While there has been much focus on the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East, a local journalist feels Africa may be vulnerable to the radical group’s ‘subversive ideology’. Simon Allison has pointed to the continent potentially being a prime-target for IS’s continued expansion.
Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime, Allison highlighted two key manners in which the rebel group could possibly manifest its influence in Africa.
With IS rumored to have more than 10 000 foreign fighters amongst their ranks, many of whom have come from North African states, he said there was a growing possibility of them having dramatic impacts on local conflicts, upon returning to their countries of origin.
This was notable in the case of Libya, where former IS fighters were bringing about the rise of the Ansar al-Sharia group.
“They have enjoyed huge successes in Benghazi, after IS fighters went back to Benghazi to join them. They want so far as to declare the Islamic Emirate of Benghazi just a couple of weeks ago,” he suggested.
He was also concerned that the success of the IS’s tactics, which has seen them successful occupy and create a functioning state in Northern Iraq and Syria, may influence African groups to take a similar approach. This has already been seen with Nigeria’s Boko Haram, who have reportedly discarded their ‘hit and run’ tactics, in favor of a strategy of actually occupying towns and villages.
“They’re creating their own little micro-space in North-Eastern Nigeria. I think this is a direct result of Boko Haram’s leaders seeing how successful the IS has been in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
What was most worrisome for Allison however, was not the rebel groups themselves, but rather the manner in which African policy-makers chose to respond to these threats. He felt that if the IS method of brutality was adopted by African groups, governments may feel pressure to conduct “extreme counter-terrorism operations”.
“You’ve got this in Kenya already with the profiling of Somalis, and in Nigeria, where you’ve got a military crackdown,” he said.
“Increasingly what research is showing is that every time people go to members of these groups, and asks them why they’ve joined; the answer is almost overwhelmingly because of government’s brutality.”
He stressed that more often than not, the rise of such radical groups were not about radical religious ideologies, but rather people trying to oppose the perceived injustices against them. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)