President Barack Obama said on Tuesday after the Uganda bombings that groups like al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda saw Africa as a place where life was cheap and innocents could be killed for little political
In an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to be broadcast early on Wednesday, the US leader took aim at the motivations of extremists who are increasingly active on the continent.
“What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organisations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself,” Obama said.
“They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains.”
Obama’s interview marked the first, direct, comments by the president on the bombings in Kampala, which sowed death among crowds watching footage of the World Cup final on Sunday, killing 76 people.
A senior American official made clear Obama was making a direct political and ideological challenge to al-Qaeda affiliates on the continent, which US intelligence agencies say are the extremist group’s most active franchises.
“The president references the fact that both US intelligence and past al-Qaeda actions make clear that al-Qaeda and the groups like [al-Shabaab] that they inspire — do not value African life.
“In short, al-Qaeda is a racist organisation that treats black Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life,” the official said, on condition of anonymity.
Obama also dwelt in the interview on the cruel timing of the attacks, after a different US official earlier gave credence to Somalia-based al-Shabaab’s claim to have carried them out.
“It was so tragic and ironic to see an explosion like this take place when people in Africa were celebrating and watching the World Cup take place in South Africa,” he said in excerpts released by the White House.
“On the one hand, you have a vision of an Africa on the move, an Africa that is unified, an Africa that is modernising and creating opportunities.
“On the other hand, you’ve got a vision of al-Qaeda and [al-Shabaab) that is about destruction and death.
“And I think it presents a pretty clear contrast in terms of the future that most Africans want for themselves and their children. And we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to support those who want to build, as opposed to want to destroy.”
The blasts that ripped through a crowded bar and a restaurant in Kampala on Sunday have been claimed by al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia, who called them retaliation for the presence of Ugandan troops in Mogadishu.
The bombings — for which the death toll had risen to 76 overnight –were the deadliest in East Africa since al-Qaeda attacks against the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1988.
They were the first ever attack by the al-Shabaab outside Somalia, marking an unprecedented internationalisation of Somalia’s 20-year-old civil war. – AFP