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Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Strategic importance of Ukraine and why both Russia and U.S. want her as an ally

Ukraine commands a lot of geostrategic significance and this is the reason for the cockpit rivalry and competition currently going on between Russia and the West. The country was the second most important country after Russia during the USSR years. Currently its population of more than 44.6 million is one of the biggest in Europe and an important source of market for both EU and Russian made goods. Ukraine is also one of the largest countries in the world. Its size of 603,550sq km is 46th in global comparison. In European terms, it is the second biggest country in Europe after Russia. In fact it is 15% bigger than France which is the third largest country in Europe. Ukraine shares 1,576km long border with Russia in the east making her a strategic country especially for US and her western allies who want to prevent Russia from expanding her influence westwards. Ukrainian port cities are important in both economic and military sense. For example the Ukrainian coastal city of Sevastopol located in the Crimean peninsula serves as a major naval base for the Russian navy. In fact the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet is located in Crimea. The continuous use of the base by the Russian navy resulted in a deal in April 2010 in which Russia agreed to lower the prices of gas and oil it sells to Ukraine. Ukraine also borders the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. This prime location could allow the country to play major role in Eastern and Central Europe.
Economically Ukraine is a major manufacturer of ballistic missiles, large transport planes and launch pads for space carriers. In this sense it is a major player in the field of weapons systems. The country also has 15 nuclear power reactors at four sites (Khmelnitsky, Rovno, South Ukraine and Zaporozhe). All 15 reactors are operated by Energoatom. Together the nuclear reactors provide Ukraine 50% of the country energy needs. The nuclear reactors and their infrastructures can easily be converted to produce nuclear weapons. In this case Ukraine can become a member of the club of nuclear power nations if it decides to and could obtain a lot of financial reward if it decides to engage in nuclear proliferation activities. Ukraine is also a major producer and exporter of steel, a product vital to the global economy particularly for ship building and the auto industry. Ukraine is a major transit point for oil and gas coming from Russia and Central Asia to the EU. Most of the gas and oil pipelines carrying hydrocarbon products to the EU from Russia pass through the country. In 2004 for example more than 80% of Russian gas exported to Europe came through Ukrainian pipelines. And currently more than 70% of Russia gas enters Europe through Ukraine. These pipelines consist of 36,720 km for gas; 4,514 km for oil and 4,363 km which carry refined products. Any disruption of these pipelines or the flow of petroleum products (as happened in 2005-6) will bring untold suffering to millions of Western Europeans who depend on gas coming from Russia.
Ukraine is major agricultural hub. Its flat plains, plateaus and fertile black soil (considered the best in Europe) are good for food production and animal husbandry. In fact the country could be the breadbasket of Europe if its agricultural potential is fully exploited.
The Ukrainian opposition victory is a nightmare for Russia and particularly President Valdimir Putin. In fact the fall of the Viktor Yanukovyc regime is a major strategic defeat for Putin, a coup and a triumph for the West (US and EU). The victory chalked by the opposition will materialise what Putin has feared all along i.e. that first Ukraine will tilt to the West, second will be admitted into the EU, and third into NATO. Though member ship to the EU and NATO is a long process, the strategic consequences are that a tilt to the West will not only contain Russia's ambitions to expand its sphere of influence westwards but will nearly complete the West's encirclement of Russia. Russia may therefore take actions that will prevent Ukraine from becoming a satellite of the West.
Also Putin's effort to create the Eurasian Union (EAU) an economic union to rival that of the EU with Ukraine as a key member has suffered a major setback. Ukraine membership to the EAU would have given the union the boost it needed. However with UKraine now tilting towards EU, the EAU would definitely struggle to remain as buoyant as it should. However, the fight for control of Ukraine by the West and Russia is not over yet. As Russian forces conduct military drills close to Crimea and with pro-Russian gunmen seizing the Crimean Parliament it is possible that instability in Crimea will continue for days to come with the final outcome being that the Crimea region will breakaway from Ukraine to form independent state or join Russia.
By Lord Aikins Adusei
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Nigeria: A declining regional power?

