It is hard to argue with Charles Roberston’s excellent lecture on TED, “Africa’s Next Boom”, that Africa is going to become a booming economic power house (please watch his short presentation). I personally am extremely bullish on Africa’s potential. Note though the word potential. Africa unfortunately has many issues. One of these is that it has become, again, a battle ground between developed nations such as China, Russian, the US, Europe, and other countries working to obtain access to the many resources that Robertson discusses. Not just oil and minerals but low cost skilled labor. Perhaps just as worrying as potential predation by mercantilistic countries such as China or abusive mega corporations is the spread of radical/militant Islamic organizations or racist/nationalistic terror organizations. Such unchecked conflict creates the potential, as it has in many African nations, of totally undermining any potential social, cultural, and economic gains generated by positive trends of increased life expectation, increased education, and trade that Roberston mentions. As such it suggests that the US has a role to play in assisting and helping African nations with their security concerns. How the US goes about that though will require great finesses, patience, and intelligence. Something we have not often shown in the past. As such how do you, our savvy and intelligent readers, think the US can help support African security?
For many outside counter terror circles or analysts focused on Somalia al-Shabaab was a little know terror organization that was rapidly degraded by African Union forces last year which pushed them out of Mogadishu into the surrounding country side. While the AU’s largely successful efforts against al-Shabaab are largely responsible for degrading the al-Qaeda backed terrorist group al-Shabaab had been losing popular support in part due to its excessively violent attacks on civilians and repressive support of sharia law. Furthermore al-Shabaab has recently been going through political infighting. This is in part due to al-Shabaab having a disparate make up of individuals of different back grounds, clans, and agendas. In the past this has led to some serious political infighting and squabbling over the role of violent action versus the political process but recently elements in al-Shabaab have been having a much more serious argument that has turned into a purge.
The main thrust of the argument inside al-Shabaab boils down to whether the organization should support global jihad or just focus on local matters. In large part the more violent elements of al-Shabaab, angry at their loss of prestige among the populace, have called for more violent attacks inside and outside of Somalia. This argument has turned rather deadly leading to more moderate senior elements of al-Shabaab, that have resisted links to al-Qaeda, being eliminated. Furthermore this has led to the former leader of al-Shabaab, Dahir Aweys, fleeing the group and turning himself in to the Transitional Government. It has also led to the killing of several other notable members of the organization including Omar Hammami, the so call rapping terrorist.
This purge within al-Shabaab, most likely led by Ahmed Abdi Godane, has led to a smaller version of al-Shabaab but one that we predicted, after it’s bombing of a Mogadishu restaurant, would become more violent as a method of showing is relevance and agency. In part we have predicted al-Shabaab would attack more civilian targets because it reflects the more immature elements of the organizations members’ desire for violent action while simultaneously reflecting its recent ineffectiveness using guerrilla warfare against actual military forces and reduced capabilities. Thus al-Shabaab’s attack in Kenya copying the concepts seen in Mumbai performed by Lashkar-e-Taiba. It is highly likely that due to Godane’s influence and others desire to express their control and power that we will see even more attacks on civilian targets, especially ones were foreigners gather. We predict this will further isolate the organization as well from the civilian populace, weaken their political power, and draw increased attention from countries like the United States. So while al-Shabaab is now able to draw the attention it seeks it most likely has further decreased its ability to influence politics in the area and may even be sowing the seeds to its eventual destruction.
Reports are coming out that Omar Hammami, the American born so called rapping terrorist, may have been killed. Then again this would not be the first, second, or even third time Hammami has been reported to have been killed. That being said Hammami may have finally run out of luck due to his highly public falling out with members of the al-Qaeda backed Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. Wired magazine ran a story on Hammami that’s worth reading for background here but those who are late to the Hammami story might find his twitter account, here, even more interesting. Essentially Hammami broke with al-Shabaab’s leadership as was highly critical of them via social media which has resulted in death threats and possibly at least one failed attempt to kill him in the last few weeks. This all seems to be part of a reorganization and purge among al-Shabaab by more violent members of the group, possible with backing of AQ leadership. If Hammami is indeed gone it will be interesting to see what happens with al-Shabaab. I predict it will become smaller and more violent for a time while it attempts to regain relevance, followers, and cull those individuals who are not as aggressive as its current leadership. This might not work out so well for al-Shabaab who is seemingly loosing popular support in part due to its past violence.
“Al Shabaab bombers strike Mogadishu restaurant, 15 dead” http://feeds.reuters.com/~r/reuters/topNews/~3/Csj_zet9P78/story01.htm
Al-Shabaab’s recent bombing of a restaurant in Mogadishu smacks of a attempt by the organization to gain attention after its drubbing by African Union forces last year as well as it more recent internal purges and reorganization. We can expect a uptick in al-Shabaab attacks on soft targets, instead of military ones, and a increase in violence that not only reflects the greater influence of younger more extremist leaders but also a strong desire on al-Shabaab’s part to demonstrate its still a capable organization. While we predict this will further isolate the organization only time will tell.
Africa is the first region, or “microsite,” that DigitalGlobe is looking at. Based on data collected from the satellites, a team of geospatial analysts gleans insights about geographic patterns, infrastructure, illegal activity, humanitarian crises, economics, demographics, food and water security, weather, major events, and even ethnic tribal boundaries. They built an interactive map where you can see that oil theft is a major threat in Nigeria or that the Lord’s Resistance Army is causing population displacement in Central Africa.