Last year , I wrote an article titled "Alqueda, ISIS, Alshabab & Boko Haram: Different manifestations of the devil set loose" in which I opined that the extreme Islamic Fundamentalism that we were witnessing in many parts of the World was nothing but the end time manifestations of the devil as predicted in the Holy Bible . But last week after the Paris multiple terrorist attacks that took more than 129 lives ( now risen to over 180), the Pope brought home to me the reality when he declared that was happening was akin to a Third World War . This categorization resonated with me so much and I presume with many other people. The French President called it a war against France but in reality it is much more than that. It is a global war.
Looking back now, we can see that the war started on the 11th of September, 2001 in the United States of America with Alqueda leading the war. In that first shot, over 2000 citizens of many Nations were killed. Before now, the group was preparing for the the war in Afghanistan and the Neighbouring Pakistan. After a major success in the USA, the battle front moved to the UK with the bombing of the London Underground transportation system. Then it moved to North America ( Egypt &Tanzania) and down East and Central Africa( Somalia & Kenya) with Alshabab leading and soon Bokoharam came on board covering the West African flank( Nigeria, Chad, Niger & Cameroun). When George Bush and Barak Obama thought they had contained Alqueda , a more virulent division named Islamic State or ISIS joined in the offensive and became more brutal than all the earlier divisions put together. Their primary focus was in the Middle East where they took plenty of Iraqi and Syrian territory, introducing the savagery of beheading Foreign captives. Thereafter they moved to Europe with a lot of focus on France. After the Paris attack of November 13 this year, they have sent warning to the USA that they were on their way to US cities. Just as the People of the world were trying to absorb the pains of the Paris attack, the Alqueda in the Maghreb hit a hotel in Bamako, Mali killing 21 people from Different Countries- French, Israeli,Lebanese, American amongst the dead.
Meanwhile in Nigeria and the Cameroons, Boko haram remains active sending innocent people to early graves on a daily basis in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Gombe, Yola and Kano, sometimes coming close to Abuja. Several attempts have been made by them to move to the South of Nigeria, but have been largely unsuccessful for now except for an incident in Owerri Imo State last year.
This war has spread to all the continents- North America, Europe, Africa, Oceania, Middle East and Asia. The only continent that seems to be currently unaffected is South America. Thus in terms of territorial involvement, this third World war has affected more regions than both the first and second World wars which were concentrated essentially in Europe. It has consumed Nationals from almost all countries in the World. The battle is fought in all fronts and in all spheres. There are no fixed theaters ,there are no boundaries or battle lines, and no rules of engagement. In this war all is fair, no regard to Geneva convention or any convention at all. Air planes are bombed in situ or brought down by missiles . The war is fought in stadia, motor parks, in Churches, in Mosques, Hotels ,in Holiday resorts, along the highways and in cinema halls and night clubs. The weaponry is diverse and includes butchers knives, matchets, Bombs, IEDs, rockets, Ak-47 and extends to chemical weapons as we saw in Syria, and as is being threatened in Europe now. The combatants are of all ages and all sexes, including minors and teenage girls. The battle dresses are of all types including civilian mufti, army camouflage and Islamic hijab. No where is off limit and there are no rear positions. There are no prisoners of war except those used as pawns to extort funds. This Third World War is unconventional largely and asymmetric in conduct and creates extreme difficulty to confront.
Unlike the first and second World wars that pitched many of the Nations against each other in the Triple Entente ( Britain, France and Russia) and the Triple Alliance( Germany,Italy, Austria and Hungary), this Third World War seems to unite most Nations, including arch rivals and arch enemies. After the recent Paris attack, and after ISIS claimed responsibility for bringing down the Russian Metrojet plane on flight from Egypt to Russia killing about 224 people on board the plane, it was nice to see US President, the Russian President, the French President and the German chancellor discuss with the Turkish President in Ankra on how to deal with a common enemy- Global terrorism. The challenge is that while there is apparent unity among the leaders of the world to fight terrorism, the enemy is not easy to identify. The guy sitting next to you at the mosque or riding the same train to whom you just said hi , may turn out the next minute to be the enemy. A fellow National who lives in the same neighbourhood may just turn out to be the leader of the next attack against the Neighbours .
The reality is that we are in severe perilous times. The challenge is how to live through this third world war which started 14 years ago and which seems to be intensifying with increasing mortalities and morbidities. The first step is for us to come to accept the grim reality that we are at war. A global war that has no boundaries. Waiting to be hit or attacked before coming to this realization is dangerous. This reality helps us to contemplate preemptive and proactive measures. All Nations, States and Peoples must engage in debates and studies of the patterns of this war and design protocols to preempt or prevent attacks. Secondly, we must rev up our emergency preparedness. Many countries of Africa( Nigeria inclusive) are poorly equipped to handle emergencies. This should be a major preoccupation of States and Nations. Much lives can be saved, if victims of terrorist acts can be quickly evacuated for medical emergency management. Thirdly, at the individual level, a heightened level of surveillance and environmental monitoring is called for. To win this kind of war in which we are all potential enemies, then we are must all become combatants. To leave the battle to only the security agencies will not work. Every citizen must be trained or must train himself in the art of intelligence gathering and covert action. Most of the terrorist plots are made within the communities, even if they will be carried out in other locations. If we are sensitive and keep our eyes open, we can notice some of the moves and help to nip them in the bud. I strongly recommend that the governments should pay a lot more attention to citizen recruitment in the execution of this war against Global terrorism. Focusing only on arming the Security forces may limit insurgency but may never stop terrorist acts targeted at soft targets.
It is important that this War is brought to an end at the earliest opportunity. The economic cost to the World is becoming humongous. Air travel has become a major risk. The inconvenience experienced by air travellers is getting more excruciating by the day. Tourism is gradually being killed all over the World after what happened in Tunisia, Kenya and Egypt. Resources for National and Global economic development are being diverted to fighting this war. Indeed Global Economic growth is severely threatened and the progress in human civilization is either being slowed down or even being reversed with the conduct of such psychopaths like Jihadi John who cut off human heads in full television glare, acts which we thought ended 2000 years ago. Finally, is there any political solution to this war? I am not sure there is because, when ISIS says they want to create a global caliphate where everybody would be under Islamic law or when Boko Haram says they do not want anybody to go to school, what kind of political solution is possible? But then, if we can find the authentic leaders of these groups, discussing with them may not be completely out of place. In all of this, we must all go back to the creator of the World and ask for His Help in dealing with this very unusual challenge. Let us pray.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR