In South Africa, which is sometimes affectionately refereed to as a “rainbow nation,” gangs of black South African residents have taken machetes and torches to immigrants accused of taking scarce jobs and undermining an already unstable economy. According to the South African defense minister, this latest string of violence has killed at least seven people this month.
The anti-immigration violence is not new to South Africa. This type of bloodshed took place in 2008, killing 62 and displacing another 100,000 people. The world awoke to the type of atrocities that were happening in South Africa when Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, a native of Mozambique, was photographed while being burned alive. His murder investigation was recently closed after a very questionable police investigation unsurprisingly resulted in no witnesses.
Both Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram and Al Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab have referenced the riots in recent propaganda statements. Boko Haram has threatened that if the South African government does not limit this violence and stop the inexcusable murdering of Nigerians, it will execute all South Africans residing in Nigeria, Chad, Niger, and other surrounding countries. The embassies in those countries are being threatened as well.
Al-Shabaab has posted messages on social media sites with phrases explaining that “We (Al-Shabaab) will enter Durban” and “For all the foreign lives lost in SA (South Africa) there is a price to pay”.
Why have Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab insinuated themselves into the South Africa “xenophobia” story?
Recently, Kenya’s military and its people have waged character assassinations against the Somali people in retaliation for the attack on Garissa University that killed 148 people. Kenya sent a request to the United Nations to shut down Dadaab, one of the biggest refugee camps in Kenya for Somalia people. Kenyan security officials previously described Dadaab as a breeding ground for terror and a primary recruiting ground for Al-Shabaab in recent years. The camp’s house would force out more than 350,000 Somalia inhabitants back into Somalia. This perception of repression would only feed into the plight of the Somali people as their government has yet to defend them. Al-Shabaab is sure to take advantage of the maltreatment of the Somali people and form a tight knit community whose mission is to advance sharia law.
According to Aden Duale, a member of the Garissa Township National Assembly, Al-Shabaab is said to train in camps such as Daab and further conduct radicalization classes and suicide bombers from the camp. Both Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab’s advancement of protecting their own people from “xenophobia” can possibly lead to further destabilization of established governments due to the lack of respect for a class of people.
Jihadist organizations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab are using classic insurgency tactics to radicalize a group of people and create homegrown terrorism. The refusal by the Kenyan government to acknowledge homegrown terrorism only gives more precedence for Al-Shabaab to operate safely and securely in refugee camps.
This refusal to acknowledge homegrown terrorism can translate to the global jihad movement within the United States. Since 1991, the U.S. State Department has imported more than 100,000 Somali nationals directly from United Nations refugee camps into U.S. cities and towns. According to State Department estimates, they arrive at a rate of 5,000 to 12,000 per year.