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Updated Apr 22, 2021
girl chad
A young girl in Chad. The people of the Sahel region and Africa writ large face an uncertain future the author writes.

Terrorist expansion and ethnic conflicts in Africa: worsening times lies ahead for African security

With the killing of the Chadian president by terrorist groups and new ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia a new

wave of clashes and instability is impacting Africa. Not that the continent was very safe and stable

before, with a legacy of post-colonial dictatorships and insecurity increased with the failure of Arab

Spring and the birth of new terrorist groups in the last ten years. But today the continent seems on the

verge of something worst. Things seems to heat up for security in Africa.



The situation in Mali out of hands of French intervention, with the killing of even UN peacekeepers, the

Nigerian Boko Haram increasing power weakening state security forces, the Islamic State expanding in

DRC and Al Shabaab expanding in East Africa, show that things are pretty gloomy on the security side of

Africa. And not only terrorist threat is looming on the future of Africa. The ethic strives are threatening

to destroy stable countries and fragile democratization transitions too. Take the example of Ethiopia, a

stable state until recently, again under the threat of civil war with the starting of the Tigray conflict last

November and the recent attacks between Amhara and Oromo people, increasing political and ethnic

violence but also humanitarian disaster.



I was in Tigray in the spring of 2019 to visit the Rock hewn churches and the monasteries that you could

reach only by foot, sometimes climbing with your hands. It is an amazing place, where you can breathe

spirituality of people, coming also from isolation of land, mostly a rock land, and the ancient civilization

of Axum. Today the cry from the region it's not hard to hear, with the hundreds of thousands of refugees,

hundreds of people killed, thousands of women raped and children taken from their mothers. Some

organizations speak about genocide others just confirm the destruction of the structures like Axum

Airport, Aduwa industry, agricultural tools and schools. As always, when some domestic conflicts arise,

besides to deal internally with elements that made it possible, from ethnic grievances to the political

elites’ power struggles, we need to see the regional system, with its regional dynamics and geopolitics,

how can support a domestic stabilization.



Unfortunately, the African Union is still weak to respond in a coherent and coordinated manner to the

terrorist threat that is expanding from the Sahel to Sub-Saharan Africa, from West to East. Silencing the

Guns program failed, with Last year AU inaugurated the new HQ of CISSA, the Committee of Intelligence

and Security Services, but the path seems long in the sharing of information among intelligence services

in order to fight once and for all armed conflicts in Africa. The other problem is that terrorist threat as

well as ethnic conflicts can be won only addressing root causes of instability and insecurity and so the all

spectrum of “Human Security” of the population, meaning the freedom from fear, from want and from

indignity, and Africa is still backward on this: poverty in Sub-Sahara Africa continues to rise. Not only

that but with modern complex times international threats are growing exponentially and making things

worst, from the pandemics like Covid 19, who worsened the human security situation in the continent,

to the natural disasters expected in the next decades with climate change that coupled with

demographic bomb (Africa expected to become four times the current population, reaching 4.5 billion

people by the end of the century) could make of Africa the first failed continent in human history.



Africa needs some anchor states, meaning some stable and powerful states that can represent the

leadership for continent-wide security and economic initiatives, as it has been for Europe guided by

France, Germany and Italy after WWII. Morocco, Egypt and South Africa are the candidates for North

and Southern part of the continent, but for East, West and Central Africa the path is still long with the

majority of countries considered “fragile states”. For this reason there is an urgent need for a Panafrican


strategy by the AU, supported by the UN and also the great powers of the world, first of all EU that

should even think to a modern Marshall Plan, on how to really tackle the terrorist threat expanding in

the continent, the ethnic grievances that need to be dealt with, in particular when countries will pass

from the many dictatorships to fragile democracies, and the urgent development need to couple with

sustainable energy production and solution to the endemic poverty that will worsen with demographic

expansion and urbanization. The work to be done is a lot, but the institutions, both domestically and

continental, seem to not rise to the occasion.

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