The three bombs that ripped through a festive night in the suburbs of the Ugandan capital city of Kampala were further proof that Islamic radicals on the continent have no problem using African civilians to make their point in the ongoing global war on terror. This time, more than 70 innocent people paid the ultimate price for an act of revenge by people for whom being African is only a coincidence. They apparently couldn’t care less that their fellow Africans had to die in order for them to establish their credentials as the latest group of world-class killers.
Al-Shebaab, or more properly Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahedeen (Movement of Warrior Youth), has long targeted outsiders daring to meddle in Somalian affairs. They struck out at anyone who stood against their effort to convert Muslim Somalia into a more strident Muslim Somalia. The last estimate of their strength was placed between 3,000 to 7,000 fighters. They control most of the central and southern parts of Somalia, including a large part of the capital city of Mogadishu. However, they apparently want to join the big leagues of terrorist groups who can strike at the “enemies of Islam” outside their borders.
At least a dozen terrorist bomb attacks in Africa have claimed innocent lives in just the past three years, including:
• Twin explosions killed at least 28 people in a Mogadishu mosque, while another 50 were wounded on May 1, 2010.
• An explosive-packed car detonated outside the Algerian prime minister’s office in Algiers, along with another bomb exploded in the suburbs of Bab Ezouar, claimed the lives of at least 24 people and wounded more than 220 others on February 16, 2010.
• Four suspected Islamic terrorists and a Moroccan police officer were killed in three explosions in Casablanca on February 15, 2010.
• A suicide bomber killed 57 people, including three Somali transitional government ministers, in Mogadishu on December 3, 2009.
• At least 21 people, including 17 African Union peacekeepers, were killed in two suicide bombings at the peacekeeping force base in Somalia on September 17, 2009.
• Somali National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden and at least 20 others were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the central Somalian town of Beledweyne on June 18, 2009.
• At least 43 people were killed and another 45 were wounded in a bombing near a military school in Bumerdes proving in northern Algeria on August 19, 2008.
• Two car bombs in Algiers, targeting the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees and the neighboring United Nations Development Programme, killed at least 60 people and injured many others on December 11, 2007.
Perhaps the most infamous terrorist attacks happened on August 7, 1998, when hundreds of people were killed in bombings at the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Although the reason cited by al Qaeda in this case was revenge for the American role in the extradition and alleged torture in Egypt of four members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, only 12 Americans perished in those bombings, and 211 Africans lost their lives, with more than 4,000 others wounded. These bombings were the first incidents that brought Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri to worldwide attention.
These terrorists are not fighting for independence from an oppressive colonial power. They do not struggle against those who would prevent them from worshipping God in their chosen way. They are not even fighting a war for survival. Were they not constantly engaged in killing people indiscriminately, they would not be hunted and killed as they are now.
They offer no justification for killing the worshippers in the mosque they destroyed. There is no apology for the innocent children caught in a bomb blast. No one sends flowers to the funerals of the parents whose deaths leave orphaned children. No explanation is offered for how this mayhem will make Africa stronger or better.
Africa’s future is in the hands of governments struggling to protect their citizens and those of their neighbors whom they seek to protect, like the Government of Uganda is doing in Somalia. In addition to the troops they have lost in a peacekeeping operation in Somalia, Uganda’s government now has civilian deaths on their home ground to explain to their citizens wondering why their lives are forfeit for people who apparently have no appreciation for their effort to help save the lives of others. Now some Ugandan legislators are considering pulling their troops out of the Somalian peacekeeping operation.
Unfortunately, you don’t actually have to actively do anything to earn death in the eye of these cold-blooded killers, and being an innocent fellow African is no protection from their wrath. Their idea of African unity is to join them or die. Not exactly what Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Léopold Senghor and others had in mind when they established the Organization of African Unity in 1963.