Undoubtedly Nigeria is West Africa's only regional power. Its economy of US$337.9 billion (2010 estimate) is the biggest in West Africa and second in Africa after South Africa. The country is poised to overtake South Africa as Africa's biggest economy. Her more than 150 million people, over 36 billion barrels of untapped crude oil and huge deposit of natural gas estimated to be about 120 trillion cubic feet or about 3% of the world's total make Nigeria a key strategic economic power. With a defense budget of about US$2.2 billion (348 billion naira-2011 budget) and a total active manpower of more than 80,000 soldiers, Nigeria's military is not only the biggest and best funded in West Africa but also the most powerful in the sub-region. In the 1990s, the country's pivotal role in ending the brutal and bloody civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone (that killed hundreds of thousands of people) won her approbation regionally and beyond.
A declining regional power?
However, many who have watched Nigeria since the late-1990s are feeling uneasy about her declining status. The 2012 Mo Ibrahim Index of good governance ranked the country 13 out of 15 best governed countries in West Africa and 43 out of 52 in Africa. In the West African sub-region, only Guinea Bissau and Ivory Coast had the worst governance situation than Nigeria. In the last six years, the annual Failed States Index jointly published by the Fund for Peace and the Foreign Policy magazine has consistently named Nigeria among the top 20 most failed states on the planet alongside Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chad, DR. Congo, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
In the ongoing war in Mali, Nigeria (the regional power) has been missing in action. Although President Goodluck Jonathan pledged the largest troop numbers as part of the ECOWAS multinational force, Nigeria could not mobilize its military capabilities and assets or that of ECOWAS' countries to lead the assault against Tuareg and Al Qaeda fighters. France, a regional great power (not a global power) located thousands of kilometers in Europe demonstrated that it is still a force when it comes to African affairs. In less than 30 days, French forces succeeded not only in halting the militants' advance to Bamako but successfully pushed them out of the cities and towns they had occupied for nearly a year.
As France's hi-tech rafale fighter jets and helicopter gunships bombed and drove the militants out of their hideouts in northern Mali, Malian women and children in Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in appreciation of the French effort began singing praises to France, describing French soldiers as agents of God and mocking Nigeria, and other ECOWAS states for their ineffective leadership and dithering. On January 27 this year, Yayi Boni, Africa Union chairman and president of Benin Republic, indicted the Africa Union, his own leadership and that of Nigeria, the regional power. He praised France for her timely leadership role and military intervention, saying this is what "we should have done a long time ago to defend a member country."
But Nigeria's poor show in the ongoing crisis in Mali is nothing new. During the 2011 post-election violence in Ivory Coast which saw another intervention by France, Nigeria's leadership was conspicuously missing. Though Nigeria supported military action against Gbagbo, it could not translate the rhetoric into effective action.
In the Gulf of Guinea for example, West Africa criminal gangs, Asia and South American drug cartels, European and Asian fishing and chemical companies and Al Qaeda backed militants are slowly turning the region into a haven for international narcotics and human trafficking, weapons proliferation, terrorism, maritime piracy, cyber fraud, illegal fishing, dumping ground for industrial waste, and other transnational criminal activities. Nigeria's ostrich approach to these problems has been uncharacteristic of a regional power.
In fact the maritime insecurity and many of the pirates' attacks against oil tankers and cargo ships have emanated from within Nigeria itself. On January 16, 2013, pirates seized a Nigerian-owned cargo ship (ITRI) in Abidjan and successfully carried away the 5000 tons of oil it was carrying worth $5 million. On Sunday (February, 3, 2013) a French-owned tanker (The Gascogne) was also seized in the same Abidjan area by Nigeria pirates. Commenting on the seizure of the ships in Abidjan, Noel Choong who heads the Piracy Reporting office of the Malaysian based International Maritime Bureau noted that: 'It appears that the Nigerian pirates are spreading. All of these vessels were tankers carrying gas oil. They are all taken back to Nigeria to siphon off the oil, and then the crews are freed.' According to Timothy Walker of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, in 2011 a total of 49 pirates' attacks were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea. This increased to 58 in 2012.
There are indications that the 2013 piracy figures may surpass that of 2012. According to Mr. Jeffrey Hawkins, Consul-General of the United State Consulate in Lagos-Nigeria, there were more than 24 attacks between January and March of 2013. Speaking during the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) in Lagos, Mr. Hawkins recounted the number of pirates' attacks that took place in February alone in Nigeria's coastal waters: 'On February 4, in the Lagos anchorage. On February 6, along the River Forcados. On February 7, off Brass. On February 10 and 11, two separate attacks off Bonny. On February 17, two separate attacks, one in Lagos and one off Brass. On February 22, again off Brass, and on February 25, in Calabar Channel. And that's just three weeks in February'.
