Why Africa Is Unable To Set Global Security Agenda

Limitations to Africa’s Contribution in Setting Global Security Agenda

Somali security forces
Somali security forces

Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and Chairperson of the Tana Forum Board, scored a crucial point when he said that “Africa has become too important to be discarded from the global security agenda and debate”.

Somali security forces
Somali security forces

Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent on earth with an estimated population of 1.166 billion people in 2015, with 54 sovereign countries. The figures also show the continent has a major role to play in bringing about a peaceful and secure world. It has enormous human and natural resources which could be tapped to ensure the economic security of its people and the world at large.

This means that if the region is destabilised by either externally or internally induced conflict, the humanitarian crisis that would erupt would have huge implications for the world as a whole. With the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and the current refugee crisis reverberating in Europe, Africa must be saved from such occurrences and its forces positively harnessed to ensure a peaceful world order.

Despite the potentials of Africa with its robust youthful population to contribute to a peaceful and secure world, the continent’s ability to play a forceful role in determining the course of global security is weak. This is because the continent is afflicted with weak institutions, corruption and lacks capacity and the technological knowhow to effectively tackle its internal security crises without reaching out for help from the global community. Across Africa, there are growing cases of internal discontent and pockets of ethnic militias which threaten the main fabric of society. Governments have been unable to nip such cases in the bud, thereby allowing them to fester and materialise into cankerworms.

For instance, the containment of the Boko Haram insurgency, which started in Nigeria in 2009, has been a herculean task for the country to tackle alone. Hence, the Nigerian government has been reaching out to both neighbouring countries and Western powers to help contain the scourge of Boko Haram that has greatly wrecked north eastern Nigeria. Suffice it to state that Nigeria’s inability to sort out the insurgency within its domain has also limited the most populous nation in sub Saharan Africa from forcefully pushing for an African perspective in setting the global security agenda.

This is because of its reliance on external help from United States and from European nations in solving its security problems. This reliance ranges from seeking arms and technology to gathering intelligence and deploying combat missions to help the country address the threat posed by Boko Haram. Because of Nigeria’s inability to manufacture its own arms to wage this battle, the country is reduced to taking crumbs from the master’s table to engage the insurgents. And if the country fails to do the master’s bidding even the crumbs thrown its way in terms of rickety ammunition will be denied it and such governments could be forced out by a regime change by Western Powers.

Seeking foreign help to tackle internal security crises in some African countries like Nigeria was extensively chronicled in a recent report prepared for the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), which is responsible for advancing U.S. national interests and promoting regional security and stability in Africa. According to the report, as of today, violent extremist organisations (VEOs) are among the greatest threats to the future of Africa and to U.S. interests on the continent. In the past six years, Boko Haram has emerged as the most aggressive and virulent of all the African VEOs. In April 2014, Boko Haram became a global household name after it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the northern town of Chibok, Nigeria. To date, the girls have not been found. Since the insurgency started, about 20,000 people have been killed with 2.3 million persons displaced from their homes.

The cries of infants still rend the air on a weekly basis as child suicide bombers who have been indoctrinated and brainwashed by the insurgents have a field’s day bombing hapless displaced persons in camps.

According to the report, Nigeria is among the United States’ top partners in Africa, and its continuing stability is critical to the future of U.S. interests on the continent and other countries in Europe. In recent years, through a variety of diplomatic, development, and security assistance efforts, the U.S. government has worked with the government of Nigeria in a supporting role to dismantle the insurgents. Recently, the US donated 25 faulty armoured vehicles to support the fight in north eastern Nigeria. It is not only the United States that has supported Nigeria. Countries such as Britain, France and Germany among others have also given their support, which have so far not doused the threat posed by Boko Haram.

The threat of Boko Haram incursions across Nigerian borders into Cameroon, Chad and Niger is increasingly affected by the mounting humanitarian crisis caused by the violence in northern Nigeria. This is why President Muhammadu Buhari, upon assuming office, immediately reached out to these countries to streamline a coordinated response against Boko Haram. The precise effect of this regional attempt in tackling the insurgency will become more obvious in the future.

Suffice it to state that containing the spread of Boko Haram in the region is important given the report that Islamic State (ISIS) militants are teaming up with Boko Haram to spread their tentacles in the region. There have been reports of ISIS representatives coming to recruit fighters from universities in Nigeria.

On the contrary, the AFRICOM report invalidated the notion that Boko Haram is a Nigerian branch of another international terrorist organisation, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and argued that Boko Haram is an insurgent group sustained by localised grievances and conflict dynamics.
The AFRICOM report recommended that the starting point for devising an effective response should follow the tenets of a counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy.

“To determine whether the government of Nigeria and the United States government have been following such an approach, we identified eight “best COIN practices” and compared all their efforts to those best practices. The results of our analysis revealed that the Nigerian and the United States have been taking divergent approaches to the conflict: The GoN (Government of Nigeria) has followed a narrow counterterrorism approach that relies heavily on the military to crush the group with intermittent attempts to negotiate an end to the conflict. The USG (United States Government), in contrast, has pursued a whole-of-government approach that overlaps with many of the best practices for COIN.

To implement a comprehensive COIN strategy, the GoN would need to significantly alter its current approach. But, given current political, social, and economic conditions in Nigeria, to include endemic corruption, the GoN is unlikely to shift its approach. In an effort to convince Abuja to undertake a whole-of-government (or COIN) approach to the conflict in northeast Nigeria, the USG has used various levers to apply pressure on Abuja. This has not yielded significant results.’’.

Judging from above, it is obvious that African governments and the global community need to be on the same page in tackling internal security crisis in the interest of all concerned. This should among the main topics to be discussed at the Tana Forum on peace and security whose main focus would be this year about Africa’s role in the global security agenda. The Forum will be held on April 16 and 17 in Ethiopia with Kofi Anan, former United Nations Secretary-General as keynote speaker…

* A Nigerian Journalist and Publisher Realnews Online Magazine, Maureen Chigbo is a Regional Fellow of the Tana Forum

Source: GNA

By Maureen Chigbo

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