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HomeOpinionViolent Extremism and Human Security in Africa :Focus  on Ethiopia 

Violent Extremism and Human Security in Africa :Focus  on Ethiopia 

Violent Extremism and Human Security in Africa Focus  on Ethiopia 

( Extract from the detail research to be found in   

Dawit _ Extremism article
Dawit Woldeghiorgis

by  Dawit W Giorgis
December 2, 2020  

Over 60% of Africa’s population is under 25 years of age. Youth poverty is higher  than in any other region. It has become chronic and is rising.  As young people  are driven to desperation, many are resorting to crime or become involved with  organized crime.   It is generally believed by many close observers that Africa’s  vulnerability to violent extremism is deepening. Half of the continent’s  population lives below the poverty line, and many of its young people are  chronically underemployed, making them vulnerable to recruitment. One  attractive sector is joining extremist organizations.  Members of violent  extremist groups are disproportionally young men and they are geographically  dispersed.  

Recruitment efforts by extremist groups are focused mainly on youth. They make  it easy to join: one does not have to belong to a particular country or ethnic  group or belong to a certain religion or region to become a member. Extremist  groups are motivated either by money or religious beliefs. In order to sustain  themselves, financing often comes through illicit drug trafficking, arms  trafficking human trafficking, bank robberies, kidnappings (ransom), and  maritime hijacking. The difference between organized crime and violent  extremism is at times difficult to discern. 

In their 2017 study based on interviews with hundreds of voluntary  recruits to Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, the United Nations Development  Program found that the journey to violent extremism is one marked by  exclusion and marginalization, lack of opportunities, and grievances with  the state. About 71% of those interviewed cited government action — the  murder or arrest of a family member or friend — as the tipping point for  joining a violent extremist group, indicating the limits of militarized  counter-terrorism responses by governments. (Obonyo) 

In 1994 the UN (UNDP Human Development Report, 1994) redefined security to  embrace human rights and developmental perspectives. While the traditional  definition was limited to physical threats, the new concept is broader, embracing  the well-being of the population. Thus, the concept of security has moved from  threat-centric to people-centric. The UN report stated that the concept of human  security “has been related more to nation-state than to people ….in the final  analysis human security is a concern with human life and dignity.” (22) The  people-centered concept of human security is different from the notion of state  security, or from the security of the political elite. If economic growth does not  improve the lives of the orderly people it is a violation of the security of the  population and is to be considered either bad governance and at worse a  criminal act. The so-called African economic growth is discussed in this context  in this article. 

As indicated on my website the growing nexus between organized criminal  gangs and terrorist groups has turned Africa into a new theatre of violence and terrorism and disrupted attempts to improve the lives of the majority.  The crisis  created by the activities of organized criminal groups is one of the most serious  challenges to regional and global peace, stability, economic development and  peaceful co-existence. Weak governance and the absence of the rule of law,  corruption and dysfunctional institutions, a vulnerable civil society, poverty and  horizontal and vertical inequality, porous borders, radical interpretations of  religions and other extremisms, have coalesced, leading to the rise of violent  militant groups and criminal gangs. In many parts of Africa the absence of hope  for a better future has created an uncontested environment for recruitment and  indoctrination. The fate of several African countries hangs in the balance as  conflicts ravage parts of the continent, mostly in the continent’s northern,  western and central parts as well as in the Horn of Africa, but the threat is  steadily spreading southwards.  

The security threats posed by natural resources and the extractive industries, by  climate change and by criminals and terrorists have the potential to destroy the  integrity and legitimacy of the states and undermine their capacity to protect  their citizens and implement sustainable economic development programs. But  the reaction of governments to real or perceived threats (i.e., terrorism) can also  undermine the security of its citizens in the form of human rights abuse and  denial of constitutional rights. This fine line between the rule of law and  authoritarian rule in the name of protecting the citizens has become the subject  of great concern and debate in contemporary Africa.  

It is the nexus between the various criminal activities across national boundaries  and regional and global criminal networks and the potential access to the most  lethal weapons of destruction that would force Africa to set in motion a  fundamental departure from conventional strategies to combat these  contemporary security challenges. There is no one holistic solution because the  conditions that bring all the groups together are different.  The real religious  zealots are after state power, the criminal gangs are after money, the ethnic lords  are after controlling resources and protecting their turfs, and for many it is  simply the empowerment to do whatever they want with impunity.  Whatever  the motivation, the result has been death and destruction on a massive scale,  causing the great majority of Africans to remain poor and insecure.   

