Growing Jihadi groups in the Sahel worries Christians
Growing radical Jihadi Islamic terror groups in Mali and Niger have continue to raise concern for the international community. This concern has also been expressed by security experts in Europe and the US as well as religious leaders in Nigeria, especially the Christian organisations who have been the predominant targets for radical Islamic terror cells who have demonstrated their eagerness to advance the cause of Islam and prove how devout they are upholding the Quran. Over 200,000 people have been killed and over 2 million displaced in Nigeria alone by 2015.
Nigeria’s Islamic terrorist group, the Boko Haram, has had part of it resources from ISIS from Libya and Syria, seeping into the region through North Africa, and from East Africa, Boko Haram’s affiliation and training by Al Shabaab from Somalia, and Kenya is adding to the terror group’s resource. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, operating in Niger and Mali have affiliated with the Al Barnawi faction of Boko Haram.
According to Washington Post, there has been an over 300% increase in Islamic terrorist activities between 2010 and 2017 in many African countries. Reports say bout 10,000 people have been killed in the Sahel region last year.
Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso have been repeatedly attacked by Jihadi groups. Terror cell groups, uncovered in Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, famed by its stability in the region is currently having a growing number of terrorist cells and is now conducting the “largest-ever terrorism trial, with 29 people accused of trying to create an Islamic State-style caliphate in the region.”
Mali’s Jama’a Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Niger’s coalition of terrorist groups building alliance have caused the United States of America to weaponize its drones in Mali, since the killing of four American soldiers in Niger. “Since that happened, there were significant things to change and learn.” Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser said. This is is in addition to the French drone base already active in Aghadez gathering intelligence and preparing to engage the terrorist groups.
“The focal point of Islamic terrorism in the world is now based in the Maghreb and we need to be worried. Christians, churches and groups need to be concerned not just the international community.” A Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) executive member said in Maiduguri. “African countries do not seem to be as concerned, especially the governments. But look at it, all the Presidents in the region are Muslims, so it will not be a surprise if they do not see this as nay big deal.” The CAN executive said.
Bakary Sambe, the Director of the Dakar-based Timbuktu Institute and a coordinator for the Observatory on Religious Radicalism and Conflicts in Africa said Senegal “neglected the fight against violent extremism” for economic reasons so as to maintain the face of calm and stability.
The Sahel region has been a perfect vast dessert land for any rebel or jihadi group to fester. It is large, more than twice the size of the United Kingdom, a perfect place to grow and train an army and a region where weak governments or governments who will turn a blind eye to their activities make the region a terrorists’ haven. Countries like Bukina Faso “should have a prevention strategy. But the state is weak,” Aristides Gomes, Guinea-Bissau’s head of government told the Washington Post.
“Since the terror attacks in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, it has been clear that no country is completely immune. Anywhere there are embassies, international organizations, multinationals, and especially Westerners, there are targets,” Vincent Foucher, a research fellow at France’s National Center for Scientific Research said.
Analysts and politicians have given different perspectives and reasons for the growing terrorist cells in the region looking at “state repression, especially torture and extrajudicial killings, are factors pushing people towards jihadism,” other reasons have been poverty and illiteracy. What has been avoided in the discourse is the radical Islamic ideology that is the clarion call that drives the Jihadists.
“Islam needs a radical reformation to conform to civilized pursuits in modern societies but you can’t say this to Muslims now can you? Certainly not in Nigeria.” The CAN leader said.
The France and U.S. are taking this wave if Jihadist terrorist groups seriously and are maintaining a presence in the region, the question still remains wether the African Countries see the same threat.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.