Osama Bin Laden – What it means for Africa
Not a hell of a lot of good, in a nutshell. The death of the world’s most wanted mass murderer is welcome for any number of obvious reasons, but the impact this will have on Al-Qaeda as a whole will most likely not be entirely obvious. While the repercussions of his death in the Middle East, Afghanistan and US-Pakistan relations are undoubtedly significant and will be felt for quite some time, Al-Qaeda’s operations within Africa may well continue unabated. Bin Laden’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still alive and kicking, and presuming that the organisation is now without direction would be dangerous.
Al-Qaeda’s operations in Africa are many. From embassy bombings and the use of training camps in Eastern and Central Africa, the terrorist organisation has roots within the continent that are just as dangerous post-Osama than before, if not more so. With an insecure and porous ocean network between Somalia and Yemen, Al-Qaeda is able to transfer money, weapons and a host of trained terrorists between continents. It is unlikely that Somalia will be fixed any time soon, and the death of Bin Laden will potentially trigger a reshuffling of leadership. Although there is a large collection of analysts who suspect that Bin Laden was really more of a figurehead than an operational leader. Given his isolation from any traceable communications, it is safe to say that Al-Qaeda have been operating independently of Bin Laden for years now. What this means in Africa is that the danger posed by Al-Qaeda is still present, and with the new threat of wave upon wave of reprisals for the killing of their leader, it stands to reason that attacks in Africa would be the easiest target for AQ’s leaders to consider.
Africa’s counter-terrorism strategies are largely failing to curb the rise of Al-Qaeda and other hardline islamist organisations such as Al-Shabaab, who will remain a plague in Eastern Africa. A fresh spate of terrorist attacks should thus be expected throughout Eastern Africa. Although embassies and foreign organisations will naturally be on alert already, the relative-remoteness of Africa’s terrorism problems to that of the rest of the world will have consequences going into the future. Al Qaeda have been dealt a blow with the death of Bin Laden, but it would be foolish to think that this will herald the death knell for Al Qaeda’s terrorism in Africa.
Image by US Embassy New Zealand