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Security

ISIS in Africa: Implications from Syria and Iraq

Courtesy of Birdman Photos/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) on 17 March 2017.

At the end of 2016, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), announced that the group had “expanded and shifted some of our command, media, and wealth to Africa.” ISIS’s Dabiq magazine referred to the regions of Africa that were part of its “caliphate”: “the region that includes Sudan, Chad, and Egypt has been named the caliphate province of Alkinaana; the region that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda as the province of Habasha; the North African region encompassing Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Niger, and Mauritania as Maghreb, the province of the caliphate.” Leaving aside the mismatched ethno-linguistic groupings included in each of these “provinces,” ISIS’s interest in establishing a presence in Africa has long been a part of its vision for a global caliphate.

Battlefield setbacks in ISIS’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria since 2015, however, raise questions of what impact this will have for ISIS’s African aspirations. A useful starting point in considering this question is to recognize that the threat from violent Islamist groups in Africa is not monolithic but is comprised of a variety of distinct entities. For the most part, these groups are geographically concentrated and focused on local territorial or political objectives. Specifically, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has identified 5 major categories of militant Islamists groups in Africa. In order of lethality on the continent, these include Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, ISIS-linked groups in North Africa, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and Sinai-focused groups.

Categories
Humanitarian Issues Politics

Why Term Limits Matter for Africa

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. Image: AMISOM Public Information/flickr

Africa has a problem of presidents not leaving office when it’s time to do so.  The latest illustration of this is the maneuvering of Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza. After 10 years in office, he is attempting to stay on for a third five-year term – in contravention of Burundi’s constitution that limits presidents to two five-year terms.

Nkurunziza’s determination to stay in power has brought the country to the brink of another civil war. (It’s estimated that 300,000 people were killed in Burundi’s ethnically-based civil war of 1993-2005). The government’s hardline response to protests against a third term has resulted in more than 100 deaths, the arrests of some 500 media and civil society leaders, a fracturing of the military, and the exodus of some 200,000 refugees since April.

Unfortunately, Nkurunziza is not alone among African leaders who defy the fundamental requisite of democracy that leaders must step down when their terms expire. In fact, the continent as a whole is in the midst of a wider battle over governance norms. Burundi’s relevance to this larger struggle compels assertive action on the part of key African and Western governments interested in upholding the rule of law.