sketch pad and a pencil to make an illustration of Africans I would most likely end up with an illustration of an ethnic African wearing a Muslim taqiyah or keffiyeh head-dress and wielding an AK-47 assault rifle. The head apparel would differentiate Africa over the last 60 years. In the 1950s and 1960s the grandparents of today’s population would also have been wielding Ak-47 assault rifles but wearing a beret. Then it would have been the colonial struggle period of national liberation movements supported with atheistic communist ideology and movements.

Today they wield AK-47 assault rifles because radical Islamic movements have replaced the colonial masters. The wielders are against their own population rather than as nationalist struggles against foreigners. To be sure a reason is due to African nationalist movements having followed communism. When the Soviet Union collapsed circa 1990 so did the support mechanism for African dictators who migrated to democratic systems that also failed due to rampant corruption, mismanagement and lack of confidence in the state system. Failed states throughout Africa were the results.

The consequences were a vacuum that gave potential for the rise in radical Islamic groups in Africa since the 1990s imported as franchises from the Middle East. They coupled with the situation on the ground, African failed states, to become the breeding grounds for violent extremism. Because of failed or non-existent central or even local government the Islamic groups have filled the gap. They have become the social and local governance in political, cultural, social and even economic life. The mosque is social welfare, education and community hall thanks to generous donations from rich Islamic states like Saudi Arabia that follows a strict interpretation of the Koran known as Wahhabism.

The demise of atheistic communism also opened up the space for a radical religious thought among individuals. Here is the background to my illustration; that of a mosque filled with radical extremist Muslims labelled as Salafism. It is a revolutionary idea very appealing to victims or young people who reject the state and there were many who rejected corrupt dictators and failed democracy. It was not surprising that Boko Haram, Ansar Dine or al-Shabab emerged in authoritarian states as Islam was a symbol of rebellion for those oppressed or unjustly treated

So my illustration of Africans may not be representative of the millions of Africans that believe in Islam. It may be different from the more historical and traditional Islam in Africa that is practised by 43 percent of all Africans. Most African states and their citizens are friendly and have a reputation for religious tolerance. Most Muslims worldwide are also friendly and non-violent. It would however be an illustration of the Islamic extremist groups in Africa or Islamists that are the ones making headlines. World-wide Islam is not illustrated by assault rifles yet in Africa it is.

My illustration would be of radical trends in Islam that are becoming increasingly conservative in Africa. Recent examples are in East Africa in Somalia where the al-Shabab militia cut off the hands of two alleged thieves and in West Africa with clashes between the Nigerian Army and Boko Haram. Yet for every action there is an opposite action or reaction. A counter-extremist civil society group in Ghana has helped prevent more than 20 young people from joining the Islamic State. Yet this is also shaping an illustration of a Muslim in Africa because it is reactionary to extremist.

East and West Africa are already well known for the radical Islamists. North Africa is hardly Africa; it is so Middle Eastern. Now Southern Africa is on the agenda. Both Zimbabwe and South Africa are states cause for concern. Their leadership has recently changed on the aftermath of corrupt and protracted rule where their populations were significantly better off before their rule than after it. The former leaders have left states that are moving towards or are already failed states especially in local government. Into the vacuum may step religion such as Islam and with it Islamists and radical and extremist Islamic groups.

So my travel to Africa be it East, West, North or South would show a very similar illustration; that of an ethnic African wearing a taqiyah or keffiyeh head-dress and wielding an assault rifle. Owing to good design and durable components it would probably be the same AK-47 assault rifles of colonial struggle days. The more things change the more things remain the same! The only question yet to be unasked and unanswered is what will follow the Islamists in Africa? What headdress will the grandchildren of today’s extremist wear while wielding their ancestors AK-47 assault rifles?

Politicians versus Practitioners: Who is really responsible for human rights abuses in the aftermath of terrorism-incidents – Dr Anneli Botha


Politicians versus Practitioners: Who is really responsible for human rights abuses in the aftermath of terrorism-incidents

By Anneli Botha

RIMA Occasional Papers, Volume 6 (2018), Number 4 (March 2018)

In the aftermath of an attack, the public understandably demand answers and action from politicians and security forces. Starting with blame as to why an attack hadn’t been  prevented in the first place, politicians promise action (for political reasons), and the public will hold both accountable if action is not immediate. Accepted action includes immediate answers as to what happened, how it happened and who were responsible, followed by swift action against those deemed responsible. A strong response is intended to be interpreted by the public as ‘being in control’ and not to lose trust in the security forces, while government wants to portray an image of strength to its countrymen and the broader international community. It is often also for this reason that government would claim victory. For example, President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement on Christmas Eve 2017, declared “the long-awaited and most gratifying news of the final crushing of Boko Haram terrorists in their last enclave in Sambisa Forest.” This was echoed on 7 January 2018 by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Yusuf Buratai, that his troops have won the war against Boko Haram. These declarations come exactly three years after President Buhari announced that Nigeria had “technically” won the war. While in early February 2018, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, the Minister of the Interior, described the group as “completely decimated” and that the group’s structure was degraded and its leadership dismantled. Minister of Information Lai Mohammed cited the “resumption of flights, bubbling nightlife, and football matches in Maiduguri” as signs normalcy has returned to the Borno State capital. Even more detrimental, Rogers Ibe Nicholas, the Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole in Maiduguri, declared Boko Haram “completely defeated.”[i] Just to be proven wrong by subsequent attacks, often achieving the opposite of what government intended.