The consequence of the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the role of Nigerian pirates in it is that regional maritime trade and security are being undermined a point Mr. Hawkins highlighted:
'From cargo theft to kidnapping for ransom, the Gulf of Guinea is becoming known as a very dangerous place to do business. It is becoming known as a place where you must sail in convoys and where you must hire armed guards- who themselves are Nigerian police officers or sailors and rhetorically should have responsibilities other than serving as hired guns. The Gulf is becoming known as a place where you must prepare your crew to be attacked at any time. [And] it is becoming known as a place where maritime security enforcement is weak, when it exists at all...We hear – from government officials and from industry executives – that billions of dollars are lost each year, in stolen cargo and stolen ships. Some senior Nigerian government officials have publicly estimated that the losses from crude oil theft alone amount to more than $7 billion annually'.
In northern Nigeria for example, more than 2000 people have died since the uprising by the Boko Haram terror group began in 2009. In fact, a large part of northern Nigeria is technically under the control of Boko Haram which continues to terrorize citizens and foreign workers with impunity. In March 2013 Boko Haram ambushed and killed 46 police officers in north central state of Nassarawa. In April 2013 effort by the Nigeria's military to wrestle control of the region from Boko Haram led to a bloodbath in which 185 people died and more than 2200 houses were destroyed in the fishing village of Baga in northeastern state of Borno. In the middle belt and in the Niger Delta region, armed robbers, kidnapers, hostage-takers, oil smugglers, religious, ethnic tribal and communal conflicts continue to make life difficult for millions of people and businesses. In December 2012 the mother of Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped. In February 2013 seven foreigners working for a Lebanese firm were also kidnapped and later killed. In February 2013 seven French citizens were kidnapped in Cameroon and brought to Nigeria. In April 2013 militants ambushed and killed 13 police officers who were on duty in the restless Niger Delta region.
The use of smart weapons by France and its victory over the rebels illustrate the need for Nigeria to have the weapons that will enable her to achieve air superiority and establish herself as West Africa's true naval power. The 2012 publication of Nigeria's military assets by the Military Technology journal offers a glimpse as to why the armed forces have not been able to bring security and stability to the country and the region. It shows that despite being a rich country, Nigeria's Navy does not have a single submarine to beef up its coastal defenses and police the crime infested waters of West Africa. The authors observed that 'many ships are in very poor conditions due to lack of maintenance.' They further added that for the air force, the 'serviceability of most of the aircraft is very low, and many airplanes are stored in non-flyable conditions while others have been effectively abandoned due to lack of maintenance.' The non-serviceability of most of the country's planes partly underscores why Nigeria cannot project power in the region and explains why Germany and Britain had to step in to volunteer to transport ECOWAS forces to Mali.
Among the global power elite, policy-makers and scholars, Nigeria's decline is a worrying problem. This is because in a rough neighborhood, conflict ridden and security challenging environment like that of West Africa, there is always the need for a regional power to maintain stability and order. But with Nigeria's inability to maintain security and stability both at home and in the region and with no viable candidate in the region to replace her, the future stability, security, peace and development of Nigeria and the region is in doubt. In fact Robert D. Kaplan's prediction of a 'coming anarchy' in the region may not be far from reality.
Consequences of the decline
One key consequence is that Nigeria's decline has led to greater instability and insecurity in the sub region as can be seen in Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea and the narco state of Guinea Bissau.
Nigeria's decline has also created a power vacuum which is increasingly being filled by criminal gangs and hegemonic external powers notably France, the United States and Britain. France's intervention in Ivory Coast and Mali (both happening in the backyard of Nigeria busttress this point). On Tuesday 2nd April 2013 U.S. anti-narcotics agents entered the territorial waters of West Africa and arrested Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, a former Guinea Bissau's navy chief, on suspicion of being involved in narcotics smuggling into Europe. The arrest of Na Tchuto by U.S. agents in a region considered to be Nigeria's domain is another testament of how external powers are having a field day in Nigeria's backyard. In February 2013 Mali's future was decided in Brussels far away from Nigeria the regional power. If the power vacuum continues, it will have strategic consequences not only for Nigeria but also for the entire region.
