In a recent statement, the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Honourable Mamadou Tangara revealed that some Gambians might have joined the Jihadists movements in Libya. It is estimated that there are over eighteen thousand Gambians in that country, either residing there or on transit to Europe.
Since that country entered into the turmoil it is in, due to the ouster of then strong man Muammar Gaddafi, Jihadists have used it as a hotbed and a recruiting ground for new intakes that they then indoctrinate and release, as it were, into the world to cause havoc and chaos.
One of the very complex issues which make it easy for these Jihadists to recruit young people is the extreme poverty that many of them wallow in. Disgruntled youth who have no job opportunities and do not even know where to get the next meal, and who wish to make something of their lives can easily be manipulated and recruited to join terrorist groups like ISIS, Al-Qa’idah or Boko Haram.
These are then trained in combat and sometimes bomb making and they usually go back to their communities and seek to fight the sometimes-imagined injustices that they or their family members once faced. The unfortunate part is that civilians who know nothing about these issues – women and children – suffer the brunt of the atrocities.
It is only too often to hear of the great suffering caused by so-called Jihadists who sometime know almost nothing about the religion they often claim to be fighting for. They just go around bombing or attacking people with knives and guns when they cannot even say why they are doing it. The case of the abduction of girls in Nigeria and other places to be used as sex slaves is a case in point.
What do we do if and when those Gambians who have been radicalized come home and start causing havoc in our small but peaceful country? Do we have the expertise to investigate and arrest such perpetrators when they do us harm? But perhaps it is better to seek preventive measures first so as to avoid the huge loss of lives that we hear of in faraway countries.
Firstly, it is necessary for the Government of the Gambia to do more to create job opportunities here at home so that the young people do not have to seek to risk their lives going back way. An idle mind, it is said, is the devil’s workshop. If the young people have nothing to do and they have unmet needs, there is a likelihood that they will embark on such journeys which expose them to the recruiters of these Jihadist movements.
Secondly, the Government must set up a dedicated anti-terrorism unit among the security services, if there isn’t any. If there is, then these should be given enough and proper training to detect any activities that may lead to such happenings. This must be a unit that will be proactive rather than being reactionary as prevention is better than cure.
Such a unit should be given the proper funding to do their work satisfactorily so that nothing will take the Government by surprise. The Government must also seek collaboration with other countries that have had a share of this problem so that they can learn best practices to utilize in the fight against terror.
In the short term however, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should collaborate with the Ministry of the Interior and agencies like SIS to find out who has been radicalized and seek remedies before it is too late.