LIFTING THE VEIL: ATTACKING THE IDEOLOGY BEHIND TERRORISM IN OUR AFRICA TODAY By Keziah Engmann

Terrorism is anything but new. Indeed, acts of terror date as far back as the eleventh century. For decades now, identifiable groups including Boko Haram, Islamic State of Iraq
and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Shabaab as well as unidentifiable groups have sought to gain power and control territories by recourse to violence. This is done for reasons largely confined to transforming society by the imposition of laws and practices grounded in political and religious ideologies. Terrorism rooted in religious fundamentalism is shocking in this 21st century where religious freedom is heralded in every corner. Article 27 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as well as article 8 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights enshrine this fundamental right.

In this brief write-up, it is argued that a worthwhile fight against terrorism is deficient in the absence of institutionalised mechanisms aimed at fighting first, the ideology behind what has now become violence borne out of radicalism and religious extremism in its most brutish form. Modern day terrorist attacks constitute a reflection of deep-seated ideological norms which its proponents have held unto, even unto death, and this explains the proliferation of suicide bombings in recent times. On 12th September, 2018, for example, Aljazeera reported a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan which killed 68 people and left 165 wounded.

In Africa, the 1999 OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combatting of Terrorism is the main document governing the counterterrorism framework. With a view to fighting terrorism collectively, African countries have established partnerships such as the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) comprised of countries such as Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia. An assessment of the validity or otherwise of existing counter-terrorism measures is beyond the purview of this article. It is nonetheless clear, considering the proliferation of acts of terror these days, that prevailing preventive methods are far from achieving the ultimate goal of eradicating terrorism in Africa and the world.

It is therefore suggested that as Africa makes its way towards a terror-free continent, counterterrorism measures ought to reflect a more pragmatic and grass-root approach which challenges the philosophy of modern-day radicalism.Emphasis ought to be placed on the role of education and public awareness as recognised under article 13 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As a developing continent, the invaluable role economic and social development plays in preventing the conditions that give rise to violence cannot be overemphasized. More precisely, school curricula, especially in areas where young people are particularly vulnerable by reason of political instability and economic hardship, ought to be infused with teaching materials targeted at instilling in the youth the need to respect the dignity inherent in every human being and to shun violence in all its various degrees.

To sum up, it is reiterated that any worthwhile mechanism to effectively conquer terrorism needs to focus more, not only on fighting terrorists, but on fighting radicalism that often leads to terrorism. Although much easier said than done, disincentivizing the youth – by way of employment creation and a conscious effort at redistributing wealth in Africa – is definitely a step in the right direction in bringing an end to this seemingly interminable horror which doubles as an insult to the core principles recognised under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments; principles the world has cherished for centuries.