Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Africa's Declining Capacity to Manage Conflicts

Africa’s Declining Capacity To Manage Conflicts

On March 18, 2014 @ 12:53 pm
By Makinde Collins

At a recent debate in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, organized by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a political think-tank with ties to Germany’s Social Democratic Party, stakeholders called on the leadership of Africa, especially ECOWAS to address its declining capacity to manage conflicts.

Although views were expressed by different panelists at the debate, Jibrin Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Centre for Democracy and Development, observed that in the past ECOWAS had achieved a lot of successes on conflict management.

He cited the successful interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone as defining moments in the capacity, history and political will of ECOWAS to intervene in crisis situations.

According to him, “When we intervened so successfully in these countries, there was a leader for the region and that leader was Nigeria. Today we find ourselves in a situation where Nigeria itself is facing its own challenges.”

Ibrahim lamented that capacity question of ECOWAS member states had also been exacerbated by the paucity of funds to finance military operations.

According to him, the crisis of governance in several ECOWAS member states has also undermined their capacity to intervene in conflict situations in the region.

Last month, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser Dasuki made a point that Nigerian troops were currently deployed in 32 states out of 36. No doubt that in addition to those deployments, the country is facing active insurgencies in some parts of the country.

Our declining capacity to manage some of these conflicts which have threatened the foundations of several African nations forced most countries to seek support from western countries.

Unfortunately to Africa, these western countries exaggerate for their purpose the level of terrorist threat in Africa towards promoting their own interests on the continent including increase of their military presence in the region.

Some security experts are of the view that jihadists “do not pose a very serious threat for Africa because, for example, of their small number of troops: ‘Al-Shabab’ – some thousands of fighters, ‘Boko Haram’ – some hundreds of members, different Mali groups – not more then one thousand each.

Last month, some world leaders who were in Abuja for Nigeria’s Centenary celebration, pledged their support to Africa’s most populous country in its fight against terrorism.

According to EU President, Jose Manuel Barroso, the bloc had contributed one billion U.S. dollars to support peace and security in Africa.

Barroso also reiterated EU’s commitment to share counter-piracy knowledge with African countries, to strengthen their efforts to overcome threats to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.

The EU president described Africa as a continent of hope, saying that in 2012 alone, eight out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies were on the continent.

He cited that the IMF predicts Africa’s economic growth to be six percent in 2014, the highest rate since after the global financial crisis.

Also speaking was UK’s Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, who said the British Government would partner Africa in seeking the eradication of violent extremism.

He said it was the right of Nigeria and African governments to defend their territory and people from terrorism, but called for respect for human rights in doing so.

Simmonds told African leaders attending the Centenary celebration that democracy, prosperity and stability were vital ingredients for peace and development in the continent.

He challenged African leaders to allow their countries to flourish, noting that the choices they make could determine the fate of over one billion people.

“If African nations are to avoid in the next century the mistakes European nations made over the last 100 years, then ultimately, African leaders – you here today – must make the right choices,” he added.

Also speaking, French President Francois Hollande promised support for Nigeria in the battle against Boko Haram in defence of democracy.

Hollande, who`was the only European president at the conference said: “Your struggle is also our struggle.

We will always stand ready not only to provide our political support, but also our help every time you need it, because the struggle against terrorism is also the struggle for democracy.”

Hollande noted that in spite of the crises in the continent, there was reason for optimism in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

“Africa has a great future. It’s the continent of tomorrow,” he said.

The French president, however warned, that such promise could be impeded by insecurity.

He also pledged that France would double its overseas development aid to the continent within the next five years.

It is important to state here that African states are interested in the external support to fight terrorism at the level of national armies and military equipment and not the idea of westerners insisting on the increase of their military presence on the continent.

African regional organisations welcome western aid in this sphere of military and special training, logistics, exchange of intelligence information.

Countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Algeria and Nigeria need trainings of police forces and special services, army troops to secure national borders which will be prepared for activity against extremists with the new actual methods of field work but not the western troops distribution on their soil.

It’s important to mention that US direct their counter terrorism aid to Africa with the possibility to involve American army and special troops on the African land. Also they insist on the additional deployment of troops and elements of Africom under the pretext of fighting terrorist groups in Africa.

Most African countries oppose the idea of western military presence on the continent, besides there is an increase in the anti-western attitude in the African society.

There is a need to search “African decisions for African problems.” The most part of Central, West and South Africa protest against “military intervention of the West in the continent under the pretext of war against terrorism”;

Also they insist on the deployment of additional forces and elements of AFRICOM on the continent under the pretext of strengthening fight against terrorist cells.

The West continues conducting a policy of double standards in different parts of the world applying not only political, economic and informational methods, but also using terrorist groups in the places of its interests.

The westerners for example prefer calling extremists in Mali as “terrorists” but the same type of guerrillas in Syria they hypocritically define as “fighters for democratic values“ forgetting that these so-called “fighters for freedom” use all methods of terrorist activities resulting in heavy casualties.

So the West divides terrorism into two types: one which is acceptable (answers its goals and interests), another – unacceptable (which threatens its citizens and interests).

During the military operation in Mali the West (through Paris) gained control over important uranium mines in Niger. Now the same agenda is for Algiers because of its vast gas resources which is not under US control still and not touched by “Arab spring”.

Syria is not so important to the US because it’s not so rich in mineral resources as for example Maghreb or Sahel zone, that’s why Washington isn’t inclined to give an active and widespread support to the Syrian opposition.

This is the reason Syrian conflict has snowballed into a permanent war with Islamic mercenaries joining the fray since 2011.

It’s clear that some of the Syrian rebel fighters have gone to Mali where “the price for Jihad war” is more than in Syria. Taking into consideration the words of the French President Francois Holland that the “operation in Mali will be continued as long as it needs”, one can suggest that the scale of war would be higher and lead to escalation of the conflict.

This crisis could have “domino effect” in neighbouring countries and involve different states in the region including Nigeria where is a possibility of increase in Boko Haram attacks.

•Collins is Lagos-based public affairs analyst. E-mail:

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