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Ahmed Gebweyni

The US will not be offering support until most African countries facing the threat give legislative and security concessions demanded by the Pentagon. The politics of the war on terror as pursued by Western powers of course have little to do with countering the threat. Glued with geopolitics and resource exploitation it has in turn become a threat to the economic and political security of several African countries.

The War on Terror

Almost all countries in Africa except few are caught in the western trap of the war on terror. And sub-regions except some part of Central and Southern Africa are bleeding, and in more than one way.

Though the threat of terrorism is real the degree and means with which it is dealt with raises several questions. Western policy – meaning that of the US, western Europe and the Nordic states – is beginning to look like less benign, less coherent, less direct and even less joined-up and more like self-serving and ambulance chasing. That may be inevitable when some African countries fail to negotiate carefully and assert their interest and just follow a Western media-driven agenda. This is less about denying the existence of terrorism in Africa and more about the relentless manipulation of the threat. It is not wrong to assume that the continent is drawing the attention of non-state actors (NSAs) mainly Al-Qaeda linked terror organizations like the Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and several other insurgent groups that include, Ansar Din, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).Perhaps these developments partly explain why the US is now upgrading its military capabilities in different parts of Africa. Earlier this year in February 2013, the US established a drone base in Niger apart from its air strips in other parts of Africa like Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. Western countries are intentionally exaggerating the scale of terrorist threat in Africa for the purpose of advancing their interests in the continent, including strengthening of own military presence in the region.

The exhausted fantasy of Western powers and their allies in the continent is that of Africa’s geopolitical significance. Some African leaders seem to believe that because Africa is closer to the Middle East the threat of terrorism is given and Western policy needs to be supported.  Others claim the West is in a civilizational conflict with Islam and they must have an interest in controlling it. Many seemed to have thought they could simply ask the West for help, on the logic that they have the same concern and goals. This is the point where cynicism turns into naïveté. What these African regimes do not understand is that these are not the only objectives. For the West to be trusted and reach the point of offering genuine assistance it should follow national requests rather than come with its own prescriptions and preconditions.The US will not be offering support until most African countries facing the threat give legislative and security concessions demanded by the Pentagon. Nor is it really very likely that the West will come through with large amount of support unless African countries open their soil and air space for foreign Special Forces, which would mean the loss of national sovereignty as this would amount the end of national sovereignty. Certainly no serious analyst would be counting on Western assistance.

Would anyone anywhere in Africa would be willing to accept heavy Western military presence for the sake of the war on terrorism? This is the question we Africans might be asking ourselves these last few days, as we watch foreign military bases and trainings flourishing. A recent report posted in this site reveals that the Pentagon is investing several millions of dollars in the Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, on operational security, training, telecommunication equipment, and air facilities to boost its presence in better responding to the new Islamic terrorist threats that are plaguing the continent. Many if not most African countries have a confused view on the war on terror and follow the line and agenda set by Western policy makers and welcome any kind of  support that comes with it irrespective of its negative consequences. Glued with geopolitics and resource exploitation the global war on terror has in turn become a threat to the economic and political security of several African countries. The sensational discourse on terrorism clouds the real intention of external players and once foreign military presence is affirmed follow-on activities are less transparent. The evident danger is that, once the spotlight moves away and first-hand national engagement recedes, the conflict or emergency in question also begins to slip from regional focus and public consciousness, to be forgotten or overtaken by other events. Its publicly stated objectives may remain unreconciled, its root causes unaddressed. In time, it is used for other purposes, possibly with more devastating effects.

The politics of the war on terror as pursued by Western powers of course have little to do with countering the threat. Some African governments unsurprisingly find it convenient to ignore the ulterior motives of the West, and play upon the global sense of insecurity by linking the war on terror to regime security. But this policy has its risks, which Africa must now consider. The recent mushrooming of foreign military operations particularly in resource rich and strategically placed regions is a clear testimony of what is already happening. No matter what happens now, and how many top terrorists are apprehended the global war on terror in Africa will likely be remembered as a disaster. For now, all serious stakeholders’ parties should do what they can to keep the discussion squarely on the collateral damage of the war on terror, its nature and outcome. Western partnership in the fight against terrorism in Africa has played itself out. Africa should make an insistent push to gain a measured and selective support in the war on terror.

 
Last Updated on Monday, 09 December 2013 20:55
 

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