Is Military Solution Counterproductive in Combating Insecurity in Africa?

In the face of terrorist threats and insecurity in Africa, is military solution one of the effective measure to combat the surge of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, AQIM?

In his remarks at DC, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Don Yamamoto for Bureau of African Affairs before the House Foreign Affairs Committee said military solutions in the first incident, while important in some cases, may prove counterproductive if not implemented and addressed in the context of other measures.

“We must therefore consider addressing the wide range of economic, political, and social factors that fuel conflict and insecurity and take a comprehensive, holistic long-term approach.” – Mr. Yamamoto

Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir interviewing alQaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1997.

He cites that the situation in Mali represents a microcosm of the complex problems challenging Africa, and the need to address security concerns within a wider context.

He says there are four distinct yet interrelated crises facing Mali which must be managed separately yet simultaneously.

“First, a return to civilian authority and the reaffirmation of democratic institutions will ensure a strong united country able to address other crises.” – Mr. Yamamoto

He stresses that a democratic government must reach out and engage and dialogue with the Touareg people of the north addressing their concerns.

Third, Mali faces a humanitarian crisis of well over 190,000 internally displaced as well as refugees in neighboring a country, Mr. Yamamoto cited.

Fourth, Mali and its neighbors together have a stake in confronting the challenges posed by AQIM and other splinter groups such as Ansar Al-hadeen, he added.

“These challenges cannot be addressed in isolation but as interrelated issues.” – Mr. Yamamoto

Security is fostered by the establishment of sound leadership, accountability to the people, transparent and democratic processes addressing the needs and aspirations of the population, Mr. Yamamoto emphasized.

He notes Africa should look to security challenges through a wide lens and that includes five pillars articulated by the president in Ghana in 2009.

“Those five are strengthening democratic institutions, fostering broad-based sustainable growth, combating disease and improving public health and education, mitigating armed conflict, and helping Africans with transnational threats.” -Mr. Yamamoto

Whether it is AQIM, Al-Shabaab, or Boko Haram, extremist ideology even those masquerading in religious terms are anthical, illegitimate, and repulsive to the vast majority of Africans, he noted.

According to Mr. Yamamoto, extremism is a violent cancer that exploits porous borders, capitalizes on human suffering, and feeds on undemocratic environments.

“Our engagement will be difficult but necessary and must be based on several fundamental principles.” – Mr. Yamamoto

He cites one of the fundamental principles is regional ownership.

Leaders must inspire their people and countries must own the process to address the challenges effectively, Mr. Yamamoto underlined.

“Our African partners have consistently said, “African security is Africa’s responsibility.” – Mr. Yamamoto

The second principle is the promotion of good governance.

He notes that security engagement cannot be separated from long-term goals of good governance, civilian control, security forces, and respect for human rights.

Extremist ideology takes advantage of political and economic vulnerabilities, he noted.

Extremist ideology destroy lives and strengthen instability, Mr. Yamamoto explained.

Building credible government institutions at all levels and assisting legitimate authorities to respond to the needs of their people are a vital objective, he cited.

The third one is the development and economic opportunity that are crucial for improving the security environment in Africa.

He says efforts to address insecurity in Africa are often hampered by poor infrastructure and the inability of national or local authorities to provide adequate services, educational or vocational opportunities.

He pointed out that the road that Afica faces will be long.

“It will be hard. It will be difficult; but through patience, hard work, coordination with our African partners, and promotion of democratic values, human rights, and opportunities will make a significant difference in the lives of Africans and for future generations.” – Mr. Yamamoto

Boko Haram is a local terrorist group professing allegiance to Al Qaeda. Boko Haram militants attacked several churches on Christmas Day, killing dozens of worshippers.

Boko Haram, which aims to install strict Shariah, or Islamic, law across Nigeria, has vowed to keep killing Christians in the multiethnic country.

In addition, a new study by the International Center for Terrorism Studies (ICTS) warns that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) poses a “dangerous threat” to the region and beyond, as it seeks to exploit Arab Spring instability and expand terrorist ties to other militants across Africa’s Sahel.

Reports say Osama Bin Laden has been killed, but his ideas and al-Qaeda affiliate organizations are alive and kicking.

One of the most troubling is AQIM in North Africa, which has links with weapons and narco-trafficking, militants in Nigeria, and Polisario mercenaries who fought for Qaddafi in Libya.

A report also revealed that AQIM has established links to other militant groups and a “safe haven” in Africa’s Sahel, along an “arc of instability that stretches from the Red Sea and is poised to reach to the Atlantic.” The report calls the largely “ungoverned areas” a potential “terrorist breeding ground” and cites AQIM ties to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and Polisario militants in Algeria.

Since 9/11, attacks by AQIM and other terrorist groups in the Maghreb and Sahel jumped more than 500% from their low point to reach a new high inn 2009, and remain at a dangerously high level in 2011.

Al-Qaeda is reportedly poised to take advantage of Arab Spring events “to destabilize the region even further.”

In addition, AQIM is reportedly taking advantage of the 35-year-old Western Sahara conflict for “expansion and also recruitment of hard-core Polisario members among the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria.”

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain English. Mina Fabulous is the pen name of Carmen Avalino, the NewsBlaze production editor. When she isn’t preparing stories for NewsBlaze writers, she writes stories, but to separate her editing and writing identities, she uses the name given by her family and friends.