Ekhomu also discussed terrorism in the nation of Mali, which is landlocked between seven other West African nations. In 2012, Islamic extremists overran and imposed Sharia rule on Mali’s north, which includes prohibiting many aspects of traditional Malian society, as well as the burning of a library of historic manuscripts and the destruction of the 1547 mausoleum of revered Muslim scholar and Sufi saint Sidi Mahmoud Ben Amar and other tombs deemed “un-Islamic.” The tombs are part of the Timbuktu UNESCO World Heritage site.
On December 20, 2012, the United Nations Security Council unanimously authorized the deployment of an African-led military force to help defeat the Islamist militants in northern Mali. Mali’s former colonial master, France, launched air strikes and sent in troops, which quickly changed the tactical situation, Ekhomu said. “The French forces have since been withdrawn from Mali, and African forces are conducting peacekeeping. Mali recently swore in a democratically elected president. None of this democracy would have been possible without French intervention to dislodge the militants, terrorists, and insurgents,” he stated.
“These Islamists want to overthrow governments and set up Islamic states with Sharia laws and do away with metropolitan laws,” Ekhomu reiterated. “And it is easy for them to do this in West Africa because the rulers of some of these nations are consumed with self-aggrandizement and they don’t pay attention to the welfare of their citizens. There are issues of poverty, natural disasters, and more that play into it. There is food insecurity and corruption. It makes it easy for terrorists, who feel they have a purer and better form of government, to aspire to take over. They tap into national causes and give them a religious spin to create national ideologies. This helps with recruitment to get foot soldiers who will carry bombs and blow themselves up. Because of poor governors and weak institutions, it is easy to keep replicating themselves,” Ekhomu explained.
For businesses, nongovernmental agencies, financial institutions, and infrastructure, such as telecommunication, in the Sahel, both facilities and employees need ramped-up protection procedures. “The corporations are getting hit with a lot of kidnappings of their staffers, and maybe even family members,” Ekhomu told Security Management.
Ekhomu urged businesses in the Sahel to improve their threat awareness and vigilance, continually analyze the risk spectrum, target-harden their facilities, and share information with law enforcement and the military.