Francis-Xavier Sosu: Economic transformation and enhanced security measures needed to address Africa’s emerging insecurity
been spared. We can talk about the Mali coup, instability in Nigeria leading to a number of states experiencing curfews as a result of activities of Boko Haram and other insurgencies, terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso, farming and food insecurity in South Sudan, violent conflicts in DR. Congo, Niger and Ethiopia, clashes in Somalia, and insurgencies in Northern Chad.
Also, displacement of people as a result of escalated Boko haram attacks in Cameroon, renewed fighting in the Central Africa Republic and cases of mistrust of state institutions and political vigilantism, and in addition, the twin cases of youth unemployment and economic hardship in Ghana, among many others, are major cases of insecurity in the sub-region.
Major cases of insecurity in the world have been recorded in countries like Yemen, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Mexico, Turkey, Libya, Iran and Pakistan among many others. The most crucial for the purposes of this article are the Afghanistan conflict which began in 1978 and regenerated in 2001 when the USA invited Afghanistan to drive out the Taliban following the September 11 attack on US soil.
The above conflict situation at the global, regional and sub-regional levels exposed the entire continent to serious vulnerabilities. In order to reduce the effect of these conflicts on humanity, the UN through its Peace Keeping Mission has provided humanitarian assistance and security persons to assist people in these conflict areas.
These cases of insecurity have not advanced beyond containable levels as a result of other international actors and countries such as the USA. Direct state military interventions by the USA, though condemned by many watchers have also to a large extent contributed to the seeming stability and relative peace across the globe and Africa is also a beneficiary of the visible presence of US troops and other UN Peace Keeping forces in conflict zones. A major case in point is Afghanistan.
US announcement of withdrawal of Afghnistan troops
On Thursday, April 4, 2021, President Biden announced his decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan over the coming months, with the intention to complete the military exit by the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks that drew the United States into its longest war.
During his remarks, President Biden said “After consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the vice president, as well as with [Afghan President Ashraf Ghani] and many others around the world, I concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war. It’s time for American troops to come home. We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan — hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal and expecting a different result.”
Officially, there are 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with additional 7,000 foreign forces in the coalition there, with the majority of them being NATO troops.
This article, therefore, seeks to assess the implications of the withdrawal of the United States Military from Afghanistan and its effect on the ongoing fight against terrorism and its potential for human rights abuses, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa
Following the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States of America, terrorism has increasingly become a new tactic of warfare and a key security threat, both in Africa and globally.
According to the 2017 Global Terrorism Database (GTD) of the University of Maryland, a terrorist attack is defined as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious, or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation.”
History of US military involvement in Afghanistan
In September 2001, there was a terrorist attack on the United States by a radical Islamic group, Al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden. In that same year in October 2001, there was a US-led bombing of Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks on the United States.
After 9 years of US presence in Afghanistan, in February 2009, NATO Countries pledged to increase military and other commitments in Afghanistan after the US announced dispatch of 17,000 extra troops. In December 2009, the US President Barack Obama decided to boost US troop numbers in Afghanistan by 30,000, bringing total to 100,000 and assured that US will begin withdrawing its forces by 2011.
In October 2014, the US and UK ended their combat operations in Afghanistan paving way for preparations to withdraw from Afghanistan. In March 2015, President Obama announced that his country will delay its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, following a request from President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan.
In August 2017, US President Donald Trump said he would be sending more troops to fight a resurgent Taliban. However, in September 2019 protracted peace talks between the Taliban and the US broke down. In February 2020 after months of on and off talks, the US signed a troop withdrawal agreement with the Taliban in Doha. Finally, in April 2021, President Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops to mark 20 years since the September 11 attacks.
Why US withdrawal from Afgahnsitan poses threats for Ghana and Africa
According to President Joe Biden during his speech to announce the withdrawal of US Troops in Afghanistan, he said “the threat of terrorism has become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe: al-Shabab in Somalia, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia.” This statement reinforces and reminds us of the activities of terrorist groups including the Nigerian Militant group, Boko Haram, on the African Continent.
As a result, governments of African countries must focus their attentions on two risks, notably the resumption of activities by extremist groups and a subsequent outpouring of refugees from Afghanistan. The withdrawal of the US Military could provide much needed room for terrorist organizations to regroup, remobilize and strategize with the objective to strengthen and advance terrorist operations and networks throughout the world, including Sub-Sahara Africa.
Considering the twin challenges of unemployment and economic hardship which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic for us in Africa, the withdrawal of the United States Military from Afghanistan could provide fertile grounds for the recruitment and training of able young Africans into terrorist organizations and network.
This, if not checked will make Africa a haven for terrorist activities throughout the world, which could lead to Ghana and most African countries being blacklisted by International organizations and western countries.
On the African continent, for instance, terrorism continues to affect people’s fundamental human rights both directly and indirectly, including contributing to high numbers of people being forcibly displaced from their residences or countries. Currently, Africa especially the Eastern, Western and Northern regions have and continue to witness rapidly growing trends of terrorist activities.
