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Prevention of Terrorism - An African Perspective

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 1, 2020 03:40

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Terrorism - the use of violence against a political system or organs of a state, has been part of history since the first community was organized. History has shown that suppression rarely works in the long tem. Africa has seen erstwhile terrorists become statesmen. Yet terrorism remains a problem. How can it be prevented?

A week ago, Robin Mizrahi published a brilliant piece on the problems the US and British legal system has in treating terrorism as a normal crime. In due course, criminals qualify for parole and release, and often these people remain a danger to society. Someone replied, wondering if prosecution for treason would not be an answer. 

In South Africa, we remember that Nelson Mandela was found guilty of terrorism, and at first sentenced to death. After 27 years he was released to become the first Presitent of South Africa, a universally loved, and admired, figure. 

A researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, Isel van Zyl, recently published an article on the ways violent extremism could be prevented in Africa. Reviewing the results of more than $300 million donated to prevent violent extremism, van Zyl concludes that raising awareness about the problem and about vulnerabilities to recruitment is not enough.

Climate change, conflicts, poverty, human rights abuses, and hard handed treatment by security forces are among the reasons cited for people joining extremist organizations. 

Greater focus is invited on state actors, especially security sector reform, transitional justice, and the fact that seven out of ten people who had joined extremist groups did so after experiencing abuse by security agents. Researchers intend focusing on further research into means of making prevention programs more effective. 

Ché Guevara and his contemporaries claimed that the mere existence of a foco of resistance would provoke security forces to alienate the population to such an extent that resistance would eventually lead to the overthrow of government in favour of the freedom fighters or terrorists. 

If we take the Mandela example, can it not be said that the cause people take -- the decision to use violence for political purposes -- is that this is the only way open for them to express themselves politically? Mandela expresed himself brilliantly in the so-called Rivonia trial, explaining that while he remained committed to constitutional democracy, the South African system at the time denied him the opportunity to participate in political activity.

Nelson Mandela

 

Not every terrorist is a Mandela. Many people are tricked into becoming members of violent organisations. Many can be rehabilitated, yet few concerted systems are in place. British rehabilitation programs, according to personal contacts, are practically non-existent and seldom include people with religious and cultural backcrounds similar to that of perpetrators. 

In Denmark, the government funds Islamic schools and seek to identify youngsters who are alienated, who seem ready targets for recruiters. Programs exist to help such youngsters find their place in society, to identify ways to express themselves, and to find work. 

The Boston Tea Party was an act of violence against the then legitimate Government of America, the British Crown. I can well imagine British officials muttering 'terrorism' and 'treason' at the news. Washington saw it differently.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on February 1, 2020 03:40

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Source: KHOU

Houston will be awarded $1.7 million in federal funding for terrorism prevention and enhanced security.

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