To be able to defend Africa from this looming catastrophe, AU member states  will have to agree on a common strategic doctrine that addresses the root causes  of violence, the proliferation of small and big arms, including weapons of mass  destruction (e.g. bio-terrorism), and giving up some aspects of state sovereignty  in favor of a common regional and international strategy.  There is a desperate  need in Africa for strong, selfless educated leaders with visions like their  forefathers. (See main document for the Visions of our forefathers)  No country can solve  the problem on its own. Violent extremism does not have a country or a  boundary.  It is regional, continental, and global and has the capacity to corrupt  governments and be a proxy to external agendas.  Mr. Lapaque Pierre UNODC  (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) regional representative for West and Central  Africa emphasized, “The work of the civil society is crucial in addressing the problem of violent extremism. They provide a good understanding of the local  realities, which is needed to devise effective polices in the region to fight against  transnational organized crime and corruption.”  (UNODC)  

GDP and Human Security  

The GDP as a measurement of human progress does not embrace human security  in the sense that has ben defined above. These conceptual changes in the security  debate happened primarily in countries undergoing change to make the concept  

of development broader and more inclusive.  GDP does not measure the wealth  of the people. It only measures the income that the state gets.   It tells you the  value of goods and services produced yesterday in a particular country not about  tomorrow and not how the people benefited from it.   

When Nigeria was busy selling high-priced oil to the world before the price  crash, its GDP (money in the state coffers) was soaring. But its wealth was falling.  “Oil deposits were used up, but cash was not reinvested in human, physical and technological capacities to ensure future income. Only wealth accounts could  have drawn attention to that” (Pilling). 

The fundamental impact of Africa’s economic decline or stagnation is shown by  the increase in income disparity even though it is  decreasing  worldwide. This  income inequality exists under all kinds of measurements, which clearly  indicates that the states in Africa have become richer and rich citizens in all  those countries labeled as the fastest growing economies have benefited more  than poor citizens. “A prime example is Nigeria where the incomes of the poorest  80 percent of the citizenry have declined, while the incomes of the richest have  increased. That situation provides little incentive for the rich and powerful to  make meaningful policy changes”(Picker) and if I may add, Ethiopia is one in this  category of deceptive growth measurement.  

Despite the much acclaimed economic growth rate of Ethiopia over the last 20  years averaging 10.5%, which could be an economic miracle in the world,  according to the Human Development Index (HDI) prepared by the United  Nations itself, Ethiopia is actually one of the poorest countries in the world number 173 out of 189.  Most of the others are in Sub-Saharan Africa. (“2019  Human Development”) 

The Oxford Multidimensional Poverty  Index measured by  the proportion of  the  population  that  is  multidimensional poor  and  the  average  intensity  of  their  deprivation, ranks Ethiopia as one of those often viewed as emblematic of poverty  with  a  very  high  index  of  0.489  in  2020.  This  is  calculated  from both  the  percentage  of  people in  poverty  (83.5%)  and  the intensity  of  their  deprivation  (61.5% live in severe poverty). (“Global MPI Country Briefing 2020”). 

The global burden of poverty is highly concentrated in Africa. For example, just  two countries– Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – have more  than 150 million people living in extreme poverty according to World Data Lab  

during the time that Africa was dubbed as the fastest growing economy in the  world.  The World Data Lab also estimates that nearly 80% of countries that will  be unable to eliminate poverty by 2030 are in Africa. “When weighted for  absolute number of people living in poverty, that figure increases to more than 90%.” (Donnenfeld). It has already proved to be an impossible goal under any  circumstances.  

The major factor driving this increase in poverty is Africa’s rapid population  growth. But another, which is more serious is human security, with Africa being  the continent with the largest number of conflicts.  Government revenues are   spent more on state security rather than human security. People do not have the  freedom to express opinions or move freely in the country without risking their  lives. Government officials are corrupt. Public services are weak. There are  parallel security forces, in some places warlords, who control people’s actions.   In some places people are being killed, displaced, and harassed for who they are.  Violent extremists have infiltrated many African countries and people’s lives are  being controlled by the rules established by these criminal gangs. Violent  extremism is spreading like wildfire across the continent and has become the  major impediment to development.   Africa is projected to decrease the  proportion of people living in poverty by nearly five percentage points between  2015 and 2030, “But despite that percentage reduction, the absolute number of  people living in poverty is forecast to more than double over that same period,  swelling from around 270 million in 2015 to more than 550 million in 2030”  (Donnenfeld).   And these projections do not even consider the spreading violent  extremism nor the impact of Coved 19,  in 2020.  