Another consequence which can be observed from Nigeria's inability to solve its internal problems or provide leadership in the sub region is that the political and economic integration of ECOWAS as a regional bloc has stalled. This becomes clearer when ECOWAS is compared with other regional groupings such as ASEAN, SADC, and the EU, and the key role individual regional powers are playing in them. For example, the SADC region is considered the most progressive region in Africa courtesy South Africa. South Africa is frequently cited as a rising power with substantial growing economic, political, diplomatic and military power. South Africa is providing leadership, mobilizing, organizing and building coalitions on key regional issues with the countries in SADC. South Africa is counted among global elite groups and emerging powers such as G20, BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) with influence and power to reshape the current global order. Meanwhile Nigeria continues to find herself in the club of G77. In July 2009, President Obama snubbed Nigeria, West Africa's regional power and visited Ghana in his first visit to Sub Sahara Africa. White House sources say from June 26 to 3 July 2013 President Obama will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania once again ignoring Nigeria.
The analyses above reveal four facts. First Nigeria's internal security challenges are undermining its status as a regional bulwark. Second, the country's weakness is affecting the security of her neighbors. Third Nigeria's internal security challenges are providing criminals with ammunitions to expend. Fourth Nigeria's internal problems and its inability to provide leadership in West Africa are costing her diplomatic recognition and respect.
Reviving Nigeria
What can be done to turn Nigeria around? First, the Nigerian state must recognize that its decline is self inflicted even if external forces and events have played a role in it. At the heart of the problem is the neo-patrimonial power system that serves only the interest of the few and which has led to what Patrick Chabal of Kings College-London has termed elite 'enrichment without development.' The elite capture politics with its concomitant by-product of extreme poverty, inequality, conflict, terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping, violence, cyber fraud and corruption ought to be dismantled. How can such a system be dismantled? This could come in a form of a very broad comprehensive reform to be carried out in all the institutions and sectors of the state: from the security establishment, presidency, judiciary, legislature, civil service, to the private sector. The reform should aim at not only undoing the opportunistic manipulation, neo-patrimonial and vertical power structures that have been constructed by the political elite but also allowing for a more active role by the civil society and the marginalized citizens to ensure greater democratic accountability, good governance, human security, and inclusive development in the country.
Who will carry out the reform and how? With so many entrenched interests in the country, it is difficult to think about reform from the top. A reform engineered from the bottom up by the civil society cum the masses might be the only viable option available to kick start the change badly needed to revitalize the country.
Nigeria's power holders need to realize that the country's position in the world is dependent on what it does first at home, second in West Africa and third in Africa. What it does at home must be to rescue the nation from the grips of the home-grown oligarchs and external parasites that have since independence been milking it, paralyzing it and preventing it from strongly playing its role as a true regional power. Any delay in carrying out the reform will not only make the 'paper tiger' and 'sleeping giant' stories that have long been associated with the country a reality but will also make the nose-diving decline of the country very hard to reverse.
By Lord Aikins Adusei

Ethiopia: A New Era after Meles Zenawi?

The death of Meles Zenawi on August 20 at the age of 57 brought to an end more than two decades of controversial rule. In 1991, at the age of 36, Zenawi became the youngest ruler in Africa after leading his Tegrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF), an ethnic militia from the country's north, to crush Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, and helping to save Ethiopia from the ruins of civil war.
Ethiopia under Zenawi – Developed Yet Authoritarian
Ethiopia under Zenawi can however be summed up in two key words: development and authoritarianism. Ethiopia under Zenawi saw a remarkable economic growth with the economy growing on the average of 10 percent in the last five years. The IMF rated the country the fastest non-oil growing economy in Africa. Confidence in the Ethiopian economy soared with investors from Europe, North America, Asia and Africa, including Tiger Brands of South Africa, Canada's Allana, Schulze Global Investments of America, Diageo and Heineken, all making their pitch in the country pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy. Apart from direct Chinese investment in the country, the Chinese government has been loaning the country about $3 billion annually, most of which has been used for infrastructure development including schools, clinics, roads, railway lines, hydropower stations and canals.
The consequence is that there has been notable improvement in the lives of ordinary Ethiopians. Although poverty is still pervasive, majority of the country's population are not starving. Food security in Ethiopia has drastically improved, and hunger and malnutrition, which featured in the country in the 1970s and 1980s, are not as threatening as before.
