In the months of October and November, terrorists struck major world cities such as Ankara and Paris leaving the whole world in a state of shock over their barbarity and their growing reach. Human tragedy that unfolds in the aftermath of such dastardly attacks is always heart wrenching whether the attack takes place in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, France or any other country across the globe. Most of these unfortunate events seldom fail in attracting world’s attention.
Ironically, similar events and human catastrophes in Africa mostly fail to appear on the media radar. Africa, which continues to be wracked by hunger, famine, civil wars and terrorism, appears to be of less concern to people.
The attack on the luxury Radisson Hotel in Mali in November attracted the attention of the international community because of its timing and the target. Coming immediately after the Paris attack, this horrifying incident was regarded as a message to France and attracted attention because it happened in a luxury hotel where UN representatives and many foreigners were staying. Looking at Africa in general, however, attacks always target similar areas; luxury hotels, official and military buildings belonging to western organizations, shopping centers and embassies. At this point we need to remember that the West is the prime target of the radicals.
Armed radical groups, who are following and trying to impose their skewed interpretation of the Qur’an on others, are currently active around Mali, Algeria and Libya. These groups are not much different from Daesh or Al-Qaeda; therefore the international community should not ignore these groups and the unrest they create as being the internal matters of that region. Terrorism is no longer any particular country or region’s problem. Like Daesh or Al-Qaeda, the Africa-based terror groups have the potential to spread their ugly tentacles across the continent and beyond.
Perhaps, that is why the decision for a military intervention in Mali in 2013 was taken by unanimous vote in the UN Security Council. As is known, it is very unusual for a decision to be passed unanimously by the Security Council. Observer may recall, the 2013 intervention ended very quickly. Under the UN’s supervision, the French army set about neutralizing radical groups, which soon withdrew. Although this was regarded as a huge success at the time and it was felt that the terror-related tensions in the country had come to an end, the truth however was otherwise. Armed radical groups had merely retreated in order to wait for a better time and place. Now those groups have staged a comeback, as is evident from reports. So, what went wrong?
According to a UN security analyst, “As long as there are people willing to go on suicide missions, this type of attack(s) will be difficult to stop.”
Mamadou Coulibaly, the head of the Mali employers’ federation, explains the situation in these words: “Attacks are almost impossible to prevent.” “What is important is how we manage the fallout.”
As we have seen, Mali, which is facing numerous problems, has like the rest of Africa literally surrendered to the radicals. Military interventions merely cause these armed groups to retreat for a while. Moreover, some angry Africans seek a solution to their lingering problems by joining them. The situation shows that the solution to this problem does not lie in military measures.
What the UN needs to do is to understand the reasons why radicals in the region become even more radicalized and the reasons why people support them. The two main factors that incite people to violence are the indoctrination whose influence they fall under, and anger. It is clear that radical ideas are able to spread very easily in this age. When this false system of ideas combines with anger, the result may be very dangerous indeed. If the international community really wants to find a solution it needs to consider a moderate, ideological and deep-rooted solution that can drain the swamp.
In addition to political crises, we need to remember that Mali is one of those countries of Africa that is most afflicted by poverty and hunger. With its 90 percent Muslim population, Mali is one of the world’s poorest countries. Yet despite its profound poverty it possesses dazzling underground resources. It is rich in gold and uranium. According to the latest figures, 2.5 million people are facing starvation in this poverty-wracked country. Three out of every 10 children under the age of two are chronically malnourished. The World Food Programme plans to improve access to education by providing meals to 162,000 schoolchildren this year. This is often their only meal of the day.
Following clashes in Mali in 2012-2013, hundreds of thousands of people ended up as refugees in other countries. A large part of the country is still under the control of armed groups. Appalling mafia-like groups control one part; and crime rates are very high.
We should not make this depressing picture even more depressing by seeking to answer violence with violence or military measures in the country and the region. Proper education, however, will have a domino effect through the correct outcomes it achieves. For no inconsiderable length of time, huge efforts have been made to solve troubles and problems with ever more arms and soldiers. And the result has always been an even worse insoluble problem. This time, the international community should try to focus on the causes of these afflictions. It must also look for a solution there. Although it might seem to be a proper course of action to respond with anger in the face of violence, it is no solution. The true solution lies in being able to behave sensibly and rationally in the face of violence.
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arab News & News Rescue: