Humans need not justify terrorism of any kind, regardless of whether one is Muslim, Christian or Jew, because it is the axis of evil and devastation of mankind. However, the deliberate use of the term terrorism in recent decades was carefully selected, mainly, against a certain religion (Islam). The idea was then globally politicized by the Western world. Leaving that scholarly view in its own right, we disagree with the opinion raising terrorism as the devil’s just‐born child of evil, when in reality Africans had been terrorized for centuries as slaves and human chattel. Hence the basis for the concept of this thesis: conceptualizing the episode of ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist’ from the broader perspective of its practice from the Middle Passage or the Atlantic Slave Trade. To portray that argument and broaden the scope of the debate over this critically sensitive subject, we divided the discussion into three
sections: an examination of what constitutes terrorism and terrorist; history of terrorism and terrorists from an Africa perspective; and the ideological
constraints within the subject of terrorism as practiced by the US and its Western allies.
What constitutes terrorism and who is a terrorist? Who should define these terms and whose definition(s) should be taken as more reliable and therefore validated? Who should validate these definitions and qualifications and from whose viewpoint should they be appraised? These are provocative questions many would like to avoid. Others would juxtapose this definitional crisis to that of: Who is an African? – a hard‐nut question to which African scholar, Jideofor Adibe (2009) dedicated an entire volume of about 16 chapters. But unlike the qualification for Africanity, which holds no one criminal for denigrating or violating the identity, the qualifications terrorist or terrorism are guided and backed by eminent legal institutions that prefer crimes against those incriminated or suspected of involvement and, therefore, bear harsh consequences. This concern is what heightens the criticality of the subject and the inherent suspicion surrounding it. The underpinning anxiety over these consequences and evidence of victims of ‘mistaken identity’ in the course of tracking down, apprehending and punishing presumed terrorists, call for adequate and uncontroversial definitions and interpretations of these ambiguous twin terms. The topic becomes deeply complicated when even the protagonists of the ‘global fight against terrorism’ could not reach a proper consensus on how to define the terms. “Even the events of 11 September 2001 could not get the UN Security Council agree to a common definition of
terrorism,” Cilliers (2003:92).
Notwithstanding the models and possible commonalities of some of these definitions and views, whether observed from scholarly or official lenses, the fact yet remains that “[d]efining terrorism is by no means an easy task,” Foster‐Towne (2010). Paraphrasing Griset and
Mahan, Foster‐Towne argues that over “one hundred definitions of terrorism exist.” The allusion to this obfuscation discerns the infinitive indistinctness of the terms as both “fluid and dynamic,” according to Foster‐Towne. Recent descriptions suggest that the “[k]ey to understanding the thinking behind terrorism is that terrorism seeks to induce retaliation,” a fact which rests on the generally accepted doctrine that “Terrorism serves to terrorize” (Cilliers, 2003:92).
The complication mainly originates from the Westerners who fabricate their definitions as and when they serve their particular interests and contexts: leaving out core words and sometimes inserting others or reframing parts altogether into vague readings of immense complexity. One of such interpolations defines terrorism as “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes,” as Hubschle (2003:18) quotes from Resolution 54/110 of December 1999. Whether the Resolution adopted this definition to deliberately obscure the economic aspects of terrorism or whether the term ‘political’ was the focus and contemplation of the context of terrorism at that time, it is self‐axiomatic that it cannot in any manner degrade or escape the economic implications of terrorism, domestically as well as globally, since some of the core reasons behind the West’s engagement with terrorism include the protection of ‘western interests’ which is essentially economic.
In the essay “Terrorism and Africa”, Jackie Cilliers, refers to Article 3(2) of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, also known as the Palermo Convention. In our observation, from the point of view of this Convention, the Western countries which indulged in the heinous practices of slavery and/or colonialism, would have undergone condemnation for their acts of terror and subsequently entered into the book of culprits at the ICC (equivalent to the Jewish Holocaust), for committing crimes against humanity, and this, regardless of time or space. But again, whereas the Western ideological blanket spreads its view of terrorism on the basis of threatening a group that may not constitute the real target, which suggests remoteness to the reaches of the terrorist, we draw our broader version of terrorism on the basis of directly and deliberately planned actions of terror as were specifically designed by the West, and so raptly, to achieve economic ends through the terrorization of the African people, socially, economically and culturally.
But can these diverse interpretations and views be treated as universal for them to accommodate the contending views of the describers of terrorism and the described as terrorists? Foster‐Towne illuminates the phenomenon as one with “complex fluidity,” which is absolutely true, considering Africa’s variant laws injected recently into the terrorism corpus. Emeritus Professor, Ali Mazrui, (2006) visits the issue with a concern and writes, “The trouble with all new African legislation against terrorism is the simple issue of definition—what is a terrorist?” (P. 98). He goes as far as commenting on these laws, particularly in Kenya, as “a catch‐all phrase” (P. 99). Indeed ‘the trouble’ occurs because partly, if not mainly, ‘all new African legislation against terrorism’ is derived from (and interpreted along the lines of) highly contentious and destructively motivated Western documents and perceptions. So, in the course of merging those with the domestic view, cracks and flaws emerge to agitate demonstrable public disgruntlement. In principle, we argue that what constitutes the phraseology ‘acts of terrorism’ should be defined and highlighted holistically and according to a global consensus and contributions from experts and scholars across the globe, and not merely in light of the dubiously worded interpretational subtleties of Western tutelage.
They shipped the most healthy wherever possible, taking the trouble to get those who had already survived an attack of smallpox, and who were therefore immune from further attacks of that disease. – Walter Rodney