If the United States can record its deadliest mass shooting in history and the nation’s worst terror attack since the 9/11 attacks, then truly, “terror respects no borders and happens to even the best prepared,” former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan remarked. This serves as a huge lesson to other countries of the world, especially African countries battling with terror.
During the early hours of Sunday, Omar Mateen, 29, shot and killed 50 persons at a gay nightclub in Orlando. According to reports, the Police crashed into the building with an armoured vehicle and stun grenades and killed Mateen. Apart from the dead, the incident also left no fewer than 53 injured, according to a police report published by international TV news channel, The Cable News Network (CNN). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials told CNN that it interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014, but was not found to be a threat. It was also reported he (Mateen) pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in a 911 call made during the attack.
An infographic by The Telegraph shows that this Orlando gun attack makes it the 19th mass shooting during Obama presidency since January 2009. So far, mass shootings under Obama has left 224 persons dead, with several others injured. Although mass shootings may not be common in African countries, (perhaps due to the tighter restrictions attached to owning personal firearms), there are many lessons African countries need to learn from this attack.
Terror respects no borders
The United States of America has been at the vanguard of issuing security warnings to several nations based on threats detected or perceived by her intelligence, unfortunately, one would think the US borders are the least susceptible to attacks, but that is not true. One important message this attack has sent out is that, there is no ‘entirely safe’ country. South Africa really needs to take a cue from this mass murder committed by a US resident who was considered ‘no threat’ by FBI. Ventures Africa reported last week why South Africans need to be worried about the terrorist attack warning issued by the US, UK and Australia. At this point it is our hope that the nation’s security minister branding South Africa as ‘a strong and stable democratic country’ in the face of security threat would have learnt something from US shooting. His statement will hardly go far in repelling any possible attack.
A prompt response
African leaders need to learn how to promptly react and decisively respond to emerging issues before they deteriorate beyond normal. For instance, while it took the former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, 19 days to pull a call through to the Governor of Borno State on the over 200 school girls abducted by Boko Haram in April, 2014, it took the US President, Barack Obama less than 12 hours to address the nation on the Orlando shooting. Although comparing the mass abduction in Nigeria with the mass shooting in the US may not lucidly expose how slow and rather vague African leaders can be towards threatening national issues, there is more. President Muhammadu Buhari, till date, hasn’t said much about the activities of the rampaging Fulani herdsmen who have been named one of the deadliest terror groups in the world amongst Boko Haram, Isis, Taliban and al-Shabaab.
Closer watch on terrorist groups’ suspects and sympathizers
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, claimed responsibility for the Orlando shooting in a statement released over an encrypted phone app used by the group, The New York Times reported. It will be difficult to separate this event from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks, globally, during the month of Ramadan. Obviously, ISIL has no defined target during this time. This makes it more difficult for African countries, particularly, those with verified reports of her nationals as members and sympathizers of ISIL or its affiliated groups; some are even residing in their homeland. There is need for local security with/without international collaboration to keep a closer watch at these suspected members and sympathizers. Citizens of African countries like Nigeria and South Africa will not forgive their leaders easily, if they are caught unawares by these terror elements, because they saw it coming.