Jihadists seem to have it easy near borders

Boko Haram

Members of Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram in this picture taken on July 13, 2014.

Photo credit: File | AFP

Four African countries have been rocked by Islamist insurgency in recent years—two by Boko Haram, one by Al-Shabab and the other by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) jihadists. Their modus operandi is the same: Kidnappings, mass beheadings and bombings to exert maximum pain to victims.

Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, is the heart of Boko Haram insurgency. In 2014, they kidnapped 276 girls, a big number of them Christians, from a government girls secondary school in Chibok . Close to 100 are still missing. Army barracks are not spared.

The Islamist group has also stepped up fatal civilians attacks in towns and villages in the far north region of neighbouring Cameroon.

Many Kenyans loathe working in Mandera, in northeastern Kenya, over insecurity. Sometimes back, civil servants and teachers with serious disciplinary issues were posted there as a deterrent punishment lest they be dismissed.

The town has borne many Al-Shabaab attacks, including the recent one when a matatu was detonated with an explosive, killing 13 people on the spot and injuring many more. In 2019, two Cuban doctors working in the county hospital were kidnapped and their driver killed.

Fighting the militants

Kenya’s military have, for the past decade, been engaged in fighting the militants, even crossing the border into Somalia to pursue them.

Then there is Cabo Delgado, the northernmost province of Mozambique, on the border with Tanzania. In 2017, armed extremists linked to the Isis launched a jihadist insurgency in the province. They committed mass beheadings. Mozambican military have, for the better part of the past five years, been battling them.

Reports say Salim Rashid Mohammed, the brilliant young Kenyan arrested in DR Congo, was on his way to Mozambique to join Isis.

In all of these scenarios, one characteristic is noticeable: The Jihadists operate in border areas. How easy is it to attack and launch counter-attacks there? Food for thought for Africa.

Mr Kamau is a human resource management consultant and author. [email protected].