Pillar of Stability
The government of Meles Zenawi projected Ethiopia as the pillar of stability in the Horn of Africa and in the process even came to assume the status of policeman of the Horn of Africa. The UN Security Council in 2011 voted to allow Ethiopia to deploy about 4200 soldiers to Abyei, the oil-rich border town between North and South Sudan, which has become a major source of tension between the two countries. Ethiopia also played key role in mediating between the two Sudans.
Since 2006, Ethiopia has played a pivotal role in trying to bring peace, security and stability to Somalia. Together with Kenya and Africa Union forces, Addis Ababa helped to push the al-Shabaab terror group out of Mogadishu and Beledweyne, and the terror group is now on the defensive.
These efforts to bring stability to East Africa and to rid the region of terrorism made Ethiopia the most important ally of the West in East Africa. According to US officials, Ethiopia's military and security services have become the Central Intelligence Agency's most trusted allies in the war against extremism and terrorism in East Africa.
Ethiopia's aggressive attitude towards terrorism has earned the country not only praises, but also more than $4 billion in development assistance annually. The country's leaders have also been rewarded by the West. Former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, for example, was a regular participant in G8 and G20 gatherings. He also spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Switzerland and during climate change negotiations in Durban and Copenhagen. Zenawi used his presence in these gatherings to project a voice for Africa helping to articulate Africa's interests on the international stage.
Ethnically Polarised
But the development initiatives and the aggressive stance on terrorism came at the expense of democracy, human rights, free speech, ethnic and religious cohesion, and regional stability. In the latter part of his reign, Zenawi and his government became increasingly authoritarian and repressive. Democracy and human rights have suffered a terrible blow, particularly since 2005. Many opposition figures have either been imprisoned or have been forced to flee the country. Anti-terrorism laws passed in 2009 have been used to criminalise free speech leading to a number of journalists and activists either being imprisoned or freeing the country for their safety.
Apart from the erosion of democratic values, Ethiopia has become ethnically polarised. This is largely due to the 1994 constitution which divided Ethiopia into ethnically-based regions. The Tigray ethnic group of Meles Zenawi (which makes up about 6.07 percent of the population) dominates not only the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), but also the country's economy, commerce, political and military sectors much to the chagrin of Amharas, Gurages and other ethnic groups. The ethnicisation of the country has seen separatists' movements springing up in several places including the Afar, Oromo and Ogaden regions.
Rise of a New Era
The smooth and peaceful transfer of power to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn put to rest (at least for now) the speculation of leadership battle and the much feared leadership crisis and has helped to restore confidence in the country. Desalegn's confirmation shows that the ruling elite in Ethiopia understand the importance of stability and positive continuity in their country.
The greatest dividend is that the death of Zenawi and the coming into office of Desalegn could mark the end of the old era of authoritarianism, political intolerance, ethnic and religious polarization, and the beginning of a new era of democracy, respect for human rights, and decriminalisation of free speech, inclusive economic development and political stability. In fact, the appointment of Desalegn (a non-Tegrayan) may calm down ethnic tension both in the country and within the ruling EPRDF party. This has the potential to avoid the kind of instability that some analysts have predicted.
One of Desalegn's first acts in office was the release from prison of the two Swedes who were convicted for helping Ogaden National Liberation Front rebels to destabilise the country. Their release signals that the new PM might move away from some of the unpopular policies of his predecessor. The release of the Swedes also raises optimism that Desalegn might release opposition members, journalists and activists who were incarcerated under Zenawi. Any gesture of that nature will mark a new era of relationship between the ruling government, civil society and the opposition parties and will have the potential of returning competitive politics and democracy in the country.
However, this optimism has to be balanced with the realistic and critical question of whether the new PM will continue with the same policies of his predecessor or whether he will be his own man. The first part of the question is true.
To begin with, Desalegn appears to have little influence within the EPRDF and will not be able to control the powerful Tegrayan bloc in the party and in the government. In fact with elections due in 2015, it is unlikely that the new PM will engineer any drastic policy moves that will antagonise the Tegrayan bloc. Even if he succeeds in carrying out major reforms, it is improbable that the Tegrayan elite who dominate the ruling EPRDF party will give grounds so easily and will fight to maintain their power, influence and interests.
The fear is that if the Tegrayan bloc continues to dominate, control and shape government policies, it will further deepen the ethnic polarisation in the country, erode democratic values, possibly break up the ruling EPRDF party, and threaten Ethiopia's fragile political, social and economic environment. The worst case scenario is that instability is likely to be final outcome.