African Rise or Decline in Human Security? 

Poverty, population displacement, hunger, disease, environmental degradation  and social exclusion all directly affect human security.   People live their daily  lives based on people-centered, human concerns: their hopes and their  aspirations for tomorrow, the desire to live in peace, dignity and freedom and to  exercise their choices freely within the bounds of internationally accepted  domestic laws, to live with opportunities and feeling confident of not losing  them.  In most of Africa these do not exist.  Africa is at war with itself but it was  not brought on by itself. If the conflicts we see today are the results of poverty  then African countries should ask why they have become so poor when they own  the resources now?   If we are fighting because of lack of justice, equality, and  freedom then African countries should ask themselves why did we create a  political system that mis-governs, exploits and represses our people? If we are  fighting because of ethnic and religious differences what we have to ask  ourselves today is how did the 2000 ethnic groups of Africa live together  relatively peacefully amongst themselves before and during the times of the  colonizers? Something must have happened to make Africa today the continent  with the largest number of conflicts.  

The answer could be found in “the second scramble for Africa”  which Julius  Nyerere of Tanzania predicted.   Poverty, migration, and the   rise of  transnational crimes and insurgencies and civil wars that led to continuous  political crisis and regional instability on the African continent lie heavily on the  shoulders of the African elites and the leaders. How then can we explain the fact  that 94% of the UN peacekeeping missions, the largest and most expensive, are  all in Africa? 

Many of the missions on the continent are amongst the world’s most  expensive and largest forces under the U.N. mandate. With the funding  cutbacks by the U.S., many missions have to reduce operational costs and  workforce. Is this a wake-up call to the African Union to get its act  together? (Mbamalu). 

The United States is the single largest financial contributor to UN peacekeeping  activities. Congress authorizes and appropriates U.S. contributions, and it has an  ongoing interest in ensuring such funding is used as efficiently and effectively as  possible. The United States, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council,  plays a key role in establishing, renewing, and funding U.N. peacekeeping  operations. For 2020, the United Nations assessed the US share of UN peacekeeping budgets at 27.89%; however, since 1994 Congress has capped the  U.S. payment at 25% due to concerns that U.S. assessments are too high. For  FY2021, the Trump Administration proposed $1.07 billion for U.N. peacekeeping,  a 29% decrease from the enacted FY2020 level of $1.52 billion (“United Nations  Issues”). But peace has not come yet despite these efforts. There are several  major trouble spots. 

South Sudan is still fragile after civil war broke out in December 2013.  Over  50,000 people have been killed—possibly as many as 383,000,—and nearly four  million people have been internally displaced or have fled to neighboring  countries. 2018 brought an increase in regional and international pressure on  President Salva Kiir and opposition leader and former Vice President Riek  Machar to reach an agreement to end the conflict, including targeted  sanctions from the United States and a UN arms embargo.  In March 2020 the  Security Council Renewed the Mandate for United Nations Peacekeeping Mission  (“Security Council Renews”).  

In Sudan the Darfur situation is still not resolved. In June of 2020 the Security  Council extended the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid  Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and set out the parameters for a follow-up mission  that will start its work on 1 January next year. Somalia is still in turmoil and the  Security Council has authorized the African Union to deploy its troops there in the  run up to elections (“Security Council Reauthorizes”).  

The Central African Republic (CAR), which has been in civil war since the overthrow  of President Bozizé in 2013, is still in turmoil. There are over 13,000 UN troops  deployed there currently. (“MINUSCA”)  

According to International Peace Institute Global Observatory “For instance, the  UN at present has seven multidimensional peace operations deployed on the  continent (one deployed in partnership with the AU), as well as three special political missions that play the role of multilateral peace operations (one of them  being mandated to support an AU mission). The AU currently has five operations  deployed in Africa, including the largest peace operation in the world in terms of  number of uniformed personnel deployed: the African Mission to Somalia  (AMISOM). In addition, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Regional Mechanisms (RM), as well as ad hoc security initiatives currently deploy another  five operations in the continent.”

The presence of UN and African Union Peacekeeping Missions in so many  countries shows the extent of instability that warranted UN and AU intervention.  In most of the African countries where the UN has been for years the  peacekeeping missions have not resolved the root causes of the conflicts and  have not been able to make the necessary changes in policies and governance to  ensure sustainable peace, because they had limited mandates to do this.  That is  why year after year they request the extension of the presence of the UN. There  are even more countries in Africa with very serious internal conflicts and cross border security issues that have not been considered for UN interventions  partially because the governments refuse to internationalize their countries’  problems.  Ethiopia seems to be going along this path with civil war raging in the  North and Southwestern part of the region. We have yet to see where the  government will be able to stabilize the fragile security situation that is fast  becoming a concern to regional peace and stability perhaps requiring UN  intervention. We hope it will not reach that stage because if it does it will be a  major set back to world and regional peace.  

