Improving the fight against terrorist groups continues to be a major challenge for a significant number of countries in Africa. After the defeat of radical Islamists in the Middle East, they refocused on the Dark Continent, moving leadership, units and assets to West Africa to make the region a new stronghold of Islamism. Terrorists regularly attack populated areas and military bases and terrorize and kill civilians throughout the continent.
On October 1, militants carried out another armed attack in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Banyali Tchabi prefecture, killing 14 civilians, wounding two people with varying degrees of severity and setting 36 houses ablaze. Local authorities believe that terrorists from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an organization banned in Russia, are behind the killings.
Eastern DRC has long been one of the most turbulent regions of the country. ADF militants control parts of the DRC and are gradually penetrating neighboring states, continuing sectarian wars that date back to the early 2000s. According to the UN, militants from the extremist group have killed more than 1,300 civilians in the past two years in the DRC alone.
On September 22, during a meeting in New York, Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Emmanuel Macron of France reaffirmed their concern over the upsurge of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and their determination to ensure a regional and coordinated response to the threat posed by terrorist groups in the region. The three leaders have agreed to jointly tackle violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed groups have been sowing death for 30 years.
DRC President Félix Tshisekedi signed a six-month agreement with the East African Community (EAC) to deploy a contingent of the organization in the east of the country to fight militias. Burundi was the first country to send troops to the DRC, followed by 750 troops from South Sudan.
Congolese authorities had earlier called on the United Nations to expel the MONUSCO peacekeeping mission contingent and its representative Mathias Gillmann from the DRC because of the mission’s poor performance in dealing with internal threats, failing to meet the mandate to protect civilians. The DRC government said in the statement that although MONUSCO has had a multidimensional mission on its territory since 1999, UN representatives have failed to tackle existing terrorist groups.
High militant activity also remains a critical problem in Nigeria, where terrorist organizations not only control parts of the country and pillage civilians, but also have a sophisticated underground economy. The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP, a terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation) is particularly active in Nigeria.
With Nigeria’s proven significant oil reserves, estimated at 5 billion tons, energy exports account for 90% of the state’s foreign trade revenue. In this regard, ISWAP militants in Nigeria are particularly focused on the country’s oil sector, where they have already established a well-organized scheme for extracting, refining, storing and transporting hydrocarbons. They have effectively created a full-fledged underground fuel industry within the country. The Nigerian terrorists are using the organizational model of the Middle Eastern terrorist organization DAESH (banned in the Russian Federation) – they have developed their own taxation system, logistical scheme, and made mining in controlled territories the basis of their “economy.” Under these circumstances, Nigeria has become the main casualty of ISWAP’s oil activities in West Africa, it is suffering a national security crisis, and enduring the rampages of radicals who are perfectly armed through the illegal sale of energy products. Nigerian politicians say the country is in its worst crisis since the 1967 Civil War.
For example, in an attack in early October in Taraba State in northeastern Nigeria alone, 12 people were killed by militants and more than 50 were injured. Days earlier, radical militants ambushed members of the Nigerian army in Umunze town in southern Anambra State, killing five soldiers and one civilian. In mid-September, radicals attacked Senator Ifeanyi Ubah’s convoy in the same Anambra State, killing ten people and injuring the politician himself.
The people of Nigeria’s northern states are also at risk of humanitarian disaster because of terrorist activity in the region, which has already led to a humanitarian catastrophe. The constant attacks by militants on towns and villages in the northwest of the republic have forced farmers to flee their land, causing severe food shortages. More than two million Nigerians have fled, according to national media statistics, from an area where Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says active hostilities are taking place and hundreds of thousands of children are suffering from acute malnutrition. Natural disasters further complicate the situation.
The terrorist threat and kidnappings also hamper the development of Nigeria’s tourism industry, which is very important to the economy of both the country and its regions. The country’s attractiveness in the eyes of travelers falls because of high crime rates and deprives the national economy of potential earnings.
Against this background, a number of countries in the African region are actively seeking to strengthen counter-terrorism activities using their own security forces. In late September, for example, Mozambican law enforcement agencies killed 16 radicals in the west of the country in the province of Cabo Delgado in a counter-terrorist operation and captured several militants. The province of Cabo Delgado has in recent years become a stronghold of radical Islamists in Mozambique. In that country, militants under the leadership of the terrorist organization DAESH (banned in the Russian Federation) attempted to transform the country into a radical Islamist state by armed force back in 2017. Over 4,000 people have been victims of terrorist activity in Mozambique over the past five years, and some 800,000 citizens have fled their homes. As jihadists have recently sought to spread their influence into neighboring regions, the Mozambican and Tanzanian authorities have signed a defense and security agreement aimed at jointly combating terrorism along the states’ common border.
Mali’s security forces have been effective in their recent crackdown on radical militants, having destroyed a terrorist base near the town of Mopti in late September as part of the “Dugulkana” counter-terrorism operation and seized large quantities of ammunition, destroying radicals’ equipment. Colonel Karim Traore, in charge of the operation, said the effectiveness of the fight against terrorist organizations in the country had changed for the better when the Bamako authorities turned to Moscow for assistance. Russia has provided comprehensive support to the African state in the fight against terrorists, with the participation of Russian instructors, and has trained the personnel of Mali’s national army, FAM. As a result of such assistance from Russia, Mali’s army, as acknowledged by the Malian authorities, has become one of the strongest in Africa. Russia is also helping to modernize Mali’s Armed Forces and has supplied Bamako with modern weapons, several combat aircraft and helicopters.
The head of Mali’s interim government, Assimi Goïta, in his address to the nation on the occasion of Mali’s Independence Day on September 22, spoke about the army’s current successes in the security sphere, stressing that the quality of training for the armed forces and living standards had improved markedly as a result of the reforms undertaken. On October 4, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Interim President of the Republic of Mali Assimi Goïta, during which the parties praised bilateral cooperation, including in the fight against militias in Mali and the improvement of national security in the African state.
Given the notable positive results in the fight against terrorism of countries that have already established cooperation with Russia in this field, there has recently been a growing interest and an increasing number of African states have approached Moscow with a view to establishing similarly productive cooperation with Russia. In particular, the authorities of the Central African Republic expressed their desire to increase the number of Russian instructors by three thousand at the beginning of October and have already notified the UN accordingly.