The numerous terror attacks, violent (and non-violent) protests and riots, along with armed uprisings Africa has— and is witnessing—are an indication that its security services—in particular the intelligence services—are failing their governments, the continent, and their people. Of course, these violent and non-violent actions are moreover an indication of much deeper issues that governments need to give attention to.
But, it is also an indication that intelligence gained from open sources and allied intelligence liaison holds little to no value for African governments as it is neither actionable nor pre-emptive. In many instances this ‘allied intelligence’ is deceptive, misleading, false and purely historical in nature despite being piously referred to as ‘intelligence sharing’ aimed at ending conflicts and wars.
Instead, ‘intelligence’ is frequently used as a channel through which to disseminate fabricated information to create a false sense of security—or exaggerate a threat—with the hopes of eliciting and/or fermenting chaos or a heavy-handed government response. (It is also used to discredit business threats or cast a doubt over people and companies). In addition, the training given to African intelligence services by their so-called allied partners is shockingly sub-standard and in many instances, irrelevant and aimed at rendering them unable to fulfil even basic intelligence collection operations, thus purposely setting them up for failure.
The dangers and risks increase when false information is accepted as ‘intelligence’.
Even with the very best security measures and procedures in place, a government that lacks intelligence will be vulnerable to armed uprisings and/or terror threats.
In late-November 2015 sources reported to us that ‘a large terrorist action’ was going to happen ‘soon’ against a Western target/people somewhere in West Africa. We were, however, unaware of where and what the target was as we had long since left West Africa. But, if we were aware of a pending (terror) attack somewhere in West Africa, what were the intelligence services in West Africa and in particular the Burkina Faso intelligence service and its ‘partnership allies’ doing?
Such attacks are not spontaneous acts of violence carried out by a group of disaffected people who suddenly decide to commit an act of terror. These acts are planned over a period of time and in the process, these groups use a host of different agents, support agents, sympathisers, and radicals who are prepared—and sometimes willing to die—to carry their message(s) across.
Social media is frequently used to distribute instructions, issue warnings, pass on intelligence, and messages and to mobilise their assets and supporters. Sympathetic NGOs, so-called ‘humanitarian organisations’, and other ‘peace loving’ and ‘democratic and freedom seeking’ charities are occasionally used to move their weapons and equipment and assist with distributing the armed protesters and/or terror groups’ propaganda.
But these groups haemorrhage or leak information if only we are willing to make an effort to capture it. Oftentimes, this leakage is very obvious and serves as a perfect early warning of a pending attack.
This begs the question when considering, for example, the attack in Burkina Faso: Where was the intelligence that was supposed to identify that planned action or—at the very least—warn of the potential danger or predict it? Where were the agents and other sources that were supposed to identify such groups and their plans? Or is this another case where the intelligence services were taught how to tie their shoelaces instead of how to do their jobs?
The developing conflict in Burundi is another case in point. Armed violence, criminality and terrorist actions are planned in advance…and are NEVER spontaneous. Seldom are they launched without large-scale foreign backing and support—as Cote d’Ivore demonstrated.
The lack of actionable and predicted intelligence—or the inability and/or unwillingness of the intelligence services to collect it—places the government at a severe disadvantage and provides the enemy or threat with a multitude of advantages and options. At times, actionable intelligence is discarded when it does not match the perceived reality of the government or the recipient—or, as has happened in the past, the intelligence is rejected by a so-called Western ally as ‘nonsense’ and ‘rubbish’ only for it to come back and bite everyone. Blind acceptance of misconceived allied assessments is a grave folly. (Sadly for Africa, some of its so-called allies are silently working at destabelising governments whilst trying to act the ‘good guys’).
Neglecting the intelligence required to ensure the security of the nation and the longevity and stability of a government and the state is both irresponsible and costing Africa dearly. Instead, governments are increasingly faced with domestic and foreign-funded anti-government forces (AGFs) and proxy forces intent on sowing terror and creating chaos with the aim of destabelising entire countries and toppling governments to ensure foreign control over their interests.
But conflicts and wars in Africa are never ending—and indeed, will escalate over the coming years. As long as intelligence is neglected and/or ignored—these actions will continue to take governments by surprise. The collateral damage and humanitarian fallout from these conflicts and wars is incalculable.
In early 2016, the United Nations (UN) called for an estimated US$ 40bn annually to assist and support the growing number of people requiring humanitarian aid. US Dollars Forty Billion. And apparently this is not enough….as there is a US$ 15bn funding gap. Indeed, with that amount of money annually and continually given over a 5-year period, most African conflicts and wars could be over and the national armies, law enforcement agencies, and intelligence services retrained and reequipped to be very effective security forces. It is, after all, the many conflicts and wars that have resulted in so many people requiring humanitarian aid.
But, as many in Africa—especially those in the DRC, CAR, Cote d’Ivore, Darfur, Burundi, South Sudan, and others—can testify, the UN is not exactly objective, trusted or able to live up to its promises to protect the innocent and keep the peace. The little trust there was in the UN is rapidly disappearing down a very deep hole. The perception that the UN peacekeepers are nothing other than ‘tourists in helicopters’ that commit crimes against the very people they need to protect will intensify over time.
But, as long as African governments continue to neglect their security structures and fail to collect and act on intelligence, they will fail the continent and these funds will go to organisations that exploit these tragedies to make money.
Ironically, these same organisations condemn those who actually do something to end conflicts and wars—probably because ending conflicts and wars is very bad for their business and their control over African governments.