This growth is demonstrated not only by the number of terrorist attacks, but also by the number of countries impacted.
According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, global forced displacement at the end of 2019 was estimated at 79.5 million, with the number surpassing 80 million by mid-2020, as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.
The threat of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa has been reinforced by the recent terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso. While this horrific attack has led to the death of at least 132 civilians, and resulted in the forced displacement of nearly 800 people, as indicated in a tweet by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there is an urgent need to put human rights at the core of all efforts to address violent extremism.
Mali Coup & Nigeria Insecurity
The recent Mali coup and insurgency in Nigeria reinforce the need for African leaders to ensure urgent economic transformation of the continent. It is instructive to point out that mutinies and coup d’états do not occur in a vacuum.
As such, African leaders must resolve to tackle the endemic socio-economic challenges that confront the African people, including challenges such as insecurity, unemployment, economic decline, nepotism, bigotry, human rights violations, incompetence and corruption.
These challenges when addressed will go a long way to prevent coup d’états and the resultant emergency meetings that accompany same by African Heads of States and Representatives of Governments.
The above is affirmed in the recent national security strategy developed to govern operations of the National Security Secretariat in Ghana. The strategic document is a warning among others, that mismanagement of the Ghanaian economy, injustice and state capture by a group it describes as “political elite” is a major threat to the security of the country.
As such, issues such as the imbalanced allocation of resources and opportunities to identity groups, poor service delivery, systemic exclusion and marginalization as well as deprivation could lead to citizen frustration and feeling of hopelessness which could, in turn, lead to a rejection of the generally accepted social norms and values, and in fact the status quo.
It is, therefore, critical for African leaders to heed the above concerns as contained in the strategic document and ensure the prudent application of natural resources, as well as the delivery of good governance with the objective of improving the general quality of life of African nationals.
This, when done will go a long way to curb the activities of terrorist organizations and violent extremist groups on the Continent. However, if not tackled, coup d’états such as occurred in Mali and terrorist attacks such as seen in Burkina Faso could become daily occurrences and the reality of the Continent.
The current insecurity in Nigeria which has led to the suspension of twitter following calls for protests and violent extremism measures including breakup of the country smacks of revolving revolutionary trends which have the potential to spillover to other neighboring African countries including Ghana if not effectively addressed.
The suspension of twitter activities in the country may be seen by all and sundry, including freedom lovers as part of grand attempts to silence the concerns of the youth and their calls for improved administration of the country.
As such, the decision taken by the Nigeria Federal Government to suspend Twitter activities in the country poses a clear violation not only to the rights of Nigerians to freedom of speech and expression, but International laws and covenants, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and African Charter on Human and People’s Right.
There is the need for a reorientation for all African leaders. African leaders must rethink their reasons for ascending political leadership. Africa needs economic transformation and enhanced security measures to address the situation.
We need to invest in ICT infrastructure, intelligence gathering and enhanced training for all security actors. Leadership must be about the people and must introduce policies for open, accountable, selflessness in leadership devoid of theft and corruption.
African leaders must renew their commitment to tenets of constitutional democracy, good governance and prudent management of resources in Africa for the benefit of the African people. African Heads of States and governments must be open-minded, abreast with the times, and introduce policies and other measures which create the desired enabling environment and provides opportunities for the teeming youth to enable them to release their full potentials.
The economic transformation of the African Continent must therefore be an urgent goal of all African Heads of State and Governments if Africa is to realize its objectives of becoming a global powerhouse as enshrined in Agenda 2063. If Africa realizes its economic goals, unemployment will reduce, poverty will reduce, famine and hunger would reduce and the raw materials needed to fuel terrorist groups that would want to take advantage of the African vulnerabilities would not exist.
If African leaders fail to put up the requisite policies to reduce poverty, eradicate corruption and all the leadership problems facing the continent, then we run the risk of increased insecurity as a result of terrorist groups following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In conclusion, it is therefore incumbent and important for security agencies within the continent and sub-region to be alert and on top of their game to forestall any terrorist threats and activities that may likely follow the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
African countries do not have a choice but to hasten the post covid-19 economic recovery in order to hasten economic growth and development so as to provide employment and improve the quality of life of the citizens especially the youth.
African countries and economies must urgently address widespread poverty and oppression in order to ensure that the conditions needed and for which terrorism can be a response do not thrive. It is also critical for African countries including Ghana to take steps to invest in emerging technologies and trends needed to prevent highly sophisticated crimes including heavy investment in cybersecurity.
This will go a long way to track and disrupt terrorist networks, activities and funding as mostly occurs through money laundering and illicit financial flows in the sub-region. Economic transformation and out-of the box security measures would reduce the threat or deal with the same when it arises.
The writer, Hon. Francis-Xavier Sosu, is a private legal practitioner, human rights activist, Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency, Member of the Appointments Committee, and Deputy Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, with background expertise in Economics, Conflict, Security and Peace studies. The writer can be contacted via: email@example.com www.madinamp.com