Need for new strategies in West African anti-terrorism war

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Surveillance of terrorists targets (photo: courtesy of Istock)

West Africa was set ablaze years ago by terrorists who targeted populations, institutions and logistics.  Life has never returned to normal in the affected space that is still being “pummeled” by terrorists. A range of strategies have been suggested, and some implemented, to successfully counteract this violence that comes with horrible consequences. In the case of Burkina, over two million people were internally displaced, and 38,000 refugees are being catered for. Changes occur daily in the military and the defence forces, with recruitments, trainings, acquisition of new and sophisticated weapons, etc. The government’s position is not to relent until all citizens can afford three square meals and live peacefully in their locality. This is, certainly, a noble objective, which, fortunately, has been followed by a series of relevant measures, geared towards the achievement of such goals.

My concern is to examine whether other efficient alternatives or strategies are being ignored, forgotten or neglected in this war against terrorism in West Africa. Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are the most affected countries and common efforts and measures are adopted regularly in these three countries. The biggest and most recent decision was the creation of the Alliance of the Sahel Countries (AES), after the “trio” exited the ECOWAS bloc which they found to be a pro-Western and unreliable organization. Many in the world are following the “development” of the AES project.

Special and extremely conscientized armed forces and volunteers/combatants provide the backbone of the anti-terrorism battle in Burkina. The population support their young president, Captain Traoré, in his efforts to vanquish the enemy. I am of the view that another group of fighters or combatants are needed in this context: “Academic volunteers in the anti-terrorism war”. Weapons and war logistics are certainly the first tools or instruments in this war. The morale of the troops must be held as the highest priority, the population must, at all times, be updated on the evolution of the war; credit must be given to the Burkinabè news agencies for broadcasting, faithfully, the operations carried out by the national troops. Such information is provided on a daily basis to the whole nation and fortunately the operations always end with the defeat of the terrorist camp. These are laudable (psychological among others) war tactics which are proving to be effective and efficient. I wonder if involving the right think tanks, academics, specialists in geopolitics, historians, anthropologists and ICT specialists will not provide a considerable support or addition to the Burkinabè national anti-terrorism war strategy. Efforts have been deployed towards a new approach, but I do not think the appropriate mode was used.

The 13 October 2023 publication of the reliable news medium reports an event that succinctly conveys the following message: “In this context of crisis in Burkina, intellectuals have been encouraged to adopt a clear stance, and voice their opinions for a change  and the prosperity of society. This new call was made during a public conference”. It certainly is a path in the right direction, towards the defeat of the enemy camp. This type of assessment of strategies helps since it leads to the adoption of new ones that could be more performant. After the September 11 attack in the US, analyses were made and one of the conclusions was the lack of information circulation among security agencies like the FBI, CIA and others. Each of these institutions, allegedly, saw itself as autonomous and subsequently, intelligence did not move from one agency to another. One other approach that the 9/11 attack brought about was the importance of the movie The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966), an efficient documentation on urban warfare. The movie was studied by the US national security agencies. It is, therefore, a good thing to see Burkina Faso organizing a public conference on the role of the intellectuals in the anti-terrorism war.

My remark lies in the fact that the duties of the “intellectual” in a context like the current Burkinabè one is sharper, broader and more crucial than what that October 13 conference recommended. Here it is succinctly put, the outcome of the conference: Sociologist Zakaria Soré lamented the fact that the current crisis had been foreseen by many scholars in his field, but their advice to the Burkinabè population was not heeded. He concluded that intellectuals must act as the watchdog who stops all nefarious acts and promotes free speech which, itself, has the potential to unveil the numerous possibilities or alternatives inherent in the pursuit of peace and victory. Computer Science specialist Firmin Diallo chose to address the role played by intellectuals during the revolutionary years of the country (1983-1987). His final take was that internal divisions among the revolutionary scholars made it possible for the anti-revolutionaries to arrest the revolutionary process or movement in the country. Writer Adama Siguiré pinpointed the important duty of the “members of his guild” in such a context. He noted that the “engagement” of the writer engenders a positive evolution in society. Several other specialists and scholars asserted their views and advice. I think that such a conference could and should have been more trenchant and pragmatic, directly related to the situation at hand. To me, these interventions were good but too theoretical for a country going through a ruthless war against an enemy who is still unidentified.

