By Travis Gulbrandson
“Are we losing Africa to al-Qaeda?”
The answer is unclear, but if people want to prevent this from happening, changes must be made.
This was the consensus reached at an international forum held Monday afternoon in Farber Hall on the USD campus.
The Sanford School of Health Sciences’ Dr. Moses Ikiugu, a native of Kenya, said one of the real questions is how al-Qaeda attracts young people in the first place.
“What is it that they are getting (from al-Qaeda) that they are not getting anywhere else?” he said.
One thing is money, Ikiugu said, pointing out that many of the places from which groups like al-Qaeda recruit new members are those that have nothing in terms of finances, and often seem forgotten by their own countries.
“If we don’t work to solve these problems in places that … are so left behind, basically they become sect leaders for such things,” he said. “I’m sure that if people (can access) nice health care, good schools, probably they would not have been taken in so quickly by these young men.”
Ikiugu added that when Islamic ideologues go to places like Africa, they come with “a different attitude,” one that sees them reinvesting in the places they visit.
For example, Ikiugu said that many Africans supported Muammar Gaddafi, former leader of Libya, in large part because he invested in many African states, “in many different things, not just one or two.”
Dr. Isaac Joslin, assistant professor of languages, linguistics and philosophy, said the problem is exacerbated by ongoing conflicts in several African nations, which are used as opportunities for expansion by groups like al-Qaeda.
One such nation is that of Mali, which was thrown into crisis in March 2012 after a military coup d’état that Joslin said was performed “in response to the government’s perceived inability to support its soldiers who were being routed by an ethnic Taureg rebellion in the north. …
“The disorder spawned by this rebellion created the proper circumstances for war machines to migrate to new, fertile soil,” he said.
As such, Joslin said Time magazine has reported an influx of Islamist fighters, as well as members of the radical Nigerian insurgent group, Boko Haram.
In addition, many of Gaddafi’s former supporters have entered the picture, he said.
“Although Islamist groups have been operating in the region for some time … it is worth noting that the terrorist network is not the grand mastermind of the crisis, but rather something more akin to a post hoc attribution,” Joslin said.
In terms of Africa being “lost” to al-Qaeda, Joslin said the continent was never “ours” to lose, but also, “There is a sense in which we must admit that it has already been lost inasmuch as al-Qaeda has successfully established itself as a permanent discursive element in the African continent, much like it is an inextricable part of 21st century global discourse.”
The only certainty, he said, is that the Malian conflict will continue “for some time until a profitable alternative to war-making is proposed by local, regional and transnational authorities and institutions.”
Ikiugu said as much earlier in the program, stating, “Governments have to do their part in taking care of their citizens.”
The forum was sponsored by the Beacom School of Business and moderated by Dr. Benno Wymar