Salafism (Wahhabism) and Conflicts in Africa  

The contemporary challenges of Africa for the last two decades have come from  extremists, who have spread across the globe after the 911 attacks and the Arab  Spring. There are no major extremist organizations operating in the Arab World  or in Africa that do not have direct or indirect support and inspiration from the  

Wahhabi /Salafist government of Saudi Arabia. One cannot explain Salafism  without looking into Wahhabism.  This ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam  is based on the teachings of Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab who together with  the Saud family created the country called Saudi Arabia.   The Arabian Peninsula  was then under the control of the UK who, in effect, allowed this country to come  into being through an agreement with Abdul Wahhab and the Saudi family.  In  the current discourse on Islam, the term “Salafi” and “Wahhabi” are often used  interchangeably. Many confuse the two while others refer to them as one. In  effect they are two faces of the same coin. The Wahhabis are always referred to  as Salafis, and in fact they prefer that term. As a rule, all Wahhabis are Salafis but  not all Salafis are Wahhabis. The term Salafism did not become associated with  the Wahhabi creed until the 1970s. It was in the early 20th century that the  Wahhabis began to refer to themselves as Salafis. 

Wahhabism is likely to remain a pillar of the kingdom in the medium term. The  religious establishment controls colossal material and symbolic means — schools, universities, mosques, ministries, international organizations and media  groups — to defend its position. Any confrontation between the descendants of  Saud and the heirs of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab will be destructive for both. 

The historical pact between the monarchy and the religious establishment has  never been seriously challenged. It has been reinterpreted and redesigned  during times of transition or crisis to better reflect changing power relations and enable partners to deal with challenges efficiently.  In fact, Saudi export of  Wahhabism was first used to counter Egypt, which was seen as the leader of the  Arab world under Nasser. Nasser’s anti-imperialist stand helped Saudi Arabia  advance a religious revival in the Muslim world.

The Wahhabi strategy was deployed to fight the Soviet Union. The mobilization  of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan was a classic example of this. This is where  western powers were most complicit in training so-called ‘religious warriors’ to  fight the Soviets. It will be recalled that Pakistan too became a willing western  pawn in this regard and helped the Afghan mujahedeen. That decision in turn  saw the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan, leading to the situation  Islamabad finds itself in today. That was where Osama Bin Laden’s strength grew  to become one of the fiercest challengers of the Soviet Union and then America. 

Wahhabism  is now being used to combat Shiism  (Shia), which has gained in  prestige and power since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.  Saudi rivalry  with Iran on the leadership of the Muslim world is now perceived as the most  serious challenge wherever Muslims live. The destruction of Yemen is a proxy  war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and its allies.  Fundamentalist strains of  Islam, including Saudi-born Salafism and Wahhabism, form the ideological  bedrock for most terror groups according to a study by Leif Wenar of King’s  College London. Three out of four terrorist attacks in the last 10 years have been  inspired by Salafism (Solomon).  Leif Wenar  of King’s College London states  that 

Saudi Arabia is the chief exporter of Salafism around the world, spending  tens of billions of dollars to build mosques, fund madrassas, finance  preachers and offer scholarships to students to study the rigid form of  Islam. The effort is possibly the most expensive ideological campaign in  human history.  

Saudi Arabia is not the only factor, of course, in the spread of violent  extremism. But for 50 years Saudi Arabia has been funding schools and  mosques and radical preachers worldwide who have set down their  particular narrow and puritanical version of Islam, which has in many  places mutated into the violent extremism we see today (Solomon). 

