What has Africa to do with September 11terror?

Inthe light of September 11, and especially the murderous domesticexcesses of these harbingers of death and purveyors of mayhem insideparts of the African continent,, it becomes, in my view, a matter ofvital national duty that African governments take a more decisive andno-holds-barred approach to choke off the camps and networks ofterrorism hiding under the veneer of religiousity and a concoction ofbloody and assorted fanaticisms. These trouble makers and merchantsof death have caused the deaths of at least 5 million Africans sincethe end of colonialism in the early 1960s.

(September 28, 2001)
Special to USAfricaonline.com and USAfrica The Newspaper,Houston.

I deliberately raised this question as the caption of thiscommentary to underscore some points. To be sure, it is not asuggestion of culpability of Africans regarding the September 11terror but more of a challenge to come to terms with the theinterconnectedness of global safety. For example, in Nigeria, whichis celebrating its 41st year of political "independence" from Britainon October 1, Libya's Muammar Ghaddafi has been funding and financing"centers of Islamic learning" in such places as Zamfara State wherethe Islamic Sharia law was first formalized in Nigeria (applicable in10 out of Nigeria's 36 States), the "graduates", leadership and"students" have, reportedly, been on the frontline of previous andrecent emanations of zealotry and religious violence. Some of themost dreaded and violent groups in Nigeria, Chad, Tanzania-Zanzibar,parts of Northern Africa and the Maghreb region, are said to havebeen financed from Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Yemen, Zia ul-Haq'sPakistan, and other "Brother Islamic countries and agencies." Only aforthnight ago, Jos, one of the central cities in Nigeria with amixed population of Christians and Muslims, and sizeableEuro-American population saw 700 persons killed, and thousands maimedand houses burnt.

Years-old request and arguments for the retired General OlusegunObasanjo's government to be decisive in dealing with the issuesregarding terrorists who kill in Allah's name or Christians who turnBiblical certitudes for ethnic vengeance, according to many Nigeriaanalysts including the respected Prof. Wole Soyinka have met withfatal reluctance.

First and foremost, Africans suffered deaths (and an estimated 53persons missing) from the consequences of the events of the September11 bombing. Most of those being breadwinners for their families.Those wanton terror and wholesale visitation of murder and mayhem didnot only affect Americans but persons from almost 20 countries,including persons thus far known, from four African countries. Forthose who have forgotten,  Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspectfor the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, was based in thelargely Islamic African country of Sudan before leaving in 1996.Also, on August 7,1998, the U.S embassy in the east African countryof Kenya was bombed which led to the death of 207 Kenyans, 12 U.Scitizens and left more than 4,000 injured. Within a minute of thatsad event, a smaller terrorism blast rocked Tanzania's capital, Dares Salaam, killing 11 Africans. Now, should Africans care more ormorph September 11 into some nebulous, baseless "fraternity of theoppressed"? I don't think so! 

Second, in the light of September 11, and especially the murderousdomestic excesses of these harbingers of death and purveyors ofmayhem, it becomes, in my view, a matter of vital national duty thatAfrican governments take a more decisive and no-holds-barred approachto choke off the camps and networks of terrorism hiding under theveneer of religiousity and a concoction of bloody and assortedfanaticisms. These trouble makers and merchants of death have causedthe deaths of at least 5 million Africans since the end ofcolonialism in the early 1960s, including one of my enduring personalexperience as a survivor inside the zone of limited safety declaredby Igbos and other minorities of south eastern Nigeria as the defunctRepublic of Biafra. 

Third, African leaders and Africans abroad ought to unmask andhalt those unperturbed villages of radical religio-political zealotryand hate academies for terror training and funding. In so doing, weare acting not only in America's current best interest but in ourcontinent's strategic and developmental interests. Although, thereare sophiticates among these "armies of god", the failure of some ofthose countries' leaders, Christian and Muslim alike, have made thevery poor, uneducated and dispirited willing goons in religiousconflicts and fodders for terror machines.

Fourth, Africa and its governments should position their actionsand policies around the paradigm that terrorism in the 21st (and infact during the 20th century) is an issue of domestic consequence. Itaffects the flow of economic investments, weighing in on the measurefor or against international capital, and even the value and safetyof domestic/internal business. My point? Offering or dealing kidgloves or looking the other way believing the terror machines willrelent is wishful thinking. The U.S. must also weigh its own policiesand actions which do not excuse but can open a window for some nut toengage in their sick pursuits of lethal zealotry.

Fifth, in this quest to make the world relatively safer, it isimportant to note the views of John L. Esposito, professor ofReligion and International Affairs and Director of the Center forMuslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, WashingtonD.C. and the author of several books on Islam, including The IslamicThreat: Myth or Reality?, who has stated that: "While somegovernments and experts identify Islamic fundamentalism as a majorthreat to the stability of their societies and to global politics,others point out that it is important to distinguish betweenauthentic populist movements that are willing to participate withinthe system and rejectionists who seek to topple governments throughviolent revolution." 

Accordingly, I mush commend Senegal's democratically-electedAbdoulaye Wade, a member of the Mouride Islamic sect whose wife is aFrench Christian as an excellent reflection that the issue in Africacannot be that all Muslims seek for conflicts or are terrorists. No.Such reductionism is not only foolish but untenable. I was in Senegalon assignment regarding former President Bill Clinton's visit inApril 1998 to parts of Africa, and I'm aware of the fact that,although, Senegal's population is 90% Muslim, Islamic fundamentalismis not common.

Wade challenged the continent a few days ago that "beyond verbaldeclarations, African countries should engage in direct actions inthe global fight."  Note the key word is "direct actions".Translation: rid your neighborhood and countries of any support orcover for terrorists. Any wonder, therefore, that when Nigeria'sObasanjo told U.S. president George W. Bush that he'd join the battleagainst terrorism, many Nigerians wondered if their president shouldnot start from his own backyard. That is, putting itpolitely.   

Now, do you still wonder what Africa has to do with the September11 terror?

Nwangwu,recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), is Founder andPublisher of USAfricaonline.com (first African-owned U.S.-basedprofessional newspaper to be published on the internet), USAfrica TheNewspaper, NigeriaCentral.comand TheBlack Business Journal. He also serves as anadviser to the Mayor of Houston on international business (Africa)and appears as an analyst on CNN, VOA, NPR, CBS News, NBC and ABCnews affiliates.
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