Globalization, Terrorism and Counter Terrorism in Africa
The central premise of this chapter is that while all acts of terrorism stem from locally rooted issues, the growth and spread of terrorism is fuelled by the process of globalisation. African based terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabab in Somalia originated in response to local issues but their growth in notoriety and spread across regions has largely been aided by globalisation. The narratives employed by the leadership of Boko Haram and Al-Shabab to justify their violence and the medium used to disseminate their voice and campaign of violence are all rooted in the modus operandi of global terrorism. The chapter argues that terrorism in Africa has been influenced by the process of globalisation particularly the use of the internet, the rise of global terrorism such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), cross border crime and the proliferation of small arms. The chapter concludes by arguing that if localised terrorism such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabab are to be tamed, effective counter-terrorism campaigns have to be developed to limit the reach of their voice and violence to the localities and ultimately defeat them at that level. One suggestion put forward in the chapter is to develop an international protocol against the spread of voice and violence of terrorism through internet channels such as YouTube. Another suggestion is to develop appropriate counter narratives both at the local and global levels to deny terrorists the appropriation of religious and moral justifications for their violence.
Conceptual definitions and debates
Concepts constitute the building blocks of theory and the foundation of any meaningful scientific analysis. As Wallerstein (2000: 156) rightly argued:
Analysts do not manipulate data, though many of them like to think that is what they are doing. Rather, analysts manipulate concepts. Concepts become our friends, even our children. They take on a certain life of their own, and it is tempting to stretch their usage beyond the purpose for which they were created. This is what reification is about.
Thus an attempt will be made to define the key concepts in this chapter for a proper grounding of the subsequent discussions. The three key concepts running through this chapter are globalization, terrorism and counter terrorism. A related concept that needs to be defined is insurgency.
Globalization as a concept gained currency in the closing decades of the 20th century; some analysts described it as ‘the buzz word of the last two decades’ (The Economist, 2013). Precisely, the term became popularized in the 1990s though as a process, globalization has been going on for centuries. According to Grinin and Korotayev(2013), some trace its beginnings either as far back as the first movement of people out of Africa to other parts of the world or to the 3rd Millennium BC, which has been regarded by scholars such as Frank as the beginning of the modern World System(Frank,1990).
Yet some scholars, for example, Conversi(2010) contend that such a projection of globalization far back into the historical past, which he labels as ‘global primordialism’, renders the concept entirely inoperative and useless for political analysis. His argument is that we need to know when globalization started in order to precisely define what it is. He questions why, for instance, long distance contacts during late antiquity be regarded as some form of ‘incipient globalization’ as Harris (2007) did. Conversi’s position is that, there must be some appropriate historical starting point, which, in his view is not earlier than the ‘post-1948 international agreements marking the global triumph of American power, and culminating in the demise of the Soviet bloc'(Conversi, 2010:37).
While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to go into the details of mapping out the historical trajectories of globalization, it is pertinent to note that globalization as a process passed through different phases. As outlined by Harlan and Rahschulte (2011) globalization has passed through three main stages. The first phase of globalization lasted from the 15th to the 18th centuries and it was a period characterised by individuals struggling to overcome several barriers especially natural and man-made barriers in their quest for material wealth and prosperity. During this epoch, the major impediment to global interconnectedness was territorialism. In the second phase, from the 19th to the 20th centuries, the world witnessed globalization in the form of advances in transportation and communication and the technology of production, which culminated in the industrial revolution.
In the third and present phase of globalization corresponding to the 21st century, there has been massive explosion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) particularly the internet and satellite television. The world has now become more or less borderless in terms of commerce, as well as social and political interaction. The present phase is particularly important for a discussion of globalization and terrorism and it will be the major focus of this chapter.
The definition of globalization is as contested as the history of the concept. Generally, it is apparent in the literature on globalization that how the concept is defined is determined by where it is placed on the historical time-line. Those who project globalization into the historical past, for example, consider long distance contacts between nations, cultures, races and religions stretching back to centuries as evidences of ‘globalization’. As earlier argued in line with Conversi(2010), such a long term historical view of globalization renders it meaningless particularly in the context of what it actually means in the present dispensation. This is why the definition of globalization adopted in this chapter relates to the realities of the late 20th century; and more profoundly, the 21st century. While several scholars have appropriately defined globalization in the context of the present (for example, ), one definition which is considered more relevant within the context of this chapter was articulated by Giddens(1990:64)
The intensification of worldwide social relations which link distinct localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.