…following Taliban takeover of the Afghan government
In June 2021, I wrote an article titled Emerging State of Insecurity on The African Continent (Mali Coup, Nigeria Instability, Burkina Faso Terrorist Attack, and Withdrawal of Us Troops from Afghanistan): Economic Transformation and Enhanced Security Measure Needed to Address Emerging Security Threats. This was following the announcement of US Troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan by President Joe Biden.
I emphasized that because the threat of terrorism had become more dispersed, metastasizing around the globe with terrorist activities by militant groups such as al-Shabab in Somalia, Al–Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries of Africa and Asia – not forgetting Boko Haram in Nigeria, there was a need for governments of African countries to focus their attention on two main risks: the resumption of terrorist activities by extremist groups; and the subsequent out-pouring of refugees from Afghanistan.
I noted that considering the twin challenges of unemployment and economic hardship which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic for us in Africa, the withdrawal of United States Military from Afghanistan could provide fertile grounds for the recruitment and training of able young Africans into terrorist organizations and networks; thus, enabling terrorist organizations to regroup, remobilize and strategize to strengthen and advance terrorist operations and networks throughout the world – particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, this early warning sign of possible recruitment into these insurgences in Africa was recently echoed by a Minister of Information press statement and needs to be taken seriously – not as one of the usual rhetoric from current governments in Ghana and Africa.
Following the unfolding of events in Afghanistan and subsequent takeover of the Afghan government by the Taliban, African heads of state and governments must be proactive instead of being reactive on security issues: by ensuring maximum security alerts, enhanced surveillance systems and increased religious tolerance to avert terrorist attacks and the provision of fertile ground for terrorist activities in the sub-region.
The takeover by the Taliban – which also inadvertently means the establishment of an Islamic state and the imposition of Sharia law – could lead to the infringement of fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Afghan people, particularly women across various spheres of Afghan society. This also reinforces lessons and the need for African governments to ensure renewed and conscious religious tolerance within African societies. The idea of ideologically-driven violence – whether religious, social or political – is incompatible with our collective goal to create a free and just world where people can practice their religion without fear of discrimination.
At the end of this year’s Ramadan, I wrote an article title ‘My Eid-ul-Fitr Reflections: Human Rights and Security Implications of actions by Wesley Girls SHS and Endorsement by Methodist Church and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference’ in which I clearly pointed out that religious discrimination can be a source of violent conflicts; and thus called for respect for all religious sects and practices in our country without discrimination. That also applies to other countries on the African continent.
Clearly, America and its military intelligence misinterpreted, misunderstood and undermined the power of religious ideologies and the determination of people to fight based on those ideologies. Despite the power and strength of the US Army, the Taliban prevailed because they regrouped and fought back – because, to them, it was a religious duty. You cannot defeat people who fight based on their faith. Even if you win today, you will live to fight all the time because faith is a life-long event. The United States closed all their seven military bases in Afghanistan without proper appreciation of the fact that their twenty years stay could not secure the borders of Afghanistan.
In an article by Andrew C. McCarthy titled ‘The Imminent, Inevitable Taliban Victory’ dated 14th August 2021 and published in the nationalreview.com, he argued as follows:
“I’ve noticed that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are poised, by the anniversary date, to be as strong as they were in the three years leading up to 9/11 – during which, with its safe havens assured by the sharia-supremacist regime, the jihadist network bombed US embassies in eastern Africa and nearly sank a U.S Navy destroyer.”
In another paragraph McCarthy (2021) remarked: “One American administration after another has believed it could suppress jihadist terrorism and democratize the Muslim Middle East by either ignoring or coopting Sharia. Islam’s fundamental law, however, is the rationale for jihadism and the implacable basis for Islamic resistance to Western law and morals”.
Obviously, the Taliban takeover clearly shows that the Americans also failed in this regard. The Afghanistan government also collapsed because political leaders could not come together; they were engulfed in corruption and could not prevail against the Taliban once the USA decided to withdraw. In Africa, these events must be of great lessons to us: a strong and effective Regional Integration could be one of the solutions.
Again, just for emphasis, Article 8 of the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Right (the Banjul Charter) established in 1981 provides that: “Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms. Also, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief”.