The problem of jihadist terrorism is not going away any time soon.  It has been  almost 20 years since 9/11 and despite the efforts of the United States and other  countries the extremists are still very much a threat as a recent article in Foreign  Policy made clear:

Here’s a sobering fact: Even after the destruction of the Islamic State’s territorial caliphate in Iraq and Syria, there are today more jihadist or criminals fighting in more countries than there were on Sept. 11, 2001… The harsh reality is that despite the United States’ important successes in killing terrorists on the battlefield and preventing another 9/11-scale attack, the problem of radical Islamist terrorism is not shrinking. On the contrary, it has steadily morphed and metastasized. After nearly 18 years, and enormous expenditures and loss of life, the United States still has no proven strategy for reducing the number of young people around the world susceptible to jihadists or criminals in the name of Jihadism.  It’s been clear to U.S. policymakers for years that hard power alone— military action to kill terrorists and disrupt terrorist plots—is not by itself  a winning formula. While necessary for long-term success, hard power on  its own is simply insufficient. Also essential is a strategy for combating  the extremist ideology that serves as the central building block of  jihadism—the totalitarian, intolerant, ultraconservative interpretations of  Islam that systematically dehumanize all those holding different beliefs,  both Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Killing terrorists has proven a  relatively straightforward task. Killing the state of mind—the idea that  helps radicalize and then, in far too many instances, weaponize young  Muslims to kill nonbelievers—has been a vastly more difficult  undertaking. (Hannah)

It should be recognized that the spread of these extremist views are facilitated by  a systematic educational approach of religious leaders funded by enormous oil  wealth of the kingdom.

The universities of Islamic studies are another key vector of Saudi Arabia’s influence through the religious sphere. The Islamic University of Medina, the Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, and Imam Muhammad in Saud Islamic University in Riyadh have been training thousands of imams and ulamas through scholarships since the 1970s. The latter, once they have returned home, not only practice Wahhabi Islam in mosques that are often built with money from Riyadh, but also have a strong attachment to the Kingdom that trained them. Nowadays, this clergy that has been molded for three decades in these universities, occupies the highest religious positions in Africa and has some influence over their country’s political authorities (Auge).

The Wahhabi influence has also been increasing through schools for children,  cultural centers, mosques, and charities.   In a 2013 report Saudi Arabia provided  as much as 10 billion dollars to promote Wahhabism through charities, some  with ties to terrorists (Palazzo).  Millions of dollars from charities goes to Africa,  for example, the King Faisal Foundation has 197 projects, 43 of them target  Africa (Auge).

Saudi Arabia has put a policy in place linking diplomacy, financial aid and the politicization of Islam in order to have influence in Africa. Although, its objectives have not always been achieved … however, it has built a solid network of alliances, particularly in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. It is mainly through official state channels that Riyadh’s power in Africa is deployed, since the private sector’s economic initiatives are still very modest. The men in the background and other intermediaries, although they obviously exist, are not the kingdom’s main vectors for African policy, which can count on an experienced administration. Saudi Arabia does not seem to consider Africa as a projection area for its economy. Its investments there still remain undisclosed compared to donations and partnerships operating with money from the zakat (alms-giving) (Auge).

The most dominant and influential extremist ideology in Africa has never been  ISIS but its derivative and source the ultra-conservative ‘Arab-infused Wahhabi  model of Islam’ that is being spread by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. With the  enormous amount of wealth hey have and investment on mainstream and social  media globally they have been able to change mindsets of millions of vulnerable  Africans. The most dangerous violent extremist groups, Boko Haram and al Shabab were created re ISIS. The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, in his  own words, was trained n Saudi Arabia.  Al-Shabab advocates taking political  power by force and practices Saudi inspired Wahabism while most of Somalis  are Sufis.  

The extremist groups across Africa, which had different names before, are now  adhering to the new brand of Islamic State and have become the major  destabilizing factors on the continent that have hindered development and social  harmony. They have promoted conflict between Christians and Muslims and  even amongst Muslims.  

The Mozambican Islamic Insurgency in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, Muslim extremists have become increasingly active, with the usualatrocities, abductions, and arson associated with jihadists.  This is the most surprising security development in Southern Africa, so far considered the mostunlikely place for extremists insurgencies and first manifestation of a militantmovement which is directly associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the notion of a jihadist insurgency.

“The ongoing conflict in northern Mozambique has gathered pace over the past several months and shows little sign of abating, despite the Mozambican military and Russian private military contractor (PMC)Wagner’s security operations in the region. Islamic State Central Africa Province (IS-CAP) has claimed responsibility for attacks at an increasing rate over the past six months, but the dynamics between various militant cells in the region remain opaque. While the dynamic between local cells in Mozambique is still unclear, there have been mounting indications as to what IS-CAP’s overall structure will look like and the logic behind its geographic layout.”(Perkins)

The major groups operating in Africa are the following:

The Islamic State in Sinai (Ansar Beit al-Maqdis), Islamic State in Egypt (IS-Misr), IS in Algeria  (ISAP), Islamic State in Libya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Boko Haram in Cameroon, National  Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in Mali, Islamic State in Somalia, al-Shabab, IS in  Tunisia, Islamic State in Central Africa Province (ISCAP), Mozambique, Democratic Republic of  Congo and Tanzania, Islamic State in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The details of these  are in main document of this research work. Below I will discuss the development in Greater Horn of  Africa.