That said, Desalegn's is not expected to shift away from the lead role the state plays in driving development. Ethiopia is also likely to continue to be involved in the internal affairs of her neighbours especially Somalia and Sudan. However, is also expected to cooperate with her neighbours in a number of areas including joint infrastructural development, intelligence sharing, defeating terrorism, and promoting regional peace, security and stability.
Given the important role donor funds play in Ethiopia's development, the country's relationship with the West, and particularly the United States, is expected to continue unchanged and may deepen even further. The need to attract badly needed investment to promote economic growth, infrastructure development and poverty reduction will see Ethiopia deepening its relationship with China, India and Middle Eastern countries.
Whatever changes that take place in the post-Zenawi era, especially with respect to democracy, human rights, inclusive economic development, ethnic and religious cohesion, and regional peace, security, stability among others, will be heavily influenced by the internal politics within the ruling EPRDF party.
Lord Aikins Adusei is an independent energy and security analyst on Africa. His research interests include security, development and energy. He may be reached
Note: This article was first published by the Diplomatist magazine in India.

Ivory Coast’s security nightmare today could be Ghana’s tomorrow

In 1989 Liberia suffered a very devastating civil war. So violent was the war that by 1996 it had killed 200,000 of the 2.4 million people living in the country. About 750,000 people fled the war and became refugees in neighboring countries. Internally between 1 and 1.2 million people were displaced, creating a complex humanitarian emergency in the country.
During the Liberian civil war Côte d'lvoire or (Ivory Coast) played several key roles in fueling the conflict. First, it was from Côte d'lvoire that Charles Taylor invaded Liberia on 24 December 1989. Second, Ivorian politicians and businessmen colluded with and supported Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) to wage his war of aggression against Samuel Doe and the Liberian state by illegally providing weapons to Taylor. Third Ivorian officials also allowed Ivorian territory to be used by Taylor to export timber, diamond and other products illegally taken from Liberia.
William Reno author of 'Liberia and Sierra Leone: Competition for patronage in resource-rich economies' observed that 'in the logging industry, for example, Taylor invited investment from a Liberian timber association located across the border in San Pedro, Côte d'Ivoire. The five members of this association paid 'taxes' in the order of a quarter million dollars each during 1991-92. They also took over state-like functions, visibly directing 'tax' payments to local officials, financing NPFL operations, and providing local utilities. These operations, which included participation from Ivorian officials across the border, tapped into a lucrative transit trade in timber exports and arms imports'.
Registering their displeasure about the involvement in the Liberian civil war by the Ivorian elites, New Democrat, a daily newspaper in Liberia wrote in 1995 that 'for over five years, Ivorian politicians and businessmen have rejoiced at Liberia's nightmare'. Ivorian politicians and businessmen did not only look the other way while their neighbor was being destabilized, they also physically collaborated with Taylor and other rebel groups, supplying them with weapons and allowing them and their criminal associates and networks to export their illegally acquired minerals, timber and other economic goods through Ivory Coast.
The support Taylor received from Ivory Coast and his subsequent successes in capturing large part of Liberia enabled him to sponsor the creation of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sierra Leone, a rebel group whose atrocities against the civilian population has not been matched anywhere in West Africa.
However little did the Ivorian politicians and businessmen know that Liberia's security nightmare which they helped to create and profited from would one day come to haunt and hurt their country. It all began when some of the weapons the Ivorian elites helped to ship to the rebels started finding its way back into Ivory Coast. Sold on the black market, the weapons were used to commit crimes and set the stage for the crisis in Ivory Coast. La Voie, a daily newspaper in Abidjan wrote in 1995 that the negative consequence of the weapons Ivorian officials allowed into Liberia 'is the rise of crime rates thanks to the weapons we are supplying to Liberian rebels, and which are in turn sold on the Ivorian black market by these very same Liberians'.
In September 2012 Ivory Coast accused Ghana of allowing loyalists of former president Laurent Gbagbo living on its soil to overthrow the government in Abidjan. Cherif Moussa, Ivorian Army spokesman was quoted by Associate Press as saying "Our positions in Noe [the Ivorian town bordering Ghana] were attacked by gunmen coming from Ghana. In reaction, our men killed four attackers and five of them were arrested." The allegations were collaborated by a leaked UN Report in October 2012 which found that Ivorian dissidents living in Ghana have established a "strategic command" with the aim to overthrow Quattara's government. Similar allegations were made by Ivory Coast against Liberia in June 2012 after seven UN Peacekeepers were killed on the Ivorian side of Liberia-Ivorian border. Ivory Coast threatened to invade Liberia with Defense Minister Koffi Koffi saying: "These people came from the other [Liberian] side of the border. They are militias and mercenaries. We must go to the other [Liberian] side of the border to establish a security zone. We will clean up and secure the zone. This will be done, of course, with the agreement of the two countries."
