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Africa-Syria-Iraq

Collateral damage feared in Africa after Syria, Iraq airstrikes

Airstrikes in Middle East could have repercussions across Africa
Airstrikes in Middle East could have repercussions across Africa REUTERS/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation

Western airstrikes in Syria and Iraq are likely to fuel conflicts in Africa, a conflict research seminar was told in Pretoria on Thursday.

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“Deliberate or not, the main drivers of international terrorism today are the policies and actions of the United States and its western allies,” said Jakkie Cilliers, the executive director of the Institute for Security Studies.

Counterinsurgencies that have focussed on military responses and ignored political factors have often led to human rights abuses that are also fuelling political violence, the seminar heard.

“In Kenya, Nigeria and many other [countries] the response of the government and the security agencies to international acts, to terrorist acts, have worsened the problem,” Cilliers noted, adding that they have been long-lasting in countries like Somalia, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“These are all countries that have been the target of US interventions and this had led to devastation, chaos, deteriorating domestic security and extensive displacement,” Cilliers said.

Political violence has soared in Africa since 2011, according to Cilliers who noted however that the instability was affecting a relatively small number of countries: 92% of people who died due to political violence in Africa last year were from nine countries (out of 54 African Union members).

Observers fear that Africa’s youthful population, rapid urbanisation, rampant poverty and inequalities are likely to continue fostering violence in Africa – despite robust economic growth in some countries.

“The myth that Africa will become peaceful and develop is nothing but a myth,” Cilliers argued. “Development and instability have always gone hand in hand.”

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