The Islamic State in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda “In April 2016, a grouping called the Islamic State in Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda (ISSKTU), or Jabha East Africa, pledged loyalty to al-Baghdadi, though again, the pledge was never recognized. A breakaway from al-Shabaab,  the group was formed by Mohamed Abdi Ali, a medical intern from Kenya who  was arrested in May 2016 for plotting to spread anthrax in Kenya to match the  scale of destruction of the 2013 Westgate Mall attacks.As its name suggests, the  group—small as it is—has a multinational composition.”  This is a small group  and may have ceased to exist (Warner and Hulme). 

Al-Shabaab operating out of Somalia remains the largest and deadliest terror  organization in East Africa, according to Africa Command. The extremist group  was responsible for a truck bombing in Mogadishu in October 2017 that killed  500 people in one of the deadliest violent extremist attacks since September 11,  2001. More recently, it was responsible for an attack in January on a hotel  complex frequented by Westerners in Kenya’s capital city that left more than 20  innocent people dead. Poverty and hopelessness has driven many Kenyans to  cross the border and join Al Shabaab in neighboring Somalia. 

For the past decade, Al Shabab has targeted marginalized communities along  East Africa’s Swahili coast who share historical ties through Islamic culture and  ancient trade roots.  Khelef Khalifa, a veteran human rights campaigner and  Chairman of Mombasa-based Muslims for Human rights (MUHURI) told TRT  World that Kenya’s raging financial turmoil and erratic economy is “causing  unemployment and pushing desperate youth to join militant group, Al Shabab”. Rampant corruption and a judicial crisis have fueled the militant recruitments.  For decades – even before 2013 when devolution came to effect – resource  allocation was skewed which resulted in the marginalization of some areas. An  effect that is still being felt to date.  

“The extremists are promising hefty pay for local fighters who have  largely remained unemployed or poorly paid,” Khalifa said. “They target  those below 30 years, Kenya’s biggest population and one which has been  greatly affected and impacted by unemployment.

“Al Shabab is waging more terror onslaughts in Kenya than any other radical faction in the world.  Al Shabab came into existence in 2006 as an  armed wing of Islamic Courts Union, later splitting into smaller groups,”  Khalifa said. “At the time, youth unemployment in Kenya was at around  22 percent according to data from Statista – a reputable international firm  leading in providing market and consumer statistics. Al Shabab attacks  increased with the rate of youth unemployment.” (“Why Is Al Shabab…”)

Islamic State In Ethiopia  

Islamic State militants in Somalia say they will release jihadist materials in  Amharic — a step unmistakably aimed at winning recruits in restive,  neighboring Ethiopia. The announcement came in the form of a three-minute  video released last month by pro-Islamic State sites and endorsed by the official 


IS media. The video posted the words to one of Islamic State’s best-known chants  in Amharic and promised IS will release more materials in the language, one of  the two most-spoken tongues in Ethiopia. 

Matt Bryden, an Africa analyst with Kenya-based Sahan Research, believes  Islamic State — also known as ISIS — is reaching out to Ethiopia’s Muslim  community in an attempt to take advantage of ongoing ethnic and political  unrest in Africa’s second most populous nation (Maruf). 

An Ethiopian army official, Colonel Tesfaye Ayalew, gave further details on  September 11 of Ethiopia’s recent arrest of Islamic State militants in the country.  Ayalew said that the arrests took place in towns near the Kenyan and Somali  borders and that the majority of Islamic State militants arrested were Syrians  and Yemenis, although Ethiopians were arrested as well. The colonel attributed  the arrests to Ethiopia’s strong relationship with the Somali Federal Government  (SFG).  

SFG Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire visited Somali National Army (SNA) troops  in Hudur town, the capital of Bakool region in Southwestern Somalia, on  September 12. Khaire urged SNA forces to liberate areas still under al Shabaab  control in the region (Barnett and Larsen).  Pro-Islamic State militants in Somalia  reported the death of an Ethiopian jihadist among their ranks, but the group  didn’t say when/how he died. Abu Zubayr Al-Habash appeared in IS video in Dec  2017 threatening attacks on public places in Somalia (Maruf). Sixteen members  al-Shabab ad 17 members of IS were arrested in 2019; 2020 (33 members in one  year). In the middle of November 2020, the Ethiopian government announced  that 14 IS insurgents have been captured. It further explained that these people  had the intention to create mayhem in the capital. These of course are ominous  signs of difficult times ahead. With the war the government has begun with  Tigray, cracks are going to be opened for insurgents to be activated under the  cover of the war.  Such wars are the traditional fertile grounds of violent  extremists. 

