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Africa and the Jihadist Threat

ADDIS ABABA – The list of places in Europe and Africa that have suffered from jihadist terrorism is rapidly growing: the seaside town of Grand-Bassam in Côte d’Ivoire, nightspots in Paris, and transport hubs in Brussels, to name just a few.

In Europe, recent investigations suggest that the Islamic State (ISIS) has established a network of terror cells that is far wider and deeper than authorities had believed. In Africa, the number of deaths from jihadist violence has nearly tripled from 2013 to 2015, as Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, ISIS, and others have launched attacks across the continent. With competition among groups affiliated with ISIS and Al Qaeda heating up, the violence is likely to grow further.

The challenge for policymakers on both continents is to contain the rise of terrorism without eroding hard-won freedoms. Facing that challenge is our common calling; indeed, tackling it together is the only sustainable solution. To this end, two security platforms are collaborating on a unique intercontinental partnership. The Munich Security Conference Core Group Meeting will take place in Ethiopia on April 14-15, followed by the Fifth Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa on April 16-17. In the face of transnational, global security threats – including jihadist terrorism, but also the spread of pandemics and the consequences of climate change – the need for much closer and more effective European-African cooperation has become increasingly clear.

The unprecedented number of jihadist attacks in multiple countries in recent months has demonstrated how vulnerable our societies have become and how transnational the threat is. No group illustrates the nature of the challenge more clearly than ISIS. From its origins as a terrorist group capitalizing on state failure in Iraq and Syria, it has spread like a virus from Afghanistan to Nigeria and carried out or inspired attacks as far abroad as the United States and the Philippines. And, in addition to its territorial conquests and physical networks of followers, ISIS has established a firm foothold online – far more so than any other jihadist organization.