Youth radicalization is on the increase in Africa. What should be done to derail the plans of the terror groups targeting young people in the continent?
Nobody thought the former medical student Sadio Gassama would join a terrorist group, at least, that is what his father and other family members and friends thought.
Until he left his home in Senegal for Libya, the 25-year-old used to give free medical checkups at his mosque in Senegal's poor southern region of Casamance.
Now, Sadio, whose father described to Reuters as a humanist and a former professor termed him as a “brilliant student, incapable of hurting anyone,” is treating Islamic State fighters in Libya. He left home for Libya in December last year.
Sadio is not alone, though. So many young people across the world have fallen into the trap.
One of the gunmen who attacked and killed 142 students at Garissa University in Kenya in April last year, was a son of a local government official. Abdirahim Abdullahi was a law graduate from the University of Nairobi, and he was described by many as a “brilliant upcoming lawyer”.
Earlier, his father had reported his disappearance and was helping the police track him by the time of the attack. His father feared that his son had become radicalized, and joined al-Shabaab. And he was not wrong. Abdullahi was later found among those killed by authorities at the scene of the attack.
But the most astonishing of the more all was the story of Jihad junior, the four-year-old Isa Dare whose mother run away from London under the pretext she was going to Egypt to study and ended up in Syria to join Islam State.
“We are going to go kill the kafir (non-believers) over there.” These are words of Isa after the killing of some supposed British spies.
The young boy was identified by his grandfather, Sunday Dare when the video was released. Sunday is a Nigerian Christian immigrant based in London.
Before the video, Sunday had spoken to Isa on the phone. “I spoke to him on the phone and he just said, ‘Grandad, come and get me’.
According to Sunday, his daughter who was christened Grace and was a Christian till she converted in 2010. She later met and married Abu Bakr who fathered Isa. In 2012, she left London with Isa.
According to Sadio’s father Boucar Gassama, a retired civil servant, said he did not even notice that his son had been radicalized. The only changes he saw on him was his ‘new’ dress code.
“His pants were shorter and did not reach all the way to the floor,” a Salafist dress code.
In an interview with Reuters however, a darker side of Sadio was revealed. He said he had been planning an attack in Dakar.
"Senegal is lucky. I was planning to commit an attack there in the name of the Islamic State before one of their contacts helped me go to Libya."
Sadio added that he left Senegal a year after embracing the ideology of the Islamic State. "Joining ISIS in Libya was relatively easy and accessible. I wanted to contribute to the establishment of a caliphate in Libya."
He told Reuters that he is now a “jihadist doctor."
Sunday noted that his daughter who now goes by the name Khadijah changed after becoming a Muslim. After conversion, she handed back her Bible. After conversion, she handed back her Bible and began to show signs of becoming radicalized.
Sunday believes she does not want to be there but is afraid of being sent to prison if she returns home to Britain.
It is unfortunate that some young people are brainwashed to believe they are doing the right thing by cleansing the world for Allah.
Abu Hurayra, a South African, joined the Islamic State because “their aim is to establish the word of Allah as the highest and the word of Kufr (disbelief) as lowest and this is what Allah tells us in the Qur’an to do. So it is a compulsory duty upon all the Muslims around the world, to join the Jihad, although many of them are misguided and Allah did not choose them…”
Individuals and governments across Africa should identify potential risks and stop them before they are too porous.
"We must take stock of the potential risks of collusion between civil society and terrorists, better monitor places where radicalization occurs, keep tabs on all suspect individuals like radical preachers and trace their funds," former Mali, Prime Minister Moussa Mara said.
Last year, Captain Werunga Simiyu- an expert in public security and safety in Kenya- said during a security forum at a university in Nairobi, that student leadership and university administration should work together.
“There should be a framework that clearly defines levels of responsibilities, structures and channels of reporting from the student leadership to the institution,” Capt Werunga pointed out adding that student leaders are more aware of what is going on among students and can thus, advise accordingly we need be.
Image credit: AFP/Getty Images
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