A file photo of Al-Azhar headquarters in Cairo (Photo: Al-Ahram)
According to the African languages monitor unit at the AOCE, terrorist organisations have used the war between Russia and Ukraine, climate change, and the food crisis in Africa to attract and recruit a new generation of African youth. Adverse living conditions and the impact of current events force these youth to resort to violence as a way to improve their status and realise their aspirations, said the observatory in a report published last week.
Furthermore, since it broke out in February 2022, the war in Ukraine has had an adverse impact on efforts to combat extremist and terrorist organisations.
Russia has been steadily providing extensive military and intelligence support to African countries and has signed several military cooperation agreements with countries like Central African Republic, Mali and Burkina Faso to counter these groups. Nevertheless, the conflict with Ukraine led Russia to withdraw more of its services and special military forces from Africa – from places such as the Central African Republic and Mali – to participate alongside Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, said the AOCE.
The AOCE added that the war had also lead to the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces participating in United Nations peacekeeping missions. These forces were sent back to Ukraine to fight alongside forces confronting Russia. The recent withdrawal of both Russian and Ukrainian forces operating in some African countries has created a security vacuum that may last longer if the war continues.
The observatory also indicated that there was a clear decline in counter-terrorism efforts, especially after the withdrawal of French forces from Mali in August 2022
"The unwillingness of some armies to confront terrorist organisations on their own means greater control of these organisations. These groups penetrate societies in ways that negatively affect the security and stability of those countries, making them liable to political turmoil," said the observatory. It also warned that these factors stimulate the expansion of terrorism and the resurgence of all types of organised crime.
Al-Azhar unit assigned to combat and monitor terrorism and radical beliefs also stated that climate change was another strategic security challenge that increases the likelihood of terrorist acts in countries that face security challenges and that are unstable both politically and economically. These countries are prone to what may be called "climate terrorism".
"Food insecurity due to climate-related disasters – such as floods, hurricanes, drought, desertification and rising temperatures – allow armed organisations to increase their ranks and attract new recruits from the miserable generation severely affected by the environmental degradation and the harsh climatic conditions. These conditions increase migration and displacement, making these populations vulnerable to recruitment and polarisation by crisis exploitation groups," Al-Azhar said. As examples, Al-Azhar cited both Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabab in Somalia.
Al-Azhar Observatory explained that these terrorist organisations have recently adopted a policy whereby they place vulnerable populations under siege and starve them until they are compelled to leave their homes. They are then given the choice of either begging for food or joining the ranks of these groups to obtain food.
The AOCE recommends adopting initiatives to limit the impacts of climate change, such as the Green belt initiative that aims to increase the amount of arable land in the Sahel, the region bordering Africa's Sahara Desert, among solutions to limit the danger of those challenges facing Africa.
The observatory calls for collective movement, through economic councils and relief conveys, to provide sufficient food cover for the besieged and afflicted areas in Africa.
It also calls for necessary funding for peacekeeping missions across the continent to combat terrorist organisations, and their growing influence, and to foil their attempts to recruit more members.
Al-Azhar, the world’s oldest institution of Sunni Islamic, created its Observatory in 2015, to respond to erroneous and extremist interpretations of Islam.