I am of the view that intellectuals, academics and scholars can be of immense help if they ponder the following topics and present their findings in layman’s terms to the populations: What is the geopolitical motive behind this war? what is the new map of the subregion that the terrorists are bent on creating or recreating? Several sources allegedly stated that the terrorists’ goal is to transform the three most affected countries into nations where the Sharia reigns. Identifying the origins of the Sharia in Africa and identifying the countries that embrace it (Muslims in Northern Nigeria practice it) and at which period, knowing who were the agents behind the propagation of the law could be knowledge that equips both civilians and armed forces of Burkina Faso. The capital participation of the ICT specialist in this war can generate drastic changes that open a conduit for the victory of anti-terrorist forces in the subregion. Intercepting communications and intelligence issued by the enemy camp is conditio sine qua non for victory. The technology specialist can carry out his /her duty as a great patriot by devising means that neutralize bombs, mines and other lethal explosives, preferably from a distance. Some sources contend that Mali is experimenting with such techniques. Pragmatic, goal-oriented, verbal and technological offensives of this sort would reduce the burden of the freedom fighters in the subregion. Adopting them would also maximize the chance of winning the ant-terrorism war.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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  1. A new Africa need to be reborn. But with the presidents of the Alliance of Sahel Countries (AES), we have hope and confidence that things will start moving right. May the Mercyful God help to overcome.

  2. Very interesting dear DOCTOR, this show us your knowledges on Burkina Faso’s actually situation and contributions even being outside of this country. Let’s say that it a fantastic job at all. Congratulations to you🙏🙏🙏!!!!!!

  3. Hello ,
    Thanks once more for your analysis and your willing to give solutions which can help fighting against terrorism in Burkina Faso.
    I really appreciate and I’m relying on your view, because only soldiers cannot fight against terrorism. Intellectuals can contribute by analysing the situation in different ways, trying to find concrete solutions instead of being too theoretical.
    In the current situation of Burkina Faso, I think that we don’t need long discourses, but we need actions such as giving money to buy materials of war, encouraging those soldiers who are in the butterfly so that they will be strong and young people can also become national volunteers to go to the butterfly.
    That’s what I can add.

    Thank you so much.
    Best regards.

  4. I personally appreciate that article because it can help understand really what “wanyiyans” is about.
    Thanks so much sir.

  5. Hello Sir, your propositions about the current challenges of the Sahel area are really wellcome.They Can contribute to the victory over terrorism .Some of them have already been applied case of anti-terrorism brigade specialized into the demining.The head of State has also extended the “general mobilization” one year more.Concerning the academics, and intellectuals and others scholars’ contributions to the war’s effort some have understood and contribute in diverse ways.Unfortunately ,in this group there are some because of their selfish interests constitute hindrances in this war.I think that the day all Burkinabe will become patriot the war will cease.But we still remain optimism that this War will finish thanks to great awakening of youth.

  6. A great analysis , mainly the role of intellectual in this Crisis is so important . because the ink of an intellectual is so important as the blood of a martyr . unfortunately these intellectual are divided some are just fighting for their belly .

  7. In this War against the enemy ,We Should put hand in hand and welcome the news strategies .
    The intelectuals of our country must play a crucial role because without communication the enemies will still gained the battle.
    Publics debat Should be organized by intelectuals which aims is to collect some ideas that may enable the strategies our soldiers on the battle fields.
    Also intelectuals Should have a look on how the government is rooling the people by stating the Bad points and allowed the perfection of some parts.

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