In May 2020, Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism published a series of three articles looking at the similarities of different Islamist groups in different regions of Africa. Risk Analysts Jamie Thomson analysed the security threats posed by al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, and Al Qaeda and IS affiliates in the Western Sahel.
Read part one on al-Shabab here.
Part two on Boko Haram is here.
Part three on al Qaeda and IS can be read here.
In parts of Africa already experiencing high levels of jihadist violence, we can expect to see this violence increase as militant groups seek to exploit the pandemic to seek new recruits, take advantage of governments’ distraction, and even potentially to change their strategy to demonstrate that they can provide better services to regional communities than central governments can.
In all countries, violence will only increase the numbers of internally displaced people, who will end up grouped together in refugee camps or suburban slums, trying to survive in unsanitary conditions, and ultimately spreading the virus further and faster.
The virus will also distract international support from these countries. Already, the French Ministry of Defence is considering a change to the nature of its deployment to the Sahel (Op BARKHANE) after three of its personnel were evacuated when they tested positive for COVID-19. The American and British militaries are busy providing logistic and security support to their governments back home and cannot be guaranteed to provide counter-insurgency operational support to African governments in the short-term.
However, in all these countries, the defeat of jihadist militants must be a long-term priority for central governments, so that communities and economies can exist in secure environments. Without a defeat of jihadism, Islamists have fresh motivation in the current outbreak to continue their campaigns and will enjoy new recruits who have lost faith in central governments’ ability to provide stability and solutions to local communities.