One Man's Terrorist is Another's Man's Freedom Fighter

Kudakwashe Manjonjo
Harare, Zimbabwe
The Al-Shabab attack on the university students in Kenya, killing 150 innocent Christians compounded one growing fact; the ever growing intensity of terrorism in Africa. With the growing desire to blow these terrorists off the face of the planet, I call that we look at the whole situation more holistically, as history teaches us that ironically, the greatest freedom fighters were at one stage the most wanted terrorists in the world.

We firstly must understand that a terrorist is not only a being that uses terror to gain certain publicity and socio-political clout; on the bigger picture, they are individuals who are seen not to conform to the political status quo of what is right or wrong. Case in point, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and Robert Mugabe, great liberation heroes were all at one stage defined by their respective states and internationally as terrorists.

So the question is, what is stopping the passage of time ultimately defining the actions of Boko Haram and Al Shabab as those of freedom fighters? A good friend of mine reminds me how when there is hunt, a lion chasing a deer, you will never hear the story of the deer. And that is true of how history functions that the losing party’s side of events are rarely well documented or put in a glorious perspective. Do you think if Hitler had won World War 2 we would have focused of the anti-Semitic killings? I do not think so.

So the causes, needs and desires of the proliferating terrorists need to be acknowledged and be part of the long term solution to ending terrorism. In summation, Boko Haram and Al Shabab’s desires revolve around the socio-economic neglect, the lack of state presence in their strong holds. For example, poverty in South Nigeria is at 27% but the area North East area where Boko Haram rules, poverty is at 72%. Such disparities are breeding grounds for the so-called ‘terrorists.’ But when you talk to a good number of the people who live in areas were these organizations are strong-they see them as their freedom fighters.

Freedom fighters fighting for what exactly? A future that promises more socio-economic benefits. Just like the way millions of South Africans supported Mandela when he was fighting for their political rights, that is their situation and belief. The task at hand for Africa in combating those we define as terrorists is solving the socio-economic problems that precipitated on the surface and exploded onto the global light as terrorism.

Essentially, over the long term I believe that such a focus on dealing with the core problems will result in the limitations, fall of a fundamentalist attitude, reason being it is a political fact that extremism is the result of abuse, ignoring of the rights and desires of minorities and the arrogance of those in power. If more development had been done in the north of Nigeria since independence, such a situation we face today would not have existed.

Political history has always fought in the corner of the revolutionaries, those who believed in the beauty of their dreams to a better future, those who stubbornly fought for their God-given rights. Essentially, that is what these terrorist groups are doing right now. No matter how we may have reservations in terms of means to their ends, like the fight for democracy, the fight to end colonialism, history if we don’t deal with their basic problems will charge them as we judge those who fought for us; we might even give a Boko Haram or Al-Shabab leader the Nobel peace prize in 75 years.     

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