Al-Shabaab: Is East African relative peace in danger?
East Africa’s modern history has been marred by consistent bloodshed and conflict. This disparity dates back to European imperialism and the artificial borders that divided massive number of tribes. While warfare is a tool of many African civil disputes, East Africa seems to have had the most intense concentration.
Somalia is perhaps the most fearsome state to live on the planet. It is a nation ruled by mafias and warlords, whose rule is arbitrary, indiscriminate and final. The threat of the country completely collapsing, has been provoked by the emergence of the al-Qaeda associates, al-Shabaab.
Their ideology is in line with the most extreme on the fundamentalist spectrum, including Boko Haram and ISIS. Instability in East Africa, with the exception of Somalia and a few other warring nations is not something characteristic of 2015. However, Ethiopia, for example, has one of the fastest growing economies of Africa. What was once an impoverished nation is now building infrastructure to fend off the plight of destitution.
This is all in the face of rising threat from cross-border Islamic militancy. The fact of the matter is that strong, internationally backed government in Somalia is forcing the group into submission. Instead of capturing large cities, it is shifting its focus to rural regions.
Its leadership and commitments are in such disarray that it cannot decide whether it loves its terrorist allies – centrally al-Qaeda – or loathes them. What chance could the organisation have of dismantling the relatively peaceful region if its aims are utterly unclear?
ISIS has been so successful in the Middle East because of its unambiguous goal of creating an Islamic State. Al-Shabaab is overwhelmingly divided. One section uses the group as means to nationalistic ends, while one is primarily focused on global jihad. Ultimately, Islamic extremism is a pathological, anti-western, knee-jerk reaction. True liberal democracy has scarcely scratched the surface of Africa or the Middle East, and so a sceptical attitude towards exterior political forces is what generates terrorism.
It is impossible to predict what the future of Somalia will be, but at present it looks like one which will be dominated by religious scripture. The contribution of al-Shabaab to such a situation would be highly questionable though. A failing state like Somalia is always prone to extremism, but with sturdy international backing, it doesn’t have to face the death squads of the likes of Boko Haram in Nigeria.