Returning to deciding who should be blamed for human rights abuses. Although the public and politicians will exclusively blame security forces for what transpired, should responsibility for abuses not be shared by politicians who created conditions conducive to abuse? Understandably security personnel decided on the way to act, but being under unrealistic pressure to produce instant answers and bring those to justice without providing the support and necessary ‘tools’ should share the blame.

On a strategic level, driving and committing these abuses give terrorists the moral upper hand, even justifying their actions as ‘understandable’. From the perspective of the terrorists committing these offences – from the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria, suicide bombings in Somalia, etc. – some of the primary objectives of a terrorist attack include: Firstly, exposing the inability of the state and its security forces to protect itself and its citizens against attacks. Secondly, to manipulate the public through fear to put pressure on the governments in order to change their policies towards the organisation. Thirdly, through committing acts of terrorism, terrorists intend to provoke a response from government. In other words, by provoking a response – often an over-reaction – the State and its security forces can be categorised as inhumane and contributing to radicalisation and recruitment. Therefore, government ultimately plays into the hands of the terrorists/insurgents.

In addition to a potential provocation strategy, politicians need to uphold the image of being in control and defuse public pressure. Consequently, the pressure placed on the government to provide answers and act is being transferred to the security forces to deal with those responsible for the attacks. Practically, security forces first need to investigate in order to identify those responsible. However, in reality, the longer it requires security forces to take action is often being interpreted as a sign of incompetence of both the government and its security forces. Consequently, politicians place enormous pressure on commanding officers to act – without completing investigations or gathering reliable information identifying those implicated in the attack. However, neither the public, nor politicians and commanding officers – that are often politically appointed – grasp the complexity of terrorism-related investigations. Even a domestic terror attack, without any international links, can be challenging.

Giving in under pressure, security forces often respond without the required evidence by rounding up any potential suspects in the form of mass arrests, even arresting family members of potential suspects (again without evidence). For example, according to individuals already convicted in Cameroon for their alleged involvement in Boko Haram,  security forces rounded up people indiscriminately, often justifying it by unrealistic reasons or ‘evidence’. Without a criminal justice culture that allows a suspect access to an adequate defence in a fair judicial system, in a majority of cases usually leads to conviction. Military tribunals often held in secret (justified by security concerns)in which the burden of proof is considerably lower than in criminal court, contribute to unfair practices, leaving many that are in fact innocent in prison, often facing long sentences.

In addition to the consequences of wrongful conviction there is the question which agency should take the lead in countering and preventing terrorism: the police or military. Understandably, the police is not equipped or trained to fight a counterinsurgency, similarly the military is not equipped to deal with the public or lead a criminal justice response that is based on the collection of evidence, completing forensic investigations and arresting suspects. Recognising the very different mandates, the military can play a support role to assist the police in establishing control and stability to an area under the control of insurgents. However, once control has been established, the military should step aside and play a supportive role to the police. However, many countries on the continent historically provided more support to the military to secure regime security. Consequently, instead of investing in the police to fulfil its mandate, much needed resources and human investment did not end up where it was really needed. Addressing the public’s perception that those responsible for acts of terrorism do not deserve mercy, is in fact the primary reason for a country to be guided by evidence, the law and not emotions. It is the best strategy to prevent over-reaction as well as identifying and successfully prosecuting those responsible for the atrocities.

A successful prosecution depends on recognising that the law is impartial and should be followed throughout – from the beginning of the investigation till the end. A common mistake is to assume that the legal framework only applies to when the case goes to court. Therefore, the law is not always seen as relevant when it does not suit the investigation, and is consequently disregarded when the investigation or prosecution is confronted with challenges. It is especially under these circumstances that both investigators (police) and prosecution should be guided by the long-term objective (successful prosecution) and not short-term solution (file charges or bring the suspect to court). Through seeing and focusing on the ‘bigger picture’ people need to:

  • Prevent short cuts. Instead go the extra mile in securing that the investigation follows all leads and covers all angles.
  • Focus on the evidence and not perceptions. The presumption of innocence needs to be respected throughout the investigations in the minds of those involved. Therefore, investigators should not exclusively focus on evidence that fits into a pre-set expectation and consequently disregard everything else.
  • Follow operating procedures that respect the legal framework


Furthermore, it is essential to respect due process and the rule of law, not only in the country in which the offence was committed, but also in the countries where the suspects were arrested. In not following the rule of law and due process in the country with primary jurisdiction where the case will be heard, illegal procedures in other countries will threaten the entire legal process. For example, the prosecution of suspects arrested in Kenya to be prosecuted in Uganda was threatened under allegations of extraordinary rendition. This is particularly relevant in terrorism-related offences that would be put in the spotlight due to the nature of the incident.

Pressure is a natural consequence of terrorism, yet the manner it is channelled will ultimately influence the success of short-term measures and the long-term strategy against terrorism and radicalization. This requires strategic thinking on the part of government and its security forces not to play into the hands of the enemy. The focus of every member of the security forces therefore needs to be to realise that their actions have consequences that could harm or benefit the country’s counterterrorism strategy and vision. Government equally has a responsibility to be honest with its citizens and allow its security forces to take action, even though it might take time beyond its period in office.

[i]SonalaOlumhense, ‘The ‘defeat’ of Boko Haram’, Punch, 11 February 2018, available at (accessed on 14 February 2018).