Africa and the War on Terrorism


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Edited by Célestin Monga and Justin Yifu Lin

A number of Al-Shabaab women report that women from these committees work as marital counsellors of sorts, attempting to keep troubled marriages within the movement stable. A number of them also report that they were recruited to the movement by female members in this way. Hide Footnote Indeed, women who report joining the movement voluntarily but not through marriage most commonly appear to do so after meeting a female recruiter at Islamic lessons provided at a mosque or learning centre.

One former Al-Shabaab wife said recruiters in the movement taught her to draw other girls into the movement when she was just thirteen. Hide Footnote Most women who join through this route are single and subsequently tend to marry Al-Shabaab militants, though reportedly women married to non-Shabaab members have also signed up and supported the movement even while their husbands do not.

These women were not necessarily a part of the movement nor were their families formally affiliated with Al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab also reportedly relies on women for fundraising. The decades-long conflict in Somalia, its toll on the male population, high rates of divorce and the prevalence of qat addiction have meant women are more active in historically male-dominated sectors of the formal and informal economies — livestock, agriculture and retail, for example.

In principle, Al-Shabaab espouses strict Salafi norms that prohibit women from playing such roles, preaches against women leaving the house without a mahram , or male relative, and bans interaction between men and women who are not close family. But despite its official stances, the movement displays some pragmatism in recognising that women are often now primary breadwinners. Even in places it controls directly, it tends to allow women to run businesses.

Hide Footnote It tolerates suuqley , or market women, who sell their wares to both men and women. In fact, its position on this traditional aspect of Somali public life seems to have evolved, given that it initially sought to restrict these women from sitting outside in markets. In some places, Al-Shabaab appears to go a step further, exploiting women-owned businesses for money laundering and smuggling. Crisis Group interview, Somali researcher, March Hide Footnote One common method is to convert commodities into cash via the daily business operations of local female entrepreneurs.

Hide Footnote Al-Shabaab asks women to ferry its goods between markets along with their regular wares. The movement may offer one businesswoman a share of the profits, while coercing another into complying. Hide Footnote Widows and divorcees who are sole breadwinners are especially vulnerable to the latter type of pressure. Another funding source that women help militants tap is charity. Male Al-Shabaab officials are responsible for collecting zakat , the alms obligatory for all Muslims who are not indigent.

That said, it does sometimes distribute funds to poor Somalis in areas it controls. Although it initially banned the delivery of humanitarian aid and services including health and education in areas it controls, it has since changed tack and now allows aid groups to operate.

Hide Footnote In some places, such campaigns are continuous, in others they are specific to Ramadan or other significant occasions, or triggered by socio-economic shocks such as droughts and floods. Al-Shabaab has long relied on its intelligence agency, Amniyat, to monitor threats and carry out attacks. Hide Footnote Some do business with government and African Union soldiers, selling milk, tea, vegetables and fruit, and gleaning from them information on their military capabilities and other matters.

Those troops often supply villages with water and medical services as part of counter-insurgency campaigns, which also brings them into contact with women working undercover for Al-Shabaab. Hide Footnote Women tend to have greater access to government-held areas than male counterparts because such trading activities give them natural cover. Women also spy on individuals of interest for the Amniyat. Hide Footnote Government and foreign troops are increasingly aware of such activity, and have adjusted their security procedures, attempting to deploy more female security personnel at checkpoints.

Hide Footnote Six women are reportedly serving jail terms after being convicted for offering operational support to Al-Shabaab assassination squads and attackers. Women support military operations not only by providing intelligence, but also by ferrying around weapons. Somali society traditionally does not perceive women as threats and, until recently, government-run checkpoints, which often had no female security personnel, rarely searched women. Hide Footnote Even now, male security officials staff most checkpoints outside cities. Al-Shabaab also appears to rely on a network of trusted women to provide secure hiding places where fighters can organise operations.

According to one former militant, such women tend to be older, based in major towns and paid for their work. Hide Footnote Older women tend to elicit even less suspicion from government security forces. Crisis group interview, Mogadishu, June Crisis Group telephone interviews, elder and sheikh who previously lived in areas under Al-Shabaab rule in Lower Shabelle, June Nor, in contrast to some other African militants, does Al-Shabaab tend to deploy women and girls as suicide bombers. For example, Boko Haram, the jihadist insurgency operating in north-eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin area, for years used women more than men as suicide bombers though it has moderated that practice over the past year.

The report found that, with the group increasingly pressed for manpower amid government crackdowns from mid, Boko Haram increasingly turned to female suicide bombers. Hide Footnote In contrast, according to one tally, Al-Shabaab has deployed only ten women and girls as suicide bombers since , representing less than 5 per cent of the total number, though the precise number of Al-Shabaab attacks perpetrated by women is disputed.

