Analysis: Africa’s worst threat today is terrorism – Says Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

Folks, happenings in many countries in Africa make me wonder whether the leaders and citizens of those countries really want to do anything useful for the sake of posterity. Is there a “tomorrow” that those people should work for? No hindsight to guide them? I wonder; I really wonder.

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No other continent is known to have suffered as much adversity as Africa has (mostly through no fault of its own). But has anybody learnt any useful lesson from what history has taught us so that history doesn’t end up being repeated?

Let’s go down the memory lane first. Africa has a history of the worst form of human beings’ inhumanity toward their fellow human beings—European colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade—that combined to doom the continent and consign it to the backwoods of human existence.

Historians have given us the gloomy and gripping accounts of the devastating impact of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade on Africa. They have also scared us with the fact that Africa cannot easily recover from that shocking exploitation of its able-bodied human resource. Those asking for reparation won’t go anywhere with their demand because the beneficiaries of that inhuman trade don’t have any ear for their plea. They may use the IMF and World Bank to massage our feelings only to punish us all the more.

The impact of colonialism is ineradicable at several levels: the imposition of artificial boundaries that separated (divided) ethnicities, scattering people of one family across different countries and ensuring that they don’t ever unite to redeem themselves and the physical exploitation of Africa’s human and natural resources has remained the continent’s bane.

Let’s land to face the reality that Africa’s historical development has given us to see. Gaining political independence hasn’t provided any solution; at best, it has only deepened our woes as each country seeks to go it all by itself only to end up returning to the bosom of the former colonialists to be manipulated all the more and refined to do the master’s bidding. The divide-and-rule strategy is still at work and succeeding at several levels to ensure that Africa doesn’t ever unite to fight a common cause.

A political-and-national-flag independence without the backing of a strong economy can’t take Africa out of the woods. As if unsure of how to do things, the leaders of the 55 countries on the continent are more wont to act as puppets than managing affairs to reverse the negative impact of colonialism and its associated evils. Caught in the neo-colonialist web, they preside over the exploitation of their own countries and citizens and compound problems as they lead the looting brigade.

Internal strife and stiff political differences have torn most of the countries apart. Ethnic differences and abject intransigence have destabilized many. And paralyzing incompetence, troubling mismanagement of the affairs of state, plain thieving of national assets, deep-seated bribery and corruption, and many other negative factors that characterize governance have combined to deepen the woes of the continent. No wonder, Africa still remains the only continent that can’t solve its own problems of under-development, which has impoverished the people. Nothing works well to uplift standards. Anger and disaffection only!

To worsen the situation, a new crop of problem has emerged. Terrorism is gaining grounds and will likely destabilize many parts of the continent if not tackled. Hitherto, acts of selective sabotage (attributable to the acts of rebel fighters of the Jonas Savimbi type), civil wars (as happened in Nigeria and Liberia), or the genocide in Rwanda had caught the world’s attention.

Today, the picture is different. Terrorism is fast gaining grounds as a result of the emergence of such groups as the Somalian al-Shabbab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which have all claimed allegiance to the dreaded al-Qaeda. There may be cells of these or other terrorist groups already existing in other countries, waiting to strike when prompted. Fear looms all over.

One characteristic of these terrorist groups is their claim to be inspired by religion—Islam—and the desire to fight against the status quo in the vain hope that it will help them establish an Islamic state wherever they operate. This recourse to religious extremism propels their activities.

For a people on a continent already weighed down by excruciating poverty and still bracing themselves up to face intractable development challenges, the emergence of terrorism is really frightening. It is too scary for belief. And good reason exists to suggest that this spate of terrorism won’t end soon because conditions exist to promote it. Don’t ask me why, but it all can be traced to the incompetence of the various African leaders that has caused disaffection among the population (especially the millions of unemployed youths who are easy targets for recruitment by agents of the terrorist groups).

It has just been reported that “Two explosions have struck the Gikomba market area of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, killing at least 10 people and injuring scores, officials say” (according to the BBC: Kenya is no stranger to such terrorist acts by the Islamic militant group, al-Shabbab.

Nigeria is also grappling with the Boko Haram terrorist group and has now been joined by the international community (the US, China, Israel, the UK, and France) to take the fight to Boko Haram. The kidnapping of more than 200 school girls a month ago has sparked international outrage, which is why support is forthcoming to deal with Boko Haram.

The bitter truth is that the Nigerian government’s approach to the terrorist acts by Boko Haram has been lukewarm, creating the unfortunate impression that it is heartless and incompetent beyond measure. What has come forth from President Goodluck Jonathan is disappointing. No wonder he is himself unsure of what to do. And, for security reasons, he has just cancelled a visit to Chibok (the hometown of the kidnapped girls). He has fears for his life but not for those of the Boko Haram victims.

Rather sadly, the continental talk-shop called African Union (AU) hasn’t reacted so far to the Boko Haram threat nor has it offered any practical solution to tackle it. Yet, it is regarded as the body to bring together all the countries on the continent to fight a common cause. It is so dormant as to challenge Ban Ki-Moon’s United Nations for the unenviable title of the “Most Useless Institution of the 21st Century”.

On its part, the sub-regional talk-shop ECOWAS is making its presence felt mostly by the noise coming from its chairman (Ghana’s President John Mahama), not any practical action that it has recommended or taken to help solve the Boko Haram problem.

I have no doubt that al-Shabbab and Boko Haram are well established and have the means to spread their domain far and near. They don’t lack the material assets (especially sophisticated weapons) and the fertile grounds for recruitment. They seem to be poles ahead of the security services of the countries in which they are now operating and will step up the game unless concerted efforts are made to thwart them.

The question is: How will they be eradicated? How can they ever be crippled when the governments of the countries in which they are based cannot muster up the political will to identify their main actors and snuff them out? How can they be neutralized when there is no support from other governments?

You see, the conditions spawning terrorism on the continent are glaring and unless the leaders act fast to use the power vested in them to solve problems, terrorism will sooner than later become Africa’s latest problem. And it will add to others to deepen the continent’s woes.

For now, we must shift attention from the harm done us by colonialism and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to concentrate on this home-grown terrorism. Concerted efforts should be made to clamp down heavily on al-Shabbab and Boko Haram before they move beyond Somalia/Kenya and Nigeria, respectively.

The governments should invest resources in penetrating these groups so their leaders and sources of support can be identified and zapped. Only then can they be stifled. Then, good governance must be practised to solve the problems that make the people disaffected. When the people enjoy the benefits of good governance, they will not hide behind any religious smokescreen to perpetrate terrorism. God is a peace-loving God and won’t bless terrorism under the cloak of religion. But the political leaders must act fast first to eliminate the conditions facilitating terrorism. Clearly, Africa is at the brink of another scourge.

I shall return…

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