Sahel: terrorism threatens social cohesion.

Almost all over the planet, except where there is little enquiring about the phenomenon, jihadism, or « violent extremism », is a continuous threat to the nations’ social fabric. In African countries, terrorist activities undermine national communities and endanger the difficult construction of the nation-state.


The « Regensburg Speech »

The targeting of victims is a ruse, in that it creates, and is followed by an immediate amalgam fueled by the great pain of those struck and that of their loved ones. Terrorist attacks induce indiscriminate retaliation instincts and weaken legislation, laws and responsible thinking.

The reprisals against communities, following the action of the « madmen of Allah », are a sign that the latter have achieved their goal: to plant chaos, confusion and murderous insanity in societies.

One of these earliest signs was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s « Regensburg Speech », on 12 September, 2006. In that German city, located in the Bavarian Lander where runs the Danube River and where he had been professor, Benedict XVI pronounced a speech on the theme: « Faith, reason and violence ». The general idea, which emerged, was the condemnation of violence exerted, in the name of religion, on human beings.

Due to the prevalent context of terrorist attacks, senior Muslim religious chiefs, and even political leaders from various backgrounds, believed that they were attacked by the Pope. They accused him of linking the Muslim faith to violence. A great outcry followed and resulted in the immediate recall of the Kingdom of Morocco Ambassador to the Vatican. However, lucid Moslem intellectuals, among whom Tariq Ramadan, at the time crowned with the title of learned theologian, rose to the front, that of the fight of ideas, to warn the Moslem world against this one-dimensional drift, that he qualified as « emotional overflow and absolutely uncontrolled ».

Four days later, the Vatican is forced to review its position. The Pope declared that he was « absolutely sorry » that his remarks were interpreted as offensive to Islam.

That passionate and dangerous debate, on the link between violence and Islam, has also had deep effect within African countries.

Terrorists’ attacks impacts on the relations between public opinions and national armed forces accused or suspected of incompetence and cowardice in a merciless war. After each disastrous assessment of an attack, Ministers of the Interior and National Defense are accused of deficiency and carelessness.

Following a terrorist attack and the subsequent human and material losses, the real or supposed tribal members of the attackers becomes an issue and communities will fight each other. For example: In Mali, it will be Fulani against the Dogon or Fulani against the Tuareg; In Niger, Fulani against the Tuaregs; In Burkina Faso, Fulani against Mossi, etc.

Communities vs. communities

Terrorists can applaud as cohabitation and inter-ethnic weddings become a problematic issue in many places and should be much bigger ones in the near future. Even « intelligentsias » indulge in this game of deadly words of the kind: « we have an ethnic problem ». In this suspicious atmosphere, they rely on the regularity of the attacks attributed, rightly or wrongly, to the Fulani community and the recurrent vengeance that this component of the population suffers. No time and no effort of rational analysis are carried out to try to identify the terrorists’ strategy of shredding the nation social fabric.

Terrorists also create split within Africans’ public opinions. Their action has led, among other things, to a form ‘’of invasion by foreign forces » in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, among other countries. In Chad, French Forces have been in place for a much longer time.

This strong presence of military bases, in Africa, has created two camps: the « for » and the « against » or Pros and Cons. Along these lines it also divides countries and entire populations, each one accusing each other of harboring terrorists. The division reaches the Defense and Security Forces themselves with such comments: « weird indeed that, after their attack here at home, the terrorists could quietly retreat to the neighboring country ».

In villages, and in remote hamlets, this division is also explosive. It is enough for a single youngster of a village to join the bush, with the ‘’bearded ones’’ and the shame is thrown on his family, even if it had not sent him there; on his friends, his neighbors and his distant relations. The seed of discord is planted!

Throughout African countries, the look has become wreaking havoc. The slightest goatee, hanging under a man chin, is likened to a « sign of radicalization ». Quick, go to the hairdresser! To your razors, Muslims, even if your skin is allergic to this little metal! Wearing, even voluntarily or by imitation, a veil or a chador or a hijab makes women « terrorists », able to camouflage explosives within their accoutrement. The turban, a traditional hairstyle for many peoples, now gives way to sighs of anxiety, and creates fears at the passage of their bearers. It is paranoia, the fear of an attack. The fear of the « bomb setter », or the individual described as a « traveling explosive belt-bearer », who psychologically weakens the ordinary citizen.

Amalgam in the Sahel.

In some contexts, there is the « amalgam »: Muslim equals terrorists. Peaceful citizens are categorized, stigmatized and sometimes even marginalized, overnight, in their own village. As for those who do not profess Muhammad’s Faith, they have an interest in controlling their language, when speaking of religion. « Anti-Islamic speeches » or « Islamophobia behavior », such as blasphemy, a real sword of Damocles, in Pakistan, can be bestowed on them at any time.

Thinking about the city problems, one should then go in hiding and use censorship when planning to discuss social issues. Mention of a spontaneous occupation (an understatement) of the city’s public places by the faithful of the Friday Great Prayer, is no longer understood as an obstacle to the free movement of street users, but as an « attack against Islam « .

Travel destinations become subject of suspicions. They are no longer innocent, functional or for pleasure: « Tell me where you went, I will reveal to you your closeness or your degree of complicity with the terrorists!»

Finally, foreign military powers are charged with all ‘’Israel sins’’: ‘’ it is the hand of that Western power. The resilience of terrorist groups proves at will, that they are funded by industrial powers.’’

Foreign powers engage in secret wars, manipulating terrorists:’’ how is it that terrorists enter and get out of a country, with their beards and turbans despite all drones deployed on the foreign military bases’’?

External powers weaken us to better impose their Agendas: ‘’each world power wants to have its base in the Sahel, for geostrategic reasons and for the riches of the subsoil.’’ Etc.

In fine, let us, Africans recognize that terrorists are winning a decisive battle: the division of our societies. Be aware!


André Marie POUYA, journaliste & consultant, for centre 4s