It seems World War III is upon us- it is in the name of Terrorism. World War 1 & 2 were fought among countries and continents but Terrorism are individuals and groups who bring war to a particular society or nation. Fact is, the terrorist is ready to die; how do you refer to that as war? With war as we know it, the winner wants to be alive to celebrate victory over the enemy or adversary as it were, whereas that doesn’t necessarily is the case with Terrorists. The terrorist wants to die a martyr. This is really scary and has the world on a panic button of fear. No one is safe anymore and no one is assured of their safety whether at home or at some of the supposedly safest public places such as schools and churches.
I have a Somali native friend – a London resident, who has firsthand experience with the operations of the terrorist group Alshabab. His experience on terrorism made me to really start thinking of how the world can address this cancerous global challenge. One day he told me he was travelling to Somalia on a holiday. I asked him why would he risk his life to go back there, and he said, Somalia is a place he still calls home in spite of all that is happening. So in a conversation, I asked him, who is a terrorist? His answer was very interesting. He said a terrorist could be that good friend of yours, your spouse, buddy at school, that family member, that person you sat next to on the plane or public transport, or that individual you just passed by at the City Centre. Meaning that, you cannot pinpoint who is a terrorist and it’s difficult to identify them. How do you fight such a person?
He continued to say that, he has seen friends and family he eats and dines with turn into terrorists overnight. It usually happens without any warning signs or notice. This question then comes up, who is the world fighting against when it comes to terrorism? To me, we are fighting an unknown enemy; an ideology. Can technology and highly sophisticated armory eradicate terrorism from the surface of the earth? I believe that is a big NO. Drones and other sophiscated machinery have still not been able to deter them. That means we have a huge task at hand and the earlier the West changes their tactics, the better. The answer is going to the grassroots to find the reasons why they are doing what they are doing as terrorist. Foreign policies of the West seem to be one of the main reasons that gives birth to terrorists daily. What is the West doing to solve the about her foreign policies? I believe there are more questions than answers, and until we find answers to those questions, terrorism will continue to live in the present and not past.
I recently resigned from the British Army after over a decade of contributing to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and other regions across the globe. When I initially joined the British Army, I thought Terrorism was something that could be eradicated from the face of the earth by the flip of finger considering the sophistication of armory and technology the West possesses. This terrorist who doesn’t have any sophiscated gadgets is still making life miserable for the world. Now over a decade, I’m beginning to have deep thoughts about the way forward of solving this plaque.
Terrorism actually came to the lime light and became an ideology and philosophical magnum after the 2001 September 11 bombings of the World Trade Centre which was orchestrated by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda and masterminded by Osama Bin Laden. This was the birth of fighting Terrorism by the West and the United States. This attack spearheaded the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Though invading Iraq has left more questions than answers, this did not stop the West to continue to fight Terrorism from other regions such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and the likes. Initially, Al-Qaeda was the prominent group but today we have Isis, Al Shabaab, Boko Haram, Taliban and Hezbollah amongst others. It looks like terrorism has come to stay.
According to the Statistical Portal Site, terrorism has caused around 130,000 fatalities worldwide between 2006 and 2013. According to the BBC, a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace says that nearly 18,000 people died from terrorist attacks in 2013. The report goes on to say that, not only is the intensity of terrorism increasing, its breadth is increasing as well. This substantiates the spread of terrorism to Nigeria, Somalia, Mali and recently Cote D’Ivoire and other regions in the African continent where terrorism used to be on a minimal scale. Also, according to a report by PR Newswire, Nigeria experienced the largest increase in terrorist activity with 7,512 deaths in 2014, an increase of over 300% since 2013. The terrorist activities in Nigeria is unabated and the world media does not give it much prominence like other terrorist activities in the West as it did in Brussels and the Paris quite recently.
My fear is how terrorism is penetrating the African continent: a continent that is not security conscious from the Security Agencies to the populace. This makes the continent an easy breeding ground. For example, a country like Ghana that is iconic for its hospitality means that foreigners are welcomed with open arms without a third eye for being security conscious means we are in deep trouble when it comes to fighting terrorism. Even the West with a very high intelligent system, networks and database still has terrorists slipping through the net. That means we have a job to do as a country and a continent as a whole. Improving security internally and securing cross border controls is vital to our success in fighting this new age of war.
We all have a role to play in making sure we are saved from terrorism. Ghana is at risk when you look at the terrorist attacks to our neigbours Nigeria and recently Cote D’Ivoire. It’s a wakeup call for us to be more vigilant. The terrorist are not far from us and what is scary is we do not know what they may be planning. Again, how can you identify them? Fighting an unknown enemy makes it an up-hill battle to begin with. However, we can always do our best as a people to be each other’s policeman by taking every suspicion serious and reporting it to the appropriate security quarters. We should start to take certain behaviors, attitudes and communications with other people that portray extremist undertones very seriously. The security industry needs to be alert and on a continual basis, gather intelligence that will help stop the terrorist before they make a step.
Terrorism cannot be stopped but it can be minimized if we communicate effectively. This has been my passion after over a decade of being in the British Army. I had first-hand experience in fighting terrorism on the fore front and understand the in-depth of how terrorism works and how it can be minimized. My mission is to use my experience to help Ghana and Africa as whole to curb terrorism and to create awareness in terms of how we can beat this war with an unknown enemy. We are planning to build an institute where we will be the hub of creating security consciousness in the minds of Ghanaians and becomes a platform for other security agencies to learn and improve on security issues in Ghana in particular, Africa and the world as a whole.
Author: Sintim Aboagye, EX British Military Personnel, firstname.lastname@example.org