Why the Great Lakes region is prone to terrorism, civil wars

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BEECHAM OKWERE

Not so long ago up to date, the Horn of Africa has been the most conflicted part of Africa during the last 50 years.

Although there have been long-standing disputes in places like Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo, no other region on the continent has had as many conflicts over such a long span of time.

The root causes are numerous and sometimes complex even within a single dispute.

They include ethnic, language and cultural differences, arbitrary boundaries, religion, ideology, competition for scarce resources including pasturage and water, unequal sharing of resources controlled by the state, and the sheer desire for power in governments

There are underlying conditions in East Africa and the Horn of Africa that contribute directly to conflict and the use of terrorist tactics.

Poverty and social injustice are widespread.

Borders are porous even by African standards. Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea have long and poorly patrolled coasts on the Red Sea or Indian Ocean.

Weapons are readily available throughout the region, but especially in Somalia.

All of this countries have a severe shortage of financial resources and trained personnel to counter the activities of terrorist elements.

Corruption is endemic in the region and a particularly serious problem in several countries.

Transparency International surveyed 102 countries some time back for its Corruption reports Index.

Kenya tied Indonesia for position 96 on the list while Uganda shared 93 with Moldova.

Tanzania vied with several nations for position 71 and Ethiopia shared position 59 with several nations.

There is always sufficient data to rank all countries in the region.

Countries facing serious corruption combined with low pay for security personnel leave officials wide open to the temptation of accepting money from terrorists in return for support and offer advice where to heat.

Important to the understanding of terrorism in the region is the inter-connectedness of most of the indigenous conflicts. They often result in refugee flows in various directions due to civil wars.

Based on my experience with all countries of the region, they frequently lead to support for a dissident group in one country by a neighbouring country.

That support, in turn, causes the affected country to back another dissident organisation against the offending government.

At different points in time, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Eritrea have supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) against Khartoum while Khartoum has supported the LRA against Uganda, the OLF against Ethiopia, and the EIJ against Eritrea.

Following the 1998-2000 Ethiopian-Eritrean war, Eritrea has supported the OLF against Ethiopia.

Ethiopia responded by supporting a coalition of Eritrean dissidents against Eritrea. Somalia also plays this game.

This has developed into a debilitating tit for tat in the region that shows no sign of abating. It also increases the prospects for the use of terrorist tactics.

The primary terrorist threat to American and Western interests comes from those organisations that are not indigenous to the region.

Although Americans and other foreigners sometimes find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time and are, therefore, caught up in attacks aimed at harming local authority, the indigenous groups generally do not target foreigners.

There have been exceptions when attacks on bars and hotels frequented by foreign tourists or residents seem designed to attract international publicity and/or embarrass the local government.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda, for example, have suffered from such attacks.

This therefore calls for all our efforts to stand together in order for us to defeat this kind of anarchy rather than us seeing and identifying our selves differently.

Beecham David Okwere is a senior member of the EAC Youth Ambassadors Platform and member of the Mandela Young African leaders Initiative ( YALI)

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