• 16 June, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security

Terrorism in Africa: A Threat to World Peace and Security

Colonel B S Nagial (V)
Tue, 28 Mar 2023   |  Reading Time: 4 minutes

Terrorism is the biggest threat to world peace and security, and Africa is now facing this threat. Africa has been tormented by terrorism, with various terrorist organisations accomplishing their terror attacks all over the continent. Some prominent terrorist organisations in Africa are Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).

  • Boko Haram, operating in Nigeria, has been liable for a considerable number of attacks in Nigeria and adjoining countries like Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. The terrorist organisation has murdered thousands of people and has been responsible for several kidnappings, together with the high-profile abduction of about 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in 2014.
  • Al-Shabaab, operating in Somalia, has also executed several infamous attacks in the region, including the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013, which killed 67 people. The group has also masterminded attacks in Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
  • ISGS, which arose in 2015, has been responsible for numerous noxious attacks in the Sahel region, as well as in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The terrorists organisation has been branded to target civilians as well as military personnel.

In addition to these terrorist organisations, various other lesser-known terrorist organisations are functioning in numerous areas of Africa. These terrorist organisations frequently carry out attacks to propagate their ideologies or political affiliations. They substantially influence the local populace and affect regional security, stability and development.

In spite of efforts by regional, national, and international forces to counter terrorism in Africa, the danger remains immense. Aspects like poverty, political unpredictability, and weak governance contribute to the spread of fanatical ideologies and the appearance of new terrorist organisations. African countries must work in tandem to contest these intrinsic issues and reinforce their capacity to counter terrorism and extremism. As India has suffered from terrorism for quite some time, India can help Africa to fight terrorism by capacity building, intelligence sharing, sharing defence & technology, etc.

Origin, Spread and Causes of Terrorism in Africa.      During the 20th century, weak and corrupt colonial regimes branded opponents as ‘terrorists’ to legitimise their actions. In Africa, colonial powers labelled movements for independence as terrorists to retain their control, belittle their adversaries, and justify their dangerous punitive actions. The French establishments in Algeria, the British in Kenya during the 1950s, the Rhodesian government during the 1970s, and the South African apartheid regime are a few examples. Only recently have western nations branded the terrorism in Africa as Islamic jihadism. In 1998, truck bombs at US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, killed more than two-hundreds people and brought Al-Qaeda to the forefront of the US. Since then, and mainly after the 9/11 terror attacks, a new narrative of international jihadism has come into play. But sometimes, home-grown conflicts have nothing to do with global terrorism or religious indoctrination.

The causes of terrorism in African nations differ a great deal. The vast continent has varied cultures and languages, but some comparable factors are in play in the Sahel region. Countries like Mali, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have agonised from successive weak governments characterised by corruption, impunity, and disorganisation. Their political leaders failed to provide security to their people. Armed Forces in the Sahel often consisted of ill-trained, ill-equipped militaries. Bribery has led to voluntary troops mutinying in Nigeria. In Mali, the military and associated terrorists carried out carnages in the central and southern parts in 2018 and 2019. However, no trials of perpetrators ever took place. This lack of responsibility and fairness facilitated hostilities between national governments in the Sahel and their marginalised, unfortunate, and ignored groups.

Terrorism flourished in such a void. Internal conflicts have often been the inspiration for these fragmented terrorist organisations. The fine line between jihadism, organised crime, and local politics is often distorted and intricated by worldwide factors like climate change, population growth, and migration. The situation in Mali indicates an indistinct example of how organisational flaws, deprived authority, and feeble state security agencies have been the leading cause of the growing terrorism. Rebellions in 2012, 2020 and 2021 and times of suppression of the northern population have done more to expand terrorism in the region.

How can India help Africa fight terrorism? India and Africa share a common interest in combating terrorism and promoting regional security. India has been involved in several initiatives to help African countries fight terrorism, and there are several ways India can continue to assist in this area:

  • Training and Capacity Building: India can provide training programs to help African security forces enhance their counter-terrorism capabilities and capacity building. India has a well-developed counter-terrorism infrastructure and expertise, and it can share this knowledge with African countries to help them strengthen their security forces.
  • Intelligence Sharing: India can share intelligence with African countries to help them identify and disrupt terrorist networks. India has a robust intelligence apparatus and can use its expertise to help African nations better understand the threat landscape and develop effective counter-terrorism strategies.
  • Cybersecurity Cooperation: India has a robust cybersecurity industry, and it can work with African countries to enhance its cybersecurity infrastructure and protect against cyber attacks. Cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly important area of focus for counter-terrorism efforts, and India can provide valuable support in this area.
  • Development Assistance: India can provide development assistance to help African countries address the root causes of terrorism, such as poverty, inequality, and lack of economic opportunity. By promoting development and economic growth, India can help create more stable and secure societies less vulnerable to terrorism.
  • Multilateral Cooperation: India can work with other countries and international organisations to develop coordinated strategies to combat terrorism in Africa. This could include participating in multilateral initiatives, such as the African Union’s African Peace and Security Architecture, and supporting the work of regional organisations such as ECOWAS, SADC, and IGAD.

India can undoubtedly play an essential role in helping African nations fight terrorism by imparting training and capacity building, sharing intelligence, helping cybersecurity cooperation, giving development assistance, and backing multilateral cooperation initiatives.


Great power competition can have significant implications for terrorism in Africa. The US, China, and Russia compete for influence and resources in Africa, and this competition can generate conditions that facilitate terrorism. Major powers may provide arms and support to various factions in African conflicts, which can escalate the violence and provide terrorist groups with access to weapons and resources.
India and Africa have their relations embedded in history, and there are solid reasons for optimism that the partnership could be mutually beneficial. Most of the countries were under the colonial rules of the western countries; thus, they weren’t happy with the west and didn’t have much faith in Russia and China. Therefore, India has a significant role in Africa’s development. During the COVID-19 pandemic, India extended great help to many countries in Africa.

The principles of multilateralism can play a crucial role in realising a mutually beneficial relationship between India and Africa. Such cooperation will be essential in dealing with global challenges and defining solutions that offer opportunities for both Africa and India.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.

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