Except on a few occasions, such as the June killing of the interior minister apparently by his own niece who had been recruited by the group , Al-Shabaab rarely acknowledges dispatching female attackers. Women are involved, however, in psychologically preparing husbands for suicide operations. As women navigate a terrain where the state is either absent or predatory and insurgent rule often harsh and violent, they make choices that reflect their need to survive but also personal, religious and socio-political aspirations. Others genuinely support the group and its cause.


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The Somali federal government, whose writ does not extend far beyond Mogadishu, and its partners in loosely autonomous regional states, are constrained in their ability to respond. In principle, if the choices women make help propel the conflict, they could also eventually play a role in resolving it.

In reality, it appears unlikely the government can do much to win over women absent an approach to ending the war that shifts the incentives of the population more broadly. While the insurgency continues, and Al-Shabaab dominates much of the countryside and exerts influence and instils fear in areas even beyond its control, women and men alike will continue to be compelled to cooperate with it.

It could help women who defect from the group to better reintegrate into society, for example, while seeking to understand their motives for joining Al-Shabaab or the circumstances that impelled them to work with the movement. Secondly, if it tightens security protocols in recognition of the potential danger posed by women insurgents, it should do so sensitively, with women security officials conducting screening of other women and procedures to protect against potential abuses of security forces.

Increasing the number of women officials in the security forces would help and would require ensuring better protection for those who deploy away from their homes. The percentage is much lower in rural areas. They report facing significant constraints from more conservative segments of society, including being pressured to leave their posts. They also report facing harassment and threats for pursuing sexual offenders and general security risks.

Beyond that, the government could develop a strategy to combat gender-based violence and exploitation. This strategy should involve pushing through parliament the Sexual Offences Bill, which criminalises a wide range of sexual offences, outlines ways to support survivors and lays out clear procedures for prosecution of suspects. Hide Footnote Legislatures in Puntland regional state and Somaliland have both endorsed tough sexual offences laws, in and , respectively.

In March, following mass demonstrations by women protesting the gang rape and murder of a twelve-year-old, a court in Puntland sentenced five men to death for the crime.

Militants Carry Out Deadly Attacks in Burkina Faso

Hide Footnote Across other parts of Somalia, the UN reports that a culture of impunity reigns, with sexual offences typically resolved through negotiations between the clan of the victim and that of the rapist. More onerous than passing laws will be actually enforcing them. While a credible justice system appears a long way off, the government could show more resolve, potentially by establishing modest civil dispute mechanisms or family law courts. Women should be closely involved in such processes.

Even small steps like creating women-only desks at police stations, where women and girls might feel more comfortable reaching out for justice than in the current male-dominated setup, would help. For women, supporters or civilians alike, life under Al-Shabaab rule offers a degree of predictability and opportunities for justice that are often absent in areas administered by the federal government.

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The consequences of the U.S. war on terrorism in Africa

While the insurgents coerce and exploit women to pursue their aims, what they offer across parts of the country nonetheless often remains better than the alternatives. This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Review our privacy policy for more details. Andes Central America.

War & Terrorism - Liberty Specialty Markets

Iran Briefing Note Seven Opportunities for the UN in Up Next. What seems important is to recognise that the militants have a gender strategy of sorts. Facebook Email. Yes, I Agree. The emphasis on the use of military force to counteract terrorist groups also runs the risk of overlooking or underemphasizing the important contributions to preventing terrorist violence made by other actors. Specifically, security and intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, and, perhaps no less important, civil society and local actors.

Addressing terrorist threats through alternative channels can also bring advantages over military action as well as opportunities for creative responses, including:. We should have learned by now that declaring war on social ills rarely succeeds. The war on drugs is a prime example of how the disbursement of billions of dollars over many decades has had virtually no effect on the drug trade and the numbers of individuals who die from drug overdose and related violence.

This is not to say that progress has not been made. So it should be with terrorism. Terrorist groups rarely control meaningful amounts of territory, instead tending to blend in with the local population. It is here that a large military response is overbearing and indiscriminate, creating casualties among the innocent that serve as propaganda points for the terrorist groups in the area. If the military is to be used it should be used judiciously. An example of this can be found in the Special Forces operation that killed bin Laden in Abbotabad. The best way to disrupt terrorist plots is through intelligence and law enforcement action.

Less than a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, U. Bush is truly global, with Americans actively engaged in countering terrorism in 80 nations on six continents. This map is the most comprehensive depiction in civilian circles of U. Because we have been conservative in our selections, U.

U.S. Prepares to Reduce Troops and Shed Missions in Africa

Even so, the vast reach evident here may prompt Americans to ask whether the war on terror has met its goals, and whether they are worth the human and financial costs. Army; U. Army Human Resources Command; U.

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