Terrorism continues to pose a major threat to the people’s prosperity and socio-economic growth of the continent due to its disruptive nature to potential political, social, and economic activities that can transform Africa. Such threats impede the continent’s efforts to meet its global and continental development agenda which are crucial for alleviating socio-economic challenges affecting the majority of the people across Africa particularly, the most disadvantaged communities or pro-poor communities. As a consequence, such hardships further escalate the vulnerability of communities to join or cooperate with terrorist organizations.
According to the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, in its Mid-Year Africa Terrorism Trend Analysis for 2022, between the 1st of January 2022 to the 30th of June 2022 the continent recorded 699 terrorist attacks that resulted in 5,412 deaths across Africa. On the other hand, the 2022 Global Terrorism Index compiled by the Australian-based Institute for Economics and Peace noted that Africa accounted for 48% of deaths caused by terrorism globally where Somalia alone accounted for 8% of all deaths, on par with Mali and Niger and surpassed only by Afghanistan (where 20% of deaths occurred) and Burkinafaso (10%) respectively. Such a huge presence of terrorist activities around Africa triggers another concern on whether African countries will be able to meet the objectives of the Silencing the Guns Initiative by 2030 after failing to meet them by 2020.
As the world is changing, terrorist organizations are also changing in terms of financial resources, manpower, techniques, and equipment they use to execute attacks. Such changes make them more sophisticated than ever before. Therefore, for African intelligence and security service institutions to be able to deal with such a sophisticated enemy, they also need to be sophisticated.
The sophistication of our intelligence and security service institutions, however, will only be attained if deliberate efforts are taken by African countries to conduct robust reforms that will strengthen both human and institutional capacity to effectively engage in intelligence planning, collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination for timely planning and decision making. This takes into account the application of both conventional and unconventional tools to deter and defend against terrorist attacks. The investment in homeland security measures will help to build resilience against terrorism and other security threats challenging the continent’s stability.
In this case, the reforms should start with a major shift from the traditional modus operandi like the outdated training curriculum, strategies, and equipment toward the modern modus operandi. Modernization of our intelligence and security service institutions should involve the use of next-generation security technologies, equipment, training, merit-based recruitment, and reforms of the institutions’ structure to accommodate the use of independent Red Teams for alternative intelligence collection and analysis and most importantly, offer a holistic view of our intelligence institutions’ operations from the perspective of adversaries.
‟When it comes to recruitment, political interference is the order of the day. An intelligence service that hires people from diverse backgrounds can counter terrorism effectively. However, if nepotism and favoritism are the order of the day, national intelligence services are not able to hire the cream of the labor market. As a result, it is difficult for the agency to be effective.” Says a senior security Officer from Malawi who commented under anonymous conditions.
That being said, a proper intelligence institution not only needs the capacity to collect, process, analyze and disseminate intelligence for executive action but also the capacity to foresee future threats against the homeland. Therefore, merit-based recruitment of candidates from various fields as the contemporary terrorist organizations do will empower these institutions to effectively engage in both overt and covert operations that require them to blend in within the terrorist cells and dismantle their human and financial capacity to execute attacks. Moreover, having a diverse cycle of intelligence analysts and agents will facilitate the process of helping the policy and decision makers to enact policies and laws that will address the root causes of terrorism such as economic and political marginalization as well as ethnic, class, and religious tensions as to name just a few.
This is also cemented by Mr. Toyin Adebola, a Security Specialist from Nigeria who said, ‟as long as ethnic, religious and other sentiments continue to influence strategic decisions on who is appointed to manage our security parastatals and how they are allowed to carry out their responsibilities in most African countries, security challenges will be with us for a very long time. The security of lives, properties, and national security must be professional and devoid of bias in order to become effective and efficient.”
On the other hand, Mr. Adam Anthony an expert from Tanzania said, ‟ intelligence institutions have to adopt a forward-thinking attitude, be ahead of time, become futuristic. National Security challenges are no longer what used to be, they have changed enormously and so should the security organs.”
In this context, as terrorism has become a global phenomenon to include operatives of different nationalities in terrorist organizations, equipping the intelligence institutions with field agents and analysts who have multilingual capacities will certainly help efforts to combat terrorism by easing the process for both collection, processing, and analysis of intelligence information. Lastly, multilingual capacities will foster interagency cooperation between intelligence institutions within and outside the continent.
Therefore, as we are moving toward the new deadline for Silencing the Guns by 2030, these reforms within African intelligence and security service institutions are paramount if we are to meet the objectives set as far as terrorism and violent extremism are concerned. Failure to take such measures will continue to affect the capacity, strategies, and resources needed to fight terrorism across Africa. As a result, attaining a peaceful and prosperous Africa will remain a myth rather than an attainable goal as aspired by Agenda 2063.