Africa Security and French intervention: the Strategic Implications By Funmilola Ajala
For more than purely academic reasons, there is need to conscientiously examine – in holistic context – the recent West and Central African Security Summit, hosted by President Francois Hollande, in Paris, the French capital city.
Literarily, the French president had to summon presidents Paul Biya, Boni Yayi, Idriss Deby, Mahamadou Issoufou, and Goodluck Jonathan of Cameroon, Benin Republic, Chad, Niger Republic, and Nigeria respectively to pursue a common front against a common enemy called Boko Haram.
They were joined by British Foreign Minister, William Hague, and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman; all in the name of synergising on how to tame the lose monster in Boko Haram which currently threatens security in the sub-region.
One thing became crystal clear, at the end of the day: leaders in these African States no longer have the collective destinies of their different sovereigns and people firmly guided within their grasp. Instead of anticipating that whatever supports they get from the North would only be in form of supplements to their original effort(s), it appears the reverse might be the case.
As expected in any occurrence of this nature, opinion seems polarised about the exact gain(s) of the French voyage embarked upon by these African leaders.
There is a school of thought that seeks to identify the summit as the much-needed timely intervention from the former colonial rulers led by France.
The proponents of this particular conclusion argue that the parley might eventually turn-out to inject some sorts of reinvigoration into the battle against Boko Haram, described by President Jonathan as an “al-Qaeda organization in West Africa.”
It is believed that the declaration of a “total war” on the terror group by the African leaders will motivate concerted efforts from all concerned in no small measures.
But in converse, there is another side to the same coin which criticises the so-called French-led multi-lateral convergence, submitting that this is a disparaging lack of initiative tantamount to global jubilation on the communal failure of African leaders present in Paris.
This, they say, casts a silhouette aspersion on the universal ego of the black race. That it defines us as a bunch of disorganised and, perhaps, disoriented helpless race with little or no hope for long-term sustainability – devoid of uninterrupted flow of handouts in form of aids from saner climes of the West.
At the imminent risk of being targeted with eruption of tantrums, it is explicitly conspicuous at this juncture, that one may be pushed to blame African politicians, especially from Nigeria, for exercising the kind of undeniable administrative laxity that allowed Boko Haram to blossom from a mushrooming group of few hundreds erratic religious extremists in Maiduguri under Yusuf Muhammed – just half a decade ago – to that which suddenly assumed international notoriety for trans-border campaign of calumny.
That aside, it is also equally pivotal to register that having, finally, accepted the currency of the region’s hopelessness in curbing Boko Haram’s tentacles, accepting cosmetic help from overseas might appear inevitable at this very point.
The ‘Paris rush’ showcases the clumsiness of African leadership, resulting from years of structural insolvency. It is unimaginable to conceive that the 5 African Heads of State, who went to France, sit on an estimated population of about 280million, covering a vast landmass. Nothing exposes the maladroitness of Africa’s gerontocrats more than juxtaposing this fact with that of France’s less than 70million population.
This apparent malady pin-points the motivation that emboldened former US Foreign Secretary, Hilary Clinton, to accuse the Nigerian government of being “somewhat derelict” in aftermath of the abduction of more than 200 female pupils from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno state, in April.
But the nauseating cliché among Africans having to present themselves as ready specimens for Europe-formulated hypotheses is not limited, only, to our Presidents and Prime Ministers.
Few months ago, some state governors, from troubled Northern Nigeria, subjected themselves to ‘inconveniences’ of travelling to the United States of America (USA), for yet another rounds of talks, all under the ruse of wanting to develop a veracious antidote towards ending the insecurity engulfing their territorial jurisdiction. With the exception of few pictures that emerged from the trip, nothing significant has changed back home.
Another interesting dimension to this consternating scenario which depicts Africa’s helplessness concerns the poser of the relevance and usefulness of Pan-African inter-states’ organizations.
Nigeria, of course, occupied a prominent role in the vanguard of post-colonial struggle that led to the emergence of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) – which has since transformed into African Union (AU) in 1963, in Ethiopia – and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in 1975, in Lagos. One would not be totally condemned to conclude that these organizations are no less than mere inconsequential tea parties of shameless exhibitions as long as their collective contributions to bailing fellow member state out of a major cliff-edge could easily be surpassed by France!
That said, there is need for the 5 African States which just sealed a pact with Hollande, primarily Nigeria, to note that the French intervention is not basically philanthropic. Unlike many developing societies the world over, permanent seat owners at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) are jealously guided by dictate of their national interests – both overt and otherwise.
The fact that France has taken this bold initiative may not be completely unconnected with the ploy to secure not the territorial survival of these African countries, but the ultimate ambition to buy their allegiance overtime, considering the growing popularity and influence in trade relations and social policies of rampaging China on the continent. Therefore, the import of adopting diplomatic dexterity approach by these African countries.
There is also a growing resentment against the French in parts of Africa due to their recent history in Rwanda, Libya, Central African Republic, et al; thus the need to tread with caution here.
In the end, Nigeria, which led the African contingent in their Paris adventure, can expect that Shekau will, hopefully, be hunted down with the induction of the Great powers’ intelligence supremacy and military preciseness. Unfortunately however, neither the French nor any other power can – and would – guarantee the continuous existence of a society where social injustice largely allocate space for the infamous Maitatsine sect to rise in the 80s and provides accommodating atmosphere for Boko Haram to flourish 30 years on. Such a clime would – surely – provide fertile earth for tens of prospective Shekaus to germinate in no time as long as 10milllion children are forced out-of-school, for no acceptable alibi, in this very age.
*You can follow Ajala on Twitter: @ajalatravel07.
Do not hesitate to leave your opinion in the comment section below.
To contact Abusidiqu.com for Article Submission and Advertisement or General inquiry, send a mail to email@example.com