However, whether the allegations of abetment of crime are true or false this is not the time for Liberia to pay back Ivory Coast for the thoughtlessness of her leaders, neither should the past sins of Ivorian politicians and businessmen provide any justification for Ghana to allow her territory to be used by dissidents to destabilize Ivory Coast as has been alleged by the UN.
As a matter of fact the continued insecurity in Ivory Coast has political, economic, diplomatic and security implications for Ghana. For example there is a higher possibility that if the insecurity in Ivory Coast worsens and if the dissidents are allowed to operate from Ghana the violence could spillover into Ghana which will put life and economic activities (including oil production) in the border area in danger. It could also harm diplomatic and bilateral trade relations between Ghana and Ivory Coast. Cooperation on a number of traditional security and non traditional security threats including weapons proliferation, terrorism, piracy, climate change, food security and other transnational threats could be harmed. Most importantly it could put on hold efforts to amicably resolve the dispute over oil and gas resources along the Ghana-Ivorian border. Ghana's image abroad as peace-loving and democratic country could also be damaged badly. The instability also has the potential to sow the seed of mistrust and suspicion between the governments in Accra and Abidjan, a situation which could harm regional integration efforts.
President John Mahama's statement in the UN in which he promised not to allow Ghana to be used as a technology to destabilize Ivory Coast is assuring. Also welcoming is the denial by Ghana's Foreign Ministry that Ghana is not supporting any group to destabilize her neighbor. These comments indicate that the government of Ghana recognizes that Ghana stands to benefit strategically from a stabled Ivory Coast than a crisis ridden neighbor.
However, the Ghanaian government must go beyond promises, pledges, assurances and denials. Accra must demonstrate that it has the intent, capability and willingness to deal with any individual or group whether Ivorian or Ghanaian who might want to exploit the Ivorian situation to their advantage. Put differently the officials of Ghana must translate their words into action by, as a matter of urgency and of necessity, swiftly deal with any Gbagbo backed elements in Ghana who might want to use the hospitality of Ghana to foment trouble in Côte d'lvoire. Every effort must be made by the Ghanaian government to deny those elements any resources: human, munitions, financial and intelligence which could enable them to carry out their diabolical plans. This will send a clear and convincing message to the Ivorian government that Accra is not in cahoots with Gbagbo supporters living in Ghana.
In this regard more aggressive screening of the Ivorian refugees living in Ghana is needed to offer protection to genuine asylum seekers while flushing out criminals hiding inside their midst. Border patrols on the Ghana side of the border should be intensified to reduce any infiltration by people hell bent on toppling the government in Abidjan. If needs be the government of Ghana should consider moving some of the ten thousand and six hundred active land forces of the Ghana Armed Forces to the regions immediately bordering Côte d'lvoire to secure the border from any infiltration by the dissidents.
Intelligence (particularly human and technological intelligence) has a major role to play to neutralize any planned effort by dissidents to establish the so called 'strategic command' in Ghana. The various security and intelligence services in Ghana including military intelligence, Bureau of National Investigations should collaborate among themselves and with their Ivorian counterparts to deny the dissidents any operational capability in Ghana.
Serious cooperation and lines of communication should be established between the political leadership in both countries to discuss ways of finding lasting solution to the Ivorian crisis. Ghana must also work closely with regional leaders and with the government in Ivory Coast to share information about activities of Ivorians living in Ghana. Also Ghana and the leadership in West Africa must encourage Quattara to have genuine reconciliation involving all the people in the country. This could bring lasting peace to Ivory Coast.
While the above are being done, President Mahama must demand full report from the security and intelligence officials whose actions and inactions might have led to the UN indictment which has greatly brought embarrassment to the country. The report should explain what the security and intelligence officials knew about the subversive activities of the 'mercenaries' and how they acted or did not act to foil the activities of the 'mercenaries' before UN indicted the country. The president should take action against officials whose negligence and failures not only led the Ivorian authorities to close their side of the border but also caused the UN to indict the country.