Also based on Article 18 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice”. Article 1(1) of the 1981 Declaration of the General Assembly states that “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have a religion or whatever belief of his choice”.
Further, the Human Rights Committee general comment 22 paragraph 4 provides that: “The freedom to manifest religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching encompasses a broad range of acts. The concept of worship extends to ritual and ceremonial acts giving direct expression to belief, as well as various practices integral to such acts – including the building of places of worship, the use of ritual formulae and objects, the display of symbols, and the observance of holidays and days of rest.
“The observance and practice of religion or belief may include not only ceremonial acts but also such customs as the observance of dietary regulations, the wearing of distinctive clothing or head coverings, participation in rituals associated with certain stages of life, and the use of a particular language customarily spoken by a group. In addition, the practice and teaching of religion or belief includes acts integral to the conduct by religious groups of their basic affairs, such as freedom to choose their religious leaders, priests and teachers; the freedom to establish seminaries or religious schools; and the freedom to prepare and distribute religious texts or publications.”
We cannot have world peace without respect for fundamental rights and freedoms of worship and religion. African integration therefore must be stronger not only on economic cooperations but also on values of respect of right to freedom of religions and promotion of inclusiveness as a way to foster peace among its diverse religious sects. Millitary power, it must be reiterated, cannot overpower the will of persons brewed in the hot pot of religious faith. That was the story of the Taliban. There is no doubt that criminal elements whose motive is beyond faith will take advantage of the sordid situation to operate and foment more trouble; but the fact is that it is backed by faith – and this makes it more dangerous.
The complete capitulation of the Afghan army despite the investment of over US$3trillion by the US government in training support, coupled with the subsequent desperation of Afghan nationals to leave the country following the Taliban takeover, could lead to a breakdown of law and order and accompanying humanitarian crisis that could lead to a spillover into various countries across the globe, including African countries, if not quickly forestalled by leading global bodies such as the United Nations and its related agencies like the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Based on the above, there is a need for reorientation and reassessment of the security situation in Africa and possible sources of conflict by African Leaders. We need to invest in ICT infrastructure, intelligence gathering and enhanced training and security measures for all security actors.
As a result, there is a need for African leaders to renew their commitment to tenets of constitutional democracy, good governance and prudent management of resources in Africa for the benefit of the African people. African heads of state and governments must be open-minded, abreast with the times and introduce policies and other measures which create the desired enabling environment and provide opportunities for the teeming youth to enable them realise their full potentials.
Also, as stated in my earlier article, the economic transformation of the African continent must therefore be an urgent goal of all African heads of state and governments if Africa is to realize its objective of becoming a global powerhouse as enshrined in Agenda 2063. However, if African leaders fail to put up the requisite policies to reduce poverty, eradicate corruption and all the leadership problems facing the continent, then we run the risk of increased insecurity as a result of terrorist groups following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In conclusion, it is incumbent and important for security Agencies within the continent and sub-region to be alert and on top of their game to forestall any terrorist threats and activities likely to follow the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the takeover of the Afghan government by the Taliban. As a result, African countries do not have any choice but to hasten the COVID-19 era economic recovery in order to hasten economic growth and development so as to provide employment opportunities which lead to improvements in the quality of life for the citizens, especially the youth.
African leaders will have to commit to effective integration through more robust economic cooperation and carrying out the full ideals of the AfCFTA. African countries must increase respect for human rights, and strengthen their anti-corruption systems to deal with corruption. African countries must increase religious tolerance and respect the right to freedom of expression, thought, religion and promote peaceful co-existence while being on red-alert to watch out for people who would use religion as a basis to fan ideological violence.
There is also a need for African countries, including Ghana, to invest in emerging technologies in order to prevent highly sophisticated crimes including cyber-attacks. This will go a long way to track and disrupt terrorist networks, activities and funding in the form of illicit financial flows for terrorist organizations.
>>>The writer is a private legal practitioner, human rights activist, Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency, Member of the Appointments Committee, and Deputy Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, with background expertise in Economics, Conflict, Security and Peace studies. The writer can be contacted via: [email protected] www.madinamp.com