Security in Africa: How can African countries protect themselves from bandits and terrorists?

While the world community is trying to learn how to live in a new world, created by the global COVID-19 pandemic, tectonic shifts in the field of security are taking place in Africa. Researchers and military observers have already begun to sound the alarm, but the general public representatives still do not understand how much the situation on the continent has changed. Armed groups, terrorists and mere bandits are reaching a new level of cooperation and training: they are no longer small formations chaotically seeking violence and easy profit. Coalitions and associations of gangs are beginning to pose a real threat to the entire continent.

We managed to get a comment from the former Lieutenant-Colonel of the French Foreign Legion, Patrice Laurent Noel, who now offers his expertise as a military observer and analyst. Mr. Noel has many years of experience serving in African countries, such as, for example, Mali, and today he joins the concerned voices of experts who predict an aggravation of the situation in Africa.

According to Mr. Noel, the situation in Africa is already extremely unstable: the armed groups that were forced out of Libya are spreading to neighboring regions in search of new locations that will allow them to take a break and set new targets. Coupled with the activity of the Algerian authorities, who began to pay more attention to the protection of their borders, an undesirable contingent from the north of Africa moved inland, already flooding Nigeria and the southern territories of Chad, penetrating into the Central African Republic.

However, as the expert points out, since the reformed army of the CAR with the support of its Russian allies shows a high level of organization and professionalism, it does not seem that the armed groups will be able to gain a foothold in this region. Consequently, in the nearest future they will continue to migrate to more weakened countries, such as the DRC, South Sudan and Cameroon. This is fraught with major security problems, primarily for small countries such as Ghana or Equatorial Guinea, especially those that have significant reserves of natural resources.

In the context of the current state of affairs on the continent, these countries will be predictable and easy for terrorists and armed groups: the fight against large opponents has taught them to be fast and elusive in the first place, and the tactics that they have more or less successfully used in larger countries can be destructive for the security systems of smaller countries in Africa.

Given the significantly changed structures of gangs, their training and equipment, military observer Patrice Laurent Noel is sure that states like Equatorial Guinea will not be able to tackle such a threat without outside help.  Modern fighters of African armed groups no longer run around with self-made guns, they use modern, often large-caliber weapons, they have large-caliber machine guns and mortars, they master modern combat techniques.

“Just imagine,” says Patrice Laurent Noel, “An African capital. All of a sudden, 82mm mortars shots start thundering – panic, horror, civilian casualties. I know from experience that such events would unsettle poorly trained military personnel of many African countries. They are not used to such methods of fighting on the part of the armed groups”.

That is why many military experts point out that in order to adequately and timely prepare to repel the growing activity of terrorists and bandits, African leaders need to seek professional help. It is the reason why some leaders turn to private security companies, but Lieutenant Colonel Noel warns that not every security company can provide the necessary level of security when faced with such daring opponents as modern African armed groups. To adequately respond to modern security challenges in Africa, it is necessary not only to employ someone with relevant professional training, but also to find personnel with real combat experience, which is not possessed by all those who offer their services in this specific market.

According to Mr. Noel, former soldiers of the French Foreign Legion who are actively working in the military sphere on the African continent are quite well prepared, but Patrice Laurent Noel cites the South African company Executive Outcomes, which successfully worked on the continent in the 1990s-2000s, as an example of the most successful company in this field. The reason for Executive Outcomes success was that the backbone of the company consisted of former professional military personnel with enormous work experience, ready for both protracted positional battles and lightning-fast operations. The company had logistics capabilities at its disposal, as well as aviation, armored vehicles and heavy weapons. Today, only Russian mercenaries from the PMCs can compare with them, even outperforming Executive Outcomes in some areas.

It becomes clear that Africa leaders do not have much time left to develop a cohesive defense strategy.  If the leaders fail to find a sustainable decision, and the armed groups gain a foothold in their countries, it will be much more difficult to push them out. An integrated and balanced approach based on many years of experience and modern equipment is what is required from the partners of African countries now. The terrorists and bandits of the continent are evolving, their weapons are becoming better and more modern. That is why African leaders must find partners capable of giving these illegal armed groups an adequate retaliatory strike.

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