In the face of rising violent extremism, African countries are being called upon to assume greater responsibility for their security and explore internal solutions. Relying solely on external actors may not always serve the best interests of the continent. This perspective has gained traction, particularly in West Africa, where discussions about the most effective approach to combating extremism continue to revolve around the dominance of the kinetic approach.

Advocates argue that the Sahel region, in particular, should prioritize addressing socio-economic challenges and providing basic needs as a means to tackle extremism. This viewpoint has found support from various quarters, including past writings. By targeting poverty, expanding social services, creating employment opportunities, and developing infrastructure, it is believed that the gap between the rich and poor can be narrowed, thereby diminishing the appeal of extremism. In addition, fostering inclusivity in the political space is deemed crucial, as systemic marginalization has played a significant role in fueling the grievances exploited by terrorist groups.

UN Support to the AU Initiative on Silencing the Guns in Africa. Image courtesy of

However, despite these arguments, the use of force remains the primary approach in countering extremism in the Sahel. National forces, regional and international missions, mercenaries, and vigilante groups have all been actively involved in the fight against jihadist groups in the region. This raises the question of why the kinetic approach continues to dominate the efforts to combat extremism in the Sahel.

One key factor contributing to the prevalence of the kinetic approach is the urgency imposed by the escalating threat. The relentless attacks and territorial gains made by extremist groups have made it challenging to persuade regional states to prioritize alternative strategies over direct military action. Given the perception of the intransigence of terror groups, governments often believe that force is the only language they understand.

Furthermore, the rise of military juntas in the region has further reinforced the prominence of the kinetic approach. In countries like Mali and Burkina Faso, military takeovers have occurred due to insecurity, with the subsequent governments justifying the use of force as a means to ensure stability. In the case of Mali, the junta disrupted multilateral peace efforts between the government and rebels, opting to engage the services of Wagner, a private military company, to augment their use of force against extremists and solidify their grip on power. Similarly, the junta in Burkina Faso has employed ethnic-based vigilantes whose indiscriminate use of force has exacerbated the conflict.

Africa must look within for tactical security support while maintaining strategic security cooperation with external actors. Illustration from Getty Images

Moving forward, it is imperative to strike a delicate balance in the use of kinetic force to prevent the current situation from further deteriorating. While the urgency of the extremist threat cannot be overlooked, governments should also consider implementing socio-economic policies in areas under their control. A comprehensive and multifaceted approach that combines military operations with long-term development strategies may yield more sustainable results in the fight against extremism.

As the reach of extremist groups extends across the region, threatening even coastal states, African countries must seize control of their security and seek internal solutions. By adopting a nuanced approach that addresses both the immediate security concerns and the underlying socio-economic factors, African nations can forge a path towards a more stable and prosperous future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *