In this special series on what to expect in 2018, GCN specialists assess the political, economic, and social contexts of countries to identify potential security concerns for the Christian population in the coming year. This special series will run over three weeks covering countries in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. We begin this special series with a special focus on countries in Africa written by GCN Contributor Hassan John.
In 2018, the combined terrorist activities of Boko Haram Jihadists and Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen will still remain the greatest threats to Christians in Nigeria and at least four countries in West Africa and perhaps the world.
Boko Haram Islamic terror groups will continue to attack villages in Borno and Adamawa states, destroying villages and killing dozens of people. The Nigerian Army’s engagements with the terror group have reduced the attacks in major cities in 2017, but the mayhem in rural communities in Borno state still continues. Soldiers, as well as civilians, have been killed by the Islamists.
The Islamic Fulani cattle herdsmen, will continue their rampage in the middle-belt region of the country, destroying villages in a scorched-earth strategy to ensure Christian farmers are unable to return to the land. The herdsmen also deliberately target women and children in their attacks.
It is absolutely certain that these risks for Christians will remain because of a lack of commitment by the federal government to tackle the Islamist groups. The President of Nigeria is Muslim and so are most of the state governors where these attacks are happening. Christian communities claim that they have shown little or no commitment to protecting them.
The year ended with an escalation of the attacks in Adamawa and parts of Plateau states. The ban by two states – Benue and Taraba – on open grazing to help curb the crises between the Islamic Fulani herdsmen and indigenous Christian farmers seems to be yielding results as the attacks have dwindled in these states. There is a pressure on Plateau state to enact a bill to ban open grazing.
The federal government has allocated $1 billion to fight Boko Haram, ignoring the Fulani herdsmen attacks on communities, and has met with lots of criticisms and condemnation because of the lack of clarity and contradictions on what the money is really meant for.
The killing of four American green berets October 2017 has shown the volatility of the security situation in the country. The merger of three terror groups earlier this year and the affiliation of the Al Barnawi sect of the Boko Haram Islamist group from Nigeria continue to raise concerns about security and the build-up and possible eventual breaking out of terrorist groups in the West Africa Region.
Niger is fast becoming an incubation ground for terrorism. The UN raised an alarm over the movement of about 6000 ISIS fighters, moving from Syria towards the region.
The inability of the Nigerian army and West Africa Multi-national forces to curb Boko Haram leaves a lot of questions of the ability of the region to contain any major outbreak of Jihadi terrorist groups in Niger. The indication that 2018 will see more terrorist activity in the region is therefore extremely likely
The role the Church particularly the Catholic Priest, Father Fidelis Mukonori, in the departure of former President Robert Mugabe may never be disclosed by the church itself. What, however, is clear, going by what President Mugabe said, is that the Church had been part of the negotiations to get Mugabe to step down and make room for a civilian transitional government to take over from him.
For the first time in any African country, there was a ‘coup’ that was bloodless and both the incoming and ousted presidents have a settlement in mutual respect and the preservation of the dignity of the deposed.
What is left to be seen, in 2018, is whether the country can heal from its wounds of racial abuse and segregation brought about by the forceful ejection of farmlands from enterprising white landowners and given to unskilled local farmers, which degenerated and destroyed the country’s economy.
While Zimbabwe, priding itself as a predominantly Christian country, has been spared religious terrorism, it economic woes, resulting in poverty, weak purchasing power and high rate of unemployment have become the albatross.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ability to transform the old brigade into an effective economic force in a post-modern society will be the test for the country and its ability to forge ahead in 2018.