In  the  summer  of  2020  Ethiopia  was  shaken  by  massacres  of  Christians  and  Amharas at the hands of Oromo Islamic extremists.  These were a landmark events  that took Ethiopia into uncharted territory in Muslim – Christian relations.  It was  by  all  accounts  a  well-organized  operation  implemented  a  few  hours  after  the  assassination of  the  famous Oromo singer and activist, Hachalu Hundessa, who  himself was a Christian. It is not yet clear who killed him, but in the anger, unrest,  and protests that  followed, hundreds of Christians were massacred.  The killers  seem to have come from the ranks of those gangs of young men called querros who  have been organizing  for years.  Understanding who  the querros are, what  they  want,  and  how  they  are  organized  reveals  a  complicated  picture,  but  they  are  forces  to  be  reckoned  with  in  Oromia,  and  because  of  the  large  number  of  unemployed  young  people,  Muslim  extremists  find  a  ready-made  audience  for  their aggressive politics of destruction. 

The incidents that took place following the assassination were unprecedented in  Ethiopian history, both in the manner in which they were carried out and in the number of victims who died and were tortured, all accompanied by appalling  messages of hate and disgusting slogans.  These events filled every Ethiopian  with revulsion, both Muslims and Christians, who never had this sort of conflict in their recorded history.  Islam and Christianity were introduced in Ethiopia  long before they reached much of the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the  rest of the world. Ever since they have peacefully co-existed.

In the past three decades history has been manufactured to fit the Wahhabi  agenda of politicizing Islam and creating Islamic government in Ethiopia.  Saudi  Arabia and its allies and surrogates have trained many Ethiopians in the various  madrassas in Saudi Arabia, in Pakistan and Sudan, one of which I have visited.   Ever since, we have been seeing cracks in the cooperation that has been there for  many years. Extremists always choose time and place to create instability in a  country. This time they took advantage of the political instability that existed in  Ethiopia and the open hostility between the Amharas and Oromo nationalists in  which the political leaders have played no positive role.  These sorts of crimes  that have been committed against Amharas, the Orthodox churches and their  followers in the last two years, since PM Abiy came to power were unheard of.  Some of the crimes directed against Amharas and those belonging to the  Orthodox church can only be termed as genocide in its precise definition.  It  resulted from the policy of the previous government, an ideology of hate  embraced openly by the very party that the current PM belongs to. He never  tried to change it. To make matters worse the PM did not express his condolences to the hundreds of Amhara, Christians, Welayitas, and Gurages that  have been murdered tortured and displaced. This reinforced the suspicion of  many that had doubted the sincerity of this PM to bring peace to Ethiopia. It  seems that he is either a member of this extreme nationalist Oromo movement,  who are anti-Amhara and anti-Christian, or he has been become a captive of  these forces. Time will tell.

What  gives  me  hope  are  the  words  of  Desta  Heliso,  an  Ethiopian  professor  of  theology:


…, I do not think that the dream of Islamic extremists to establish a political government, which sustains puritanical Islamic doctrine througha strict application of Sharia, will come true in Ethiopia. But any success ofa fundamentalist form of Islam in any part of the country could lead to religious conflict and potential disintegration of the country. That will probably end any hope of peace and stability in the Horn of Africa. So Iurge all those who focus on the imperfections of the current system and the failures of the current government to consider this issue as well. Ourdeep and legitimate desire to perfect the democratic process and bring about the sort of ‘human-rights’ we have experienced in the West should not blind us to one of the greatest threats Ethiopia (and the world) is facing right now. Without safeguarding the secular state and developingstrong security, religious extremism cannot be tackled. If religious extremism is not properly tackled, democracy and freedom cannot be achieved or protected.

In his very profound research work under the title “Islam, the Orthodox Church  and Oromo Nationalism” Abbas Haji Gnamo defines the historical roots of both  religions and the dynamics between people of various religions in Ethiopia and concludes that these relationships have been based on tolerance and a full sense  of belongingness to one country with mutual aspect and equality. I hope such  sincere intellectual voices would prevail and prevent Ethiopia from descending  into the chaos of ethnic conflict that we have seen in so many other African  nations.  

Muslims, Christians and traditional believers fully share the core idea of Oromo nationalism. This would entail that the path of Oromo nationalism is founded on twin policies: secularism and tolerance. Strict respect inreligious matters does not only aim to maintain the harmony of the Oromo but also to define their national identity in an open and inclusive way due to religious differences among the Oromo themselves. Religious tolerance or accommodation of differences is not new to Oromo world view/cosmology. Despite this, there are some individuals who try, from within or without, to divide the Oromo, along religious/confessional lines or politicize religion….

… a systematic application of the Wahhabi tradition of Islam into non Arabic culture poses a series of problems. In effect, if African Islam, perhaps in other cultural areas as well, easily expanded and got many followers it was mainly because it managed to adapt itself to local cultures and incorporate some rituals, beliefs and other traits of culture, by Islamizing them, although the acceptance of its basic dogma is a prerequisite to be Muslims (Tapiéro 1969: 74). Popular Islam in many respects is certainly in contradiction with the Puritanism of Wahhabi tradition (Abbas Haji Gnamo). 

While the theory seems to support  an unlikely scenario of wide spread  Wahabi(Salafi) movement in Ethiopia, the realities on the ground are different.  The cracks in the fabrics that had for long  united all sectors of Ethiopian society   (religious and ethnic) are getting wider, because of war, poverty and insecurity,   making it possible for extremist operators to recruit and mobilize followers with  relative ease. The rise of terrorism and violent extremism across Africa is  attributable to the weakness of the states. Extremism preys on fragile states and  fuels violence and instability towards an uncertain political objective. Ethiopia is  certainly in that category.  


Though the TPLF leaders whom most Ethiopians have demanded that they  be brought to justice have not yet been captured, the TPLF force has been  irreparably crushed. The center has asserted its power as it should have done  from the get go. There cannot be a country without a center. TPLF defied  this basic commonsense. Ethiopians want to see a center that crushes all  those who resort to violence and that addresses the central issue of democratizing Ethiopia, where ethnicity does not infringe on the inalienable  rights of people to be equal under the law. This would mean changing the  constitution, delegitimizing ethnic federation, and electing its leaders through  a fair and free election under a transitional government that would not  interfere in the shaping of the constitution and running of the election.

For once, let the people speak! What is needed in Ethiopia is a devolution of  power under a non-ethnic based federal system which will assure people  that, despite their ethnic backgrounds, they will all be Ethiopians first, and  own the country together. Genuine “Truth and Reconciliation“ and the  eradication of distorted history through dialogue and education would slowly  but surely bring back Ethiopia where it belongs — the “Hope and Vanguard of  Freedom”, as it has always been and told by blacks and other oppressed  people across the globe for centuries. 

Violent extremism can be fought back and the challenge of “Human Security”  can be addressed successfully only in peace and unity. Ethiopians should  remember that they have a country that is extraordinarily beautiful and having  an unparalleled history, but a country in one of the most complex security and  militarized zones in the world. Being seen as a weak state will invite many  kinds of enemies. Let our leaders be bold enough to pave a path to a strong  Ethiopia by making the necessary fundamental changes now before it is too  late. If the Ethiopian leadership can crush one of the staunchest enemies of  peace and unity in our history, then it can easily crush the OLF and other  extremists. Both OLF are TPLF fulfill the requirements of being designated as  terrorist organizations, dangerous not only to peace and security in Ethiopia  but to the region. According to the policy memorandum of US Immigration  Services of June 15, 2014: “the TPLF qualifies as a Tier III terrorist  organization prior to May 1991”, that is, until it became the government. Now  that it is waging war against its own people it should be re- designated as a  terrorist organization. Oromo nationalists have inherited the ideology and  practice and implementing it more intensely and aggressively than the TPLF.  There will be no sustainable peace unless it too is crushed in the same kind  of determination. Amharas have proved once again that they will be with any  government and any leader that has the interest of a united, equal, just and  free Ethiopia first. 

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  1. when are we going to put the junta in prison ? I am very sad we gave our land to Sudan. Could we still regain our land ? We could establish a wonderland , Amhara state , soon .
    Abiy systematically killed our Amhara militia in Tigray . We could regain our borders and make Amhara state the most powerful state in the world. Our fathers were ruling until Yemen and the recent USA. We can make it !!All teh history of ethiopia is the history of Amhara .isn’t it ??? where are you my brother and sisters Amharas !!Proud to be Neftegna , fruit of Heros!!
    Thank you mekelakeyachin , Defense force , who could potentially defend our land and border .


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