COVID-19 has captured everyone’s attention and is likely to remain a top policy priority for most of 2020. Pandemic-focused coverage has eclipsed many other recent developments and continues to dominate the news cycle. COVID19 is spreading fast in the horn of Africa region and the larger Eastern Africa with Djibouti leading in the number of confirmed cases followed by, Tanzania, Somalia and Kenya. A number of these countries have been a playground for Al-Qaida’s most powerful branch in Africa- Al Shabaab.
While these countries engage most of their efforts and resources on battling the pandemic, the radical group is going on with their usual business of madness and mashing. Since the onset of the holy month of Ramadhan, Al-Shabaab has carried out dozens of attacks inside Somalia and Kenya.
Al-Shabaab has even weighed in on the covid19 pandemic, calling it a divine punishment targeting the ‘unbelievers’ in the West. In an audio message recently released by the group, Al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Dheere called on Somalis to reject vaccines for any diseases “as that is one of the ways that the non-believers want to import these
diseases to the Muslim world”.
As the group continues to wage their insurgencies and exploit vulnerabilities – irrespective of the pandemic – East African countries and their partners must consolidate and build on the efforts and achievements gained. While tackling COVID-19 and mitigating its impact is an additional burden, it is crucial that no one turns away from the security situation and the threat posed by jihadist groups.