Terrorism on the continent appears to be on the rise and the recent attack of the Grand Bassam hotel on 13 March 2016, in Ivory Coast was carried out by AQIM using the same tactics as their other two recent hotel attacks in Mali, November 2015 and Burkina Faso January 2016. Attacks on hotels continue to be the choice modus operandi for terrorist organizations in Africa because by nature hotels are soft targets and they attract a constant stream of people. Terrorism on the continent continue to display Africa’s inability to adequately tackle security challenges, and this is detrimental to the economies of the countries on the continent
Terrorism experts believe that AQIM’s increase in attacks on hotels have to do with their rivalrous relationship with Islamic State. Ever since ISIS has been successful in grabbing the attention of the world in their attacks against innocent civilians in public places, there has also been an increase in such ‘copycat’ tactics with AQIM and Al Shabab; the other two main terrorist organizations operating in Africa. The idea is to keep carrying out high profile attacks on soft targets with high foreign or expatriate population in order to get a lot of media coverage which helps in fund raising and recruitment for the terrorist organizations.
It is for this reason that there continues to be fear of Nigeria’s main terrorist organization Boko Haram, jumping on the same band wagon and carrying out similar attacks in other parts of Nigeria outside of their traditional area of operation in the North East.
Terrorist attacks on soft targets across Africa continue to highlight the continent’s vulnerabilities. The head of U.S Africa Command Gen. Rodriguez made a remark to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that “The fight against Al-Shabaab is failing to achieve its objectives because African Union forces are “overstretched” and the Somalia national army suffers “endemic deficiencies”.
These sort of attacks continue to display the Africa’s inability to adequately tackle security challenges, and this is detrimental to the economies of the countries on the continent as potential tourists and investors have begun to think twice about opting for the continent as a choice location.
What Should the Governments Do About the Increasing Terrorism?
When it comes to West Africa, there were warnings of possible plots against hotels in Senegal, Chad and Ivory Coast. Security was beefed up in most of the luxury hotels across these countries but despite these efforts, the Ivory Coast attack still occurred.
In 2014, the deputy Chairman of the African Union, Erastus Mwencha, responded to a question about whether African countries have been weak in combating increasing terrorism on the continent. He said these terrorist “attacks are asymmetric war, there is no face to it. So you are dealing with a network that knows each other but you don’t know them”.
Defeating terrorists and terrorism on the continent should not be viewed from a helpless point of view. Intelligence organizations can work hard to ensure that individuals in the various terrorist networks are identified, in other words, “the attackers need to be known”.
Proactive steps should be taken. “Burying our heads in the sand, hoping that terrorism will go away is not going to work. Nigeria tried it and 7 years later, we are still dealing with Boko Haram.“ African nations need to commit to thwarting the spread of terrorism on the continent by not just disrupting immediate threats, but also dismantling the insurgent networks. It just requires a willing and cooperative government.
Terrorists will continue to evolve their tactics to circumvent the effective security defenses of any individual nation. Before the whole continent throws its hands up begging for help from the “international community” it would be best they all come together and see how they can help each other in defeating this fast spreading threat of terrorism in Africa.
That is why African nations must begin to put aside political squabbles, work around legal constraints, and overcome financial grudging, and do more in the area of collaboration on security, intelligence and defense matters of the continent. Just as multi-lateral trade agreements exist among the various regional countries, so also security and intelligence sharing agreements need to be solidified among nations.