Understanding Terrorsim in Africa

Islamist extremism and terrorism simply reflects the rejection of the Western influenced and dominant state in Africa and the imposition of an extremist Islamic state … It’s the East vs. the West only this time the East is not Communist but Extremist Islam …

Truth should be so humble that even dust could not crush it ~ Mahatma Gandhi


Defining terrorism has been an uphill task. As the saying goes “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter“. This is because as human beings we have the tendency to view ourselves as having more dignity than others and when they fight for dignity using violence we label them. This is even when we use violence to rule over others. Terrorism in various areas follows different patterns and  studying each case such as the target and frequency may help one understand its nature and therefore tackle it. This has helped me in doing my analysis. So here goes:

In history we have had freedom fighters being labelled as terrorists. The MAU MAU were known as terrorists and even Nelson Mandela was once labelled as a terrorist. The MAU MAU were fighting against British domination and for their dignity. They were fighting against colonialism and imperialism in all manner and form. These were people who had been forcibly driven from their lands and put in reserves. Some of these reserves became overpopulated and life became unbearable. A read of  “Britain’s Gulag” can put things in perspective in order to understand the atrocities that happened. In South Africa there was the fight to get rid of Apartheid. Those who opposed this with the use of violence were viewed as terrorists. So generally those who confront the status quo aggressively have been termed as terrorists. So called ‘terrorists’ fight against the status quo especially when it is viewed as imposing itself (using cultural imperialism) on a given population. They basically cause terror so as to disrupt the workings of an establishment that is viewed as oppressive. The main goal is to disrupt the status quo and replace it with one that confers dignity upon them. So the MAU MAU fought against the British so as to attain self-government and return to their good old days and so on and so forth.

Islamist Extremism and Terrorism

Kenya and Africa cannot escape or deny the fact of the colonial legacy. We have inherited government systems and the Western style of democracy. Any systems we had before are not operational. Much so we have inherited religion, language and even names. We have largely kept the identity given to us by our former colonial masters. Those colonised by Britain form the Common wealth for instance. We even fought proxy wars in support of systems we favoured. Think of the cold war. African nations would be armed and fight against those who supported a different establishment. Like most of the world, Africa is mostly Capitalist. This is after Communism failed flat in its face. I will not describe it in entirety but wealth is state owned. Religion which is viewed as the opium of the masses has no place in communism and freedom is limited.  Capitalism on the other hand allows individual ownership of property as well as freedom ~ time has proven to us that markets may not necessarily self-regulate though. This is the legacy we have today. Let me introduce another equation. I will put Islamist extremism in the same range as these competing ideologies not necessarily in economic terms though. Communism I would argue has not had much influence as Islam and Christianity have. Just as is with Christianity, one cannot deny Islam’s legacy in Africa. Swahili for instance has a lot of words rooted in Arabic. We have inherited a lot from that culture. As is with Christianity those who have converted have gained Islamic names and embraced a new culture and way of life. Government has always gone hand in hand with religion (for Christianity and Islam). Maybe communism sought to remedy the exploitative use of religion by arguing for its elimination. Islamist extremism seems to have done a good job taking over from it.

Islamist extremism is bent on the institutionalisation of Islam and its main foe is the Western style democracy, culture and religion. It has its roots in the Iranaian revolution of 1979. Islamic extremism in Africa takes advantage of the failure of the western style of government to govern the African people well. Now we have Sharia law being imposed on those who do not want it. The Al Shabaab (meaning the youth) in Somalia take advantage of unemployment of the youth to advance their cause. They are no different to the politicians who pay the youth a few shillings to wreck havoc. The Boko Haram which means ‘western education is forbidden‘ also seeks to impose an Islamic state. Whoever the terrorist leaders are, they understand the weak points of the societies they operate in and entice new recruits by appealing to their problems and issues. What makes Islamist terrorism so bad is that its proxy wars are fought in God’s name. Those who drive it hide under God’s name and there is honour in fighting the ‘holy war’. You either convert or die and if you convert you do not have the option to leave Islam. Islamist extremism simply reflects the rejection of the Western influenced and dominant state in Africa and the imposition of an extremist Islamic state … It’s the East vs. the West only this time the East is not Communist but Extremist Islam. It may seem like a ‘narrow’ way to look at things but it rarely helps to look at multiple branches rather than the root. Really if one thinks about it whether it’s Israel vs. Iran or otherwise the export of culture and government has been intertwined with religion and  has been the preserve of Christianity and Islam and this has fuelled conflict in many nations (See my post on why religion fuels conflict). Most important has been the exploitation of Christianity and Islam to further cultural imperialism and domination. Most of the time the exporters of culture and government rarely follow the teachings of their religion, it’s just a tool for domination. By understanding the dynamics then we are able to propose beneficial solutions.


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