The appropriate Parliamentary Select Committee(s) with oversight responsibility for the institutions charged with ensuring Ghana's security, sovereignty and territorial integrity must do their work. Answers must be demanded from the Minister of Interior, the head of National Security Council, and the National Security Coordinator regarding the alleged use of Ghana's soil for subversive activities by enemies of a foreign government.
Ghana must assure her neighbor both in words and in deeds that Ghana can be trusted when it comes to promoting peace, security and stability in their country. This is particularly important because of the economic and security impact that instability and insecurity in Ivory Coast is likely to have on Ghana.
This notwithstanding, the government of Ghana must abide by its international obligation to provide security, food and shelter to those Ivorians in Ghana who are genuine refugees and who want to seek asylum because their life might be in danger if they return.
By Lord Aikins Adusei

Ghana:True National Security comes from Genuine and Inclusive Development

The year 2012 has seen several low intensity but fatal ethnic, religious, chieftaincy and communal clashes in several parts of Ghana including between Kokombas and Bemobas in the Northern Region; Fantes and Ewes in Ekumfi Narkwah in Central Region; Muslims and Ewes in Hoehoe in the Volta Region; between Tijaniya and the Al-Sunnah religious sects in Tamale; Namoligo and Shea-Tindongo and Dorungo and Sokabisi communities in the Upper East Region; and between Fulani herdsmen and farming communities in Ashanti and Eastern Regions.
These developments have had impact on human security, local economic development, migration, and security in the regions and in the districts. For example the clash between Muslims and Ewes in Hoehoe resulted in several properties being destroyed and led to an estimated 6000 people fleeing their homes. Similarly the communal violence between Namoligo and Shea-Tindongo communities claimed four lives. Also the gun battle between the Kokombas and Bemobas claimed one life, and severely injured six people while more than hundred houses were burnt down.
The question many are asking is: what is driving the clashes and violence in the country. Though the causes of the clashes and violence are many there is no doubt that underdevelopment, economic insecurity, poverty and inequality; social and economic exclusion of some social groups are suspect. Also implicated are the uneven development between the regions in the north and those in the south and the competition for resources such as land, minerals and water by different interest groups. Additionally, the failure of the state to honour its social contract with the people, to provide them with economic and social goods, has a critical role in driving the conflicts. A more important factor is the naked greed and the penchant of politicians, their politically connected allies, traditional rulers, and state bureaucrats to accumulate the nation's wealth and to appropriate the benefits of economic growth to themselves.
Undoubtedly Ghana has made progress economically relative to its West African neighbours (see the table below). Politically Ghana continues to be an island of peace in a neighbourhood full of political and social turbulence. However, there are a lot of questions about the quality and character of the progress Ghana has made, particularly that of socio-economic development. Ghana for example is no where near its contemporaries in Asia regarding industrialisation, economic development, poverty reduction and social advancement.
The huge mismatch between housing demand and supply; the perennial water and gas shortages; frequent electricity disruptions; the non-collection of garbage from the streets and the associated frequent cholera outbreaks; and the slow pace of infrastructural development including the non-functioning of the railway sector are examples of how Ghana has stagnated since the mid-1960s. The lack of efficient utilisation of human capital and labour particularly the unemployment and underemployment of tertiary graduates amply illustrate the state of development in the country.
Besides, the long period it takes for citizens to receive services such as passports, birth certificates and pension benefits and the corruption associated with them is a reflection of the state of development of the country. Last week the Ghana News Agency quoted Mrs. Esi Amoaful of Ghana Health Service as saying that about 12,000 children die of food and nutritional related diseases every year. Besides it has now become ritual that every year 150,000 Junior High School graduates (the size of the population of Cape Coast) join the wagon of semi-literate, low-skilled, unemployed force in the country.
In fact as evidenced from the table above, socio-economic development, which are the most worrying problems facing Ghana have not been prioritised and courageously confronted with clear and unambiguous policies and programmes. More dangerous is the indifference of policymakers and lack of political vision to formulate a comprehensive national economic policy and effective strategy to turn the fortunes of the country around and to positively impact its people.
As a result socio-economic development and the associated opportunities such as job security, food security, water security, health security, energy security, and access to high quality education, medicines and housing are far removed from majority of the people. The existence of these problems together with poverty, illiteracy, social inequality, urbanisation, chieