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AS AFRICA’S LEADERS MEET IN ETHIOPIA — OVERCOMING CONFLICTS IN AFRICA – BEYOND LIP SERVICE

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Developments of the past decade concerning insecurity in Africa call for concern. Therefore, it is very commendable that leaders of the poorest continent in the world are meeting to address the problem of security breaches that appear to be engulfing the continent like bush fire. No serious society leaves its security to adversaries. Continental interests and security are very important to the successful accomplishment of the 2063 Agenda of the African Union.

THE KEY ISSUE: Terrorism and conflicts have become pronounced and are causes for bother. It is worrisome that as of 2014, there were about 500 million illicit weapons in circulation worldwide. One factor that would very much determine the future of Africa is the trend of violent crimes and armed conflicts on the continent. Very disturbing is the increasing dimension of the proliferation of arms and armed conflicts as these constitute the greatest causes of instability in the region. The situation has been blamed on some unscrupulous security personnel who either sell out or aid criminal elements. A January 2014 report by the National Working Group on Armed Violence, (NWGAV) in conjunction with the UK-based Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), estimated that ‘’over 80 percent of weapons in private hands were acquired illegally.

PROLIFERATION OF ARMS: The 24-page Report titled: ‘The Violent Road’ quoted the director of AOAV, Mr. Iain Overton, as ‘’decrying the high rate of proliferation of illegal arms because the illegal arms dealers operate unchecked. As part of recommendations from the report, Overton said the governments need to do a weapons stockpile management, which entails marking and tracing of small arms.’’ It was estimated that about 100 million of such are in sub-Saharan Africa. The Commander of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (MISMA), Major-General Shehu Usman Abdul Kadir, revealed that Nigeria alone accounted for at least 70 percent of the illegal Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) circulating within the West African sub-region. He noted that the figure was further broken down to about eight to 10 million concentrated in the West African sub-region, with Nigeria taking the lion share of about 70 percent of the 10 million illegal weapons. More alarming however is the revelation by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) on how little children are exposed to these weapons at a tender age.

UNCONTROLLED ARMS TRADE: The Report further explained that the uncontrolled trade in small arms and light weapons is a matter of life and death to people around the world, adding that with the proliferation it is easy for children to be easily taught how to handle these weapons, which are lethal but light and easy to use once they are exposed to them.  On his part, Chiemiele Ezeobi (2014) argues that the dangers posed by having these illegal guns in circulation cannot be overstated. From using them for armed robbery operations to bigger acts of terrorism, this array of illegal weaponry often frustrates the peacebuilding efforts of the government. According to security experts, having these weapons of destruction in the hands of criminal elements forebodes ill, and makes a mockery of measures to ensure the security of life and property. It is very alarming that illicit trade in gun and proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW), popularly known as gun running has been properly controlled in Africa. These have assumed worrisome dimensions.

It is not as if successive African leaders are not conscious of the importance of peace and the negative implication of conflicts and the need to put measures in place for a peaceful polity. The consciousness of the need for crisis intervention mechanisms was first championed by then Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah, who made a case for an African High Command.  However, Nkrumah’s idea was largely resisted as it was viewed as an expansionist agenda. A similar move by Muammar Ghadaffi of Libya, who desired to preside over a single government for the African continent, was never popular because of his erratic behaviour impracticability of the idea when mooted. African Union is more interested in taking measures to prevent crises, while nations maintain their sovereignties. The African Union’s policy to which it holds on tenaciously is the diplomatic stance of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. However, the AU’s policy favours the maintenance of a rapid response squad in Africa. This intervention mechanism was adopted to build on the 17,700 African Union troops that were in Mali to rescue the nation from the claws of the insurgent Islamic terrorist groups.

African Union’s stand on security may very well have been premised on the need to take proactive steps to prevent security breaches than combat such dislocations to peace and security. In other words, African Union prefers proactive steps than reactive options.  The continent recognizes the need to pay particular attention to surveillance, good governance, combating illegal militia, conflict resolution, political stability, and economic empowerment to be able to have a secure and progressive environment since democracy itself is built on non-negotiable values of a peaceful approach to the resolution of crises. But African nations must step up our efforts in the areas of peacebuilding and social justice. A most dangerous dimension was the presence of weapons of mass destruction in some African nations. Libya, under the late Muammar Gaddafi, deployed its own weapons against Chad in 1983 and several conflicts bedeviling some African nations are believed to have their roots in Libya.

ORIGIN OF WEAPONS:  From where do these dangerous weapons originate and couldn’t they have been stopped from parts of the world that manufacture and supply these weapons of destruction to a poor region of the world? Noteworthy is the fact that 199 countries had signed the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty, as at 2014. The targets and methods change, but the problem remains one of the challenges to international order. Greater vigilance and more direct counter-actions may have helped to control the problem, but offers no solution. General apprehension has been heightened as a result of political conflict and terrorism.

From the foregoing, it is abundantly clear that the global community is enjoying only relative peace, in spite of the arousal of the consciousness of everyone that peace and security are essential to the development and progress of all societies on a sustainable basis. All over the world, breaches to security have become daily occurrences. Evidently, issues pertaining to security have turned very complex and have become seemingly intractable. All over, humanity has witnessed incidents of suicide bombings, violent attacks, armed assaults on public buildings and places.

COMMITMENTS TO TIMELY ENGAGEMENTS:  In his address to the 9th Convocation Ceremonies of Covenant University, Ogun State, Nigeria, delivered on June 27, 2014; its Chancellor, Dr. David Oyedepo took a cursory look at the cost of some major wars in Africa and pointed out how foolhardy it is to go to war. In the paper titled: ‘The Way out for a Nation on Trial,’ Oyedepo painted a gory picture of destruction, disruption, and desolation of lives and property, and pointed out that there is the need for introspection on the part of Africans.  He noted that all the statistics should, in the paper presented by him provoke ‘’commitments of timely engagement in a quest to finding solutions to looming dangers, by finding the way out of our current events before it degenerates to a calamitous situation.’’ Oyedepo reeled out the statistics below that are strong enough to make Africans reason positively:

  • Sudan: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic and religious – Duration: 1955-1972; and 1983-2005 (almost 50 years of conflict) Casualties: About 500, 000 killed; over 2 million people displaced
  • Sudan/Darfur: Nature of Conflict: Religious and ethnic (Darfur Genocide) Duration: 2003-Date (9 years of conflict) Casualties: Over 400, 000 killed; 3 million displaced
  • Somalia: Nature of Conflict: Religious and ethnic – Duration: Ogaden War, 1977- 1978; Civil War, 1991-2003; Islamic War, 2003- Date (22 years of conflict) Casualties: 550, 000 killed
  • Ethiopia: Nature of Conflict: Power struggle, Duration: 1971-1984 (12 years of conflict) Casualties: 500, 000
  • Rwanda: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic – Duration: April-July 1994 (just within 100 days) Casualties: Over 800, 000 killed
  • Democratic Republic of Congo: Nature of Conflict: Power tussle among political gladiators, and resource struggle. Duration: 1996-Date (6 years of conflict) Casualties: 800, 000 killed
  • Liberia: Nature of Conflict: Ethnic and political (class, personal; ambitions of warlords) Duration: 1990-1995; 1999-2001 (7 years of conflict) Casualties: 220, 000
  • Sierra Leone: Nature of Conflict: Political, resource (diamond) struggle, ethnic. Duration: 1991-2000 (9 years of conflict) Casualties: 200, 000
  • Uganda: Nature of Conflict: Power struggle, class and personal ambitions of Political leaders. Duration: 1969-1979; 1989 (11 years of conflict) Casualties: 300, 000; 30, 000
  • Nigeria: The Civil War, an ethnic induced conflict of only 30 months claimed over 800, 000 lives.

POLITICAL CONFLICTS:  Prof. Adebayo Adedeji (1992:8) noted that ‘’Conflict remains a major security problem in Africa and Africa continues to have the greatest number of armed conflicts of any continent. In mid-2001, latent or open hostilities affected. Given the number of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, it is not surprising that they cumulatively have claimed at least 7 – 8 million lives. Also, in 2001, more than 3.5 million of the more than 14 million refugees and asylum seekers in the world were in Africa. Of the approximately 21 Million Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the world, more than 10 million are Africans. One other notable area of concern is that democracy in Africa has been terminated several times, largely on account of the inability of the political class to conduct itself in accordance with established norms and practices.

This development has been accompanied by frequent incidents of terrorism that are making several nations on the continent ungovernable, fanning embers of disagreements. Yonah Alexander, in his paper titled ‘Terrorism in North Africa and the Sahel in 2013’ asserts: ‘’Since the 9/11 incident, a disturbing trend of security challenges with global reach has emerged in the Maghreb, Sahel, and other territories in Africa. These perpetrators, according to Salim Ahmed Salim are motivated by ethnic, racial, religious, tribal, and national ideologies.  Very disturbing is the ability of these terrorists to share information. Yonah asserts that information ‘’is shared across Africa through the Middle East to Malaysia and Indonesia on tactics, and operational priorities via the Internet. Humanitarian crises are exploited by militant groups to stock their gangs, expand criminal networks, and raise significant obstacles to reconciliation among warring groups and factions’’ But Africa is poor in terms of technological advancements and political will to successfully preempt these crises.

IMPLICATIONS: The implication of the foregoing, as argued by former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Special Adviser on Africa, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari is that:  “If you address the root causes of conflict and if you accept that conflict and wars retard development — in no continent is this more true than in Africa, because one of the main reasons Africa is behind the rest of the world is precisely because it has the largest number of conflicts. People are not going to invest in countries of conflict, and without investment, both domestic and foreign, they are not going to have production. They’re not going to have employment, and it’s a vicious circle.”

THE EXTERNAL INFLUENCE: Salim Ahmed Salim, one-time Secretary-General of the defunct Organization of African Unity, in his paper: ‘Overcoming Conflicts in Africa’ delivered at a public forum noted that ‘’the external environment has also played a major role in causing and exacerbating conflicts in Africa. As super-powers competed to gain allies and areas of influence, the Continent found itself almost dismembered as proxy wars were fought in our soils. As different factions were armed by different powers Africa became part of the global battleground where the battle of dominance was fought. And in the earlier period, there was also no innocence in the manner independence was granted to some of our countries. Embedded in the handover was almost a deliberate move to weaken the post-independence regimes. Distinguished participants, two related developments occurred in the 1990s. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity and former prime minister of Tanzania said the hope is not lost on the future of Africa and was of the opinion that harnessing Africa’s resources in a manner which fosters peace and security could promote the evolution of a more progressive polity.’’

Salim believes all hope is not lost and called for ‘’A better understanding of Africa’s diversity – multiracial, multiethnic, multicolour, multi-religious and multicultural. Yes, we have our share of problems including conflicts wars, poverty, natural and man-made disasters as well as pandemics such as HIV/AIDS. We have our Darfur and Somalia. But Africa is not all about conflicts, corruption, and pandemics. Indeed the vast majority of African countries are peaceful and stable and many of which are undergoing a significant political, economic and social transformation. African people, their governments and continental organization are committed to staying in the frontline for achieving peace. However, they need and are entitled to international support. This support should be timely, genuine and meaningful because the experience of many of those cases has been one of disappointment, lip-service and plenty of symbolic gestures. Africans have made a commitment, they have marshaled a determination, availed their human power, but they lack the wherewithal.

STRENGHT OF THE PERPETRATORS: It is in this context of increasing violence that the United Nations Security Council convened a special session in March 2013, and warned that an “arc of instability” was stretching across the Sahara and Sahel regions, and, “if left unchecked, it could transform the continent into a breeding ground for extremists and a launchpad for larger-scale terrorist attacks around the world.” And this spread of instability is no more evident than in those countries bordering the Sahara and Sahel regions that have come under increasing attacks and terrorist incidents.’’ Terrorist incidents are occurring in varying pronounced degrees in several locations in Africa. Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Chad, Mauritania, Morocco, and Niger have experienced very serious and troubling dimensions of terror.  ‘’Mauritania continues to be threatened by AQIM and other terrorist groups operating in the region, who take advantage of porous borders to carry out attacks. The kidnapping problem which was at the level of a threat in 2008, likewise remains high.  While Morocco has been combating terrorism – taking down a number of terrorist cells in 2013 – there is evidence of fighters from across the Maghreb are participating in terrorists’ activities in Syria. (Salim Ahmed Salim 2008)

RECIPE: Unquestionably, these conflicts have been fuelled by uncontrolled accumulation and proliferation of small arms and light weapons, recording increased criminality, banditry, cross-border crime and emergence of the phenomenon of child soldiers. Though internal, most of these conflicts spill over into neighbouring countries causing widespread regional insecurity and instability despite the presence of UN Peacekeepers. Africa’s leaders met in the past to attempt to find solutions to the problem of insecurity and conflicts on the continent. It welcomed interventions from foreign nations to tackle the hydra-headed problems. The current meeting may wish to consider recommendations in a commentary in the Nigerian Guardian Newspaper that advised governments to examine incidents of social discontent and treats issues of structural injustice’’. (September 17, 2014) It also advised African leaders to purge themselves of the inordinate power-craze and misappropriated privileges that negate genuine moral leadership can they muster the moral courage, political sagacity, and wisdom to fight terrorism.’’ Similarly the Punch Newspaper, in its editorial of September 4, 2014, noted that ‘’African countries coming together in a joint defence arrangement is, therefore, an idea that should be supported. ‘’Unlike the Arabs who would rather wait for the US and Britain to provide their conflict resolution needs, Africa has a lot to gain by sticking together on matters of security. ‘’Apart from the promised US funding, African countries should be ready to fund their own security because no development can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity.’’

This position was apparently influenced by the 2014 US-Africa leaders’ summit on terrorism at which the United States promised about US$70 billion worth of investments in the continent by both the American government and its private sector. A breakdown shows a pledge of $37 billion from the government and $33 billion from the private sector as investible funds targeting specific areas of pressing needs, prominent among which is the challenge of insecurity in African countries.  At that event, President Barack Obama stated the possibility of raising an African Rapid Response Partnership with sufficient capacity to respond to terror attacks and other conflicts on the continent and promised to invest $110 million per year in the next three to five years for this purpose, insisting that “the entire world has a stake in peacekeeping in Africa.”

ARRESTING THE MALAISE — DIALOGUE WITH FOREIGN POWERS: Salim, in the paper cited above, also accused foreign powers of not being totally committed to the sustainable evolution of a culture of peace and development of Africa. According to Salim, ‘’While having the capacity to contribute, often times the international community has not acted with the commensurate urgency and effectiveness. ‘’As we view these developments in Africa, the important role of the African Diaspora is self-evident. As Africans, you are at the interface of the continental challenges and as members of the diaspora, you are closely connected and well-positioned in the global arena. You have influence, you have the power to change, and you have the capacity to act. These are valuable assets for Africa because other constituencies have used them effectively to promote their collective agenda.’’ Africa is in dire need of international support to complement its determined efforts to get rid of the scourge of conflict. You can be very helpful in this front by mobilizing for the provision of the required resources in a timely and effective manner.’’

This very terrible dimension is certainly one that demands and commands total commitment and a joint global approach to confronting terrorism which has developed into a monster that knows no boundaries. Apart from the suggestions raised above, all these unwholesome occurrences call for action on the part of the AU. One way of approaching this matter might be for the African Union to raise a HIGH-LEVEL PANEL comprising former Heads of Government of African countries with international clout, and a few experts that have manned multilateral organizations to take all these issues up with leaders of the Western world and the United Nations to lobby individuals and foreign governments to support Africa, pay the deserved attention to security breaches and the perceived complicity of foreign nations in some key problems affecting Africa. The platform provided by the World Ex-Presidents’ Council might be one of those ones that the AU could utilize to bring about more commitments to the peace and progress of Africa.

AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT BANK:  Beyond the foregoing, Africa’s leaders must demonstrate greater commitment to the economic growth of the continent that is regarded as the next frontier of the global economy. This gathering may wish to totally buy into the economic measures being promoted for implementation as a matter of urgency by the African Development Bank. Most of these activities tally with AU’s 2063 Agenda for development. According to the AfDB president, “The agricultural sector in Africa has four times the power to create jobs and reduce poverty than any other sector.  In this connection, Africa’s leaders may wish to invite the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina to brief them on the policies and programmes of the bank being implemented with vigour to drive Africa’s growth. Part of Adesina’s five-point agenda is promoting Agriculture as the key to prosperity in Africa, as the sub-sector has the capability of helping Africa’s economic transformation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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