Fighting the complex and diverse wars of today requires us to be prepared to face an enemy who has no scruples in utilising crime, and total terror against innocent civilians in order to coerce their support with the aim of placing themselves into power.
This does not mean that conventional land battles are something of the past and unconventional warfare something of the future. The fact remains that armies need to prepare for both scenarios as well as their various off-shoots. In many instances, they will need to conduct these missions in support of the law enforcement agencies.
Utilising unconventional methods, and in the process developing their armed gangs, we have allowed these unconventional forces to move funds and equipment, ie arms and ammunition, and in some instances, sympathetic governments have even provided these thugs with passports or allowed their territories to be used for “training”.
This has given numerous terrorist groups freedom of movement as well as financial freedom. Sometimes hidden beneath layers of ostensibly legitimate business, their activities aimed at instilling terror continue – and in some instances they are still able to move large sums of money, albeit in the shape of resources, to fund their activities and crimes. Even more so when they act as proxies for governments who plan the demise of neighbouring states or aim at creating regional instability.
Much has been done with international banking laws and regulations to follow the money trail but I suspect it is the wrong approach to follow. Ex-President Thabo Mbeki recently made the claim that Africa loses US$ 50 Bn annually to illegal activities. Whereas I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this figure, I do know that the amount lost in terms of monetary value is huge. Not only has this undermined the continent, some of this funding has also enriched and empowered those that seek to cause instability.
I dislike using the “when we” label, but when Executive Outcomes assisted African governments with devising military strategies, the prime strategic military targets were the sources of funding. This led to an outcry in the local and international media with wild claims that the company was interested in seizing the sources of funding – mainly diamonds and oil – for its own purposes.
Had those who shouted the loudest spent five minutes thinking about it, the reasons for following that strategy would have become quite obvious:
1. Deny the enemy his source of income
2. With no income, no weapons can be purchased or replaced
3. With no funding, freedom of movement is curtailed
4. With no funding, the enemy will slowly bleed itself into destruction.
What the military-strategists-posing-as-journalists failed to understand was that the enemy – call them rebels, terrorists, activists or whatever – were resorting to criminal and terror activities in order to overthrow legitimate governments. In their foolish attempts to create suspicion on the company, these so-called journalists were not only assisting the rebels but also condoning crime. The crimes got worse when young children were forced to kill their parents and elders as they were coerced into joining rebel or terror networks. This was conveniently not reported.
It is no secret that illegally mined gold and diamonds are leaving the African shores to be sold elsewhere. Much of these profits are filtered back into radical terror networks. This continued access to funds allows them to perpetuate their activities, be they crime or terror actions.
It is also no secret that some countries in Africa have become transit points for drugs shipments to Europe – some of these shipments being coordinated by criminal groups with close association with terror groups.
Despite these facts, we have done very little or nothing to attack the source of the funding. Instead, we have given these forces the freedom to continue with their activities. Ironically, they are doing so in total safety with no real aggressive efforts to stop them.
We need to drastically step up our intelligence gathering capabilities, formulate intelligence-based strategies to attack the sources of funding to reclaim our stability and neutralise those who threaten it. We need to conduct this with aggression and vigour and give no quarter to those who seek to disrupt peace and replace it with terror.
As long as we leave the sources of funding intact, we allow these people to continue with their actions, erode our belief in the state, damage our safety and security and implement their form of rule through savagery.