By Inwalomhe Donald
When Boko Haram merged with ISIS and Al-Qaeda, I expected the Gulf States that are sponsoring ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq to act to stop them in West Africa. It is on record that instead of ISIS and Al-Qaeda to fight in Syria and Iraq, they are now fighting in West Africa according to Russian Television on good and bad terrorists. Nigeria foreign policy needs to address the Islamic countries that sponsor Boko Haram and ISIS.
Nigeria has become a colony of Sunni funded jihadists like ISIS, Al-Qeada and local bandits. Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States have been forced to negotiate with foreign funded bandits in north-west Nigeria. Sunni jihadists like ISIS and Al-Qeada are establishing local cells groups that we are calling bandits in North-West. The fighting over control of Libya between Turkey and Gulf States is allowing illegal arms to flow to local jihadists in West Africa. I have waited for an Islamic conference on Boko Haram and other jihadists in West Africa. I have waited for United Nations conference on Boko Haram. The dilemma of Sunni muslims in West Africa is that Sunni funded jihadists like ISIS and Al-Qaeda are the militants that are killing and kidnapping them. Sunni funded jihadists have created ethnic bandits that are killing people across Sahel of West Africa according to Russian Television (RT). The television station accused Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain of giving financial support to ISIS and Al-Qaeda in West Africa.
The spectacular rise of ISIS has garnered so much international attention that al Qaeda has been able to take advantage of the attention being paid to the Middle East, while they quietly build infrastructure and support here in Africa. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is a Sunni jihadist group with a particularly violent ideology that calls itself a caliphate and claims religious authority over all Muslims. It was inspired by al Qaeda but later publicly expelled from it. The Islamic State in West Africa or the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (abbreviated as ISWA [or ISWAP), formerly known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād, “Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad”) and commonly known as Boko Haram until March 2015, is a jihadist terrorist organization based in north-eastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon.
ISIS and Al-Qaeda are Sunni muslim-funded jihadists, have supported local jihadists groups to fight in West Africa. This is the conspiracy of some Islamic countries to control and if necessary destroy some countries in West Africa. Nigeria is just a pawn in the chess game between the dominant contending jihadists supporting powers namely Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), aka Shiites is sponsored by Iran, an arch enemy and rival of Saudi Arabia. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are not only opposed to each other politically, they are also sharply divided along religious lines, belonging to the Sunni and Shiite divides of Islam respectively. In the decade since Boko Haram uprising began, more than two million people have been uprooted from their homes and more than 27,000 killed as the bloodshed has spilled into neighbouring countries.
The Gulf States would have assisted West Africa to control up to 6 000 Africans who fought for the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group in Iraq and Syria who returned home in 2017. The African Union’s top security official warned calling on countries to prepare for the threat. Smail Chergui, the AU’s commissioner for peace and security, said African nations would need to work closely with each other and share intelligence to counter returning militants. “There are reports of 6 000 African fighters among the 30 000 foreign elements who joined this terrorist group in the Middle East,” Chergui told a meeting in Algiers. “The return of these elements to Africa poses a serious threat to our national security and stability and requires specific treatment and intense co-operation between African countries,” he said.
Tens of thousands of foreign fighters joined the Sunni extremist group after it seized vast swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in 2014. For instance, Saudi Arabia has been accused of funding the building of mosques in Mali and Nigeria that preach a highly intolerant version of Islam. This provides theological legitimacy for the actions of terror groups, enabling them to attract recruits and funds. It had also been accused in the past, of harbouring some of such extremist groups. There are also reports of groups being sponsored in Syria by the Saudis who are designated as terror groups by others.
Extremists are penetrating sub-Saharan Africa at an alarming rate, threatening states ill-prepared to deal with the resulting complex social and security challenge. Sunni Islamic radical groups, which include Isis, Al Qaeda affiliates and home-grown movements such as Boko Haram, threaten the continent – despite recent defeats at the hands of African armed forces. The encroachment poses unique challenges for policymakers and officials of shaky governments struggling with limited resources. Saudi Arabia and its coalition partner in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) transferred US-made weapons to al-Qaeda-linked groups and a Salafi militia whose commander who once “served with” the Yemeni branch of ISIL, a CNN investigation has found. Jihadists have splintered into factions and spawned an offshoot aligned to the Islamic State group that has unleashed its own campaign of violence.
Generally, there should be effective ways of monitoring the sponsorship of terror groups, which have become a serious threat to global peace. The world should move against such a country or group irrespective of its status. I have watched with concern how ISIS and Al Qaeda have destroyed most parts of Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroun and Burkina Faso. The reaction from international community is discouraging. There is conspiracy and less international support for Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram. Boko Haram has grown to be the region’s most deadly jihadist group because of international conspiracy and sponsors. The Nigerian government claims that Boko Haram is “the West Africa branch of the world-wide Al-Qaida movement” with connections to al-Shabaab in Somalia and AQIM in Mali.
One of the features of 2016 USA Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton acknowledging that America created and funded Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization in the heyday of the Soviet-Afghan war: ““Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them more than twenty years ago. And that is precisely what the US is doing in Syria: using their Al Qaeda “Moderates” to fight against Syria and Russia. For Moscow, it is “Déjà Vu. The plan in Afghanistan was to destroy the secular state and install a proxy U.S. Islamic State. The same objective prevails in Syria. What Hillary did not mention is that at no time in the course of the last 40 years has the US ceased to support and finance Al Qaeda as a means to destabilizing sovereign countries.
With the Islamic State losing the last of its territory, the global jihadist movement is now entering a new phase. The question on the minds of many is whether al Qaeda will be able to capitalize upon the moment and reclaim the dominant position as the most capable Sunni jihadist terrorist organization. But in some ways, extremists have expanded their presence. Networks of Islamist militants now influence a vast area of Africa, drawing on contacts and resources from the Middle East and Europe, with radical groups exploiting ungoverned spaces throughout the continent. Extremist groups infiltrating sub-Saharan Africa often take a different approach to those drawing supporters in European or Arab cities.
The militant groups in Mali and other places can easily find social empowerment by connecting to tribes or ethnic groups, and make common interest with the community. I have focused on the “rise” of jihad in the Sahel and the roles played by actors from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. Groups such as al-Shabab and Boko Haram are often portrayed as little more than extensions of the so-called Islamic State or al-Qaida, with struggles across the region seen as proxies in a global rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Donald wrote from Sokoto, Nigeria.
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