WAR ON TERRORISM

Coronavirus backpedalling counter-terrorism gains

In Summary

• A new report focusing on the East Africa Counterterrorism Operation and the North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operation to the US Congress, illuminates bottlenecks the regions face in war on terrorism.

• Countries have had to slice their budgetary allocations on security to support efforts aimed at addressing Covid-19 outbreak.

Time for strategy review in Kenya's war on terror
Time for strategy review in Kenya's war on terror
Image: OZONE

Since its emergence and spread across the globe, coronavirus has caused humanity enormous damage. Lives and jobs have been lost, schools have been closed and businesses lost.

As economies contemplate on safer ways of resumption to a new normal, for many, their hustle for survival has been subjugated between a hard place and a rock. More insidious though is a recent revelation that the health pandemic-cum-economic crisis is not without adverse effects on gains made against terrorism operations in the country and beyond.

As the majority of the global communities adjust to work and learn from home, there has been a sudden spike on the uptake of social media and online videoconferencing usage. Cyberattacks on social media accounts affiliated to important personalities, organisations and learning platforms have dented the safety of social media usage.

A new report focusing on the East Africa Counterterrorism Operation and the North and West Africa Counterterrorism Operation to the US Congress, illuminates bottlenecks the regions face in war on terrorism.

Countries have had to slice their budgetary allocations on security to support efforts aimed at addressing Covid-19 outbreak.

The report is a quarterly release in tandem with the US statutory obligations. The report provides key insights about the US African Command operations.

In the last decade, al Qaeda and its faction al Mujahideen that operates in East Africa and ISIS that has penetrated to North and West Africa alongside and other violent extremist organisations across Africa have caused innocent civilians a lot of damage and desperation, narrowing their freedoms.

As local and national authorities continue to  assess the prevailing situation to understand the extent of the challenge in order to front solutions needed, the Inspector General’s report paints grim array of possibilities in detecting, dismantling and degrading violent extremist organisations that continue to cause fear, spread propaganda and kill innocents.

Reflecting on militant attacks by al Shabaab early this year at Camp Simba, Manda Bay, the Lead Inspector General notes with concern that the virility of organised criminal attacks is steadily outpacing joint global efforts to detect and dislodge them as majority of these organisations are adaptive and resilient.

Covid-19 has necessitated a raft of safety measures that have seen majority of US agencies working in Africa reduced or return. This move, by default, adversely affect gains already made in defeating the enemy.

Pockets of attacks are still being reported across East Africa and in the North and West Africa. The enemy continues to intimidate and cause fear among communities.

Accessibility to basics by majority of the communities in dire need of support is extremely hard, especially in the remote areas where road and mobile telecommunication are unavailable and although available constantly demolished by militant groups.

For instance, in the Northeastern, attacks on buses and schools using IEDs have increased in the recent past. Similar attacks have targeted communication masts, disrupting sharing of strategic intelligent information.

Covid-19 necessitates redirection of resources by affected countries in East Africa and in the North and West Africa where ISIS is aggressively increasing base. In West Africa, Boko Haram operatives are yet to be totally dislodged.

This, however,  provides ample space for the enemy to rearrange and reposition. It allows violent extremist groups to recruit youth, the majority of whom are unemployed, underemployed and out of school due to Covid-19.

Soft approaches, as opposed to hard approaches, are increasingly rewarding in containing violent extremist operations. Various lines of literature bolster the idea that hard approaches are counterproductive and leave behind scars that take exceedingly long to heal.

Local campaigns through mainstream and social media can go a long way in reaching out to the youth, who are targeted to be recruited into terrorism. Designing and developing of extra-secure online learning platforms that have advanced robust security protocols making phishing, vishing and smishing impossible attackers is inevitably imperative.

Last but not least, collaborative efforts, despite the crisis, within and without the country are needed in rebuilding economies, strengthening command centres, which will go a long way in defeating the enemy.

Importantly is diligent utilisation of resources in gathering intelligent information, which must be acted on, adroitly.

Nyangena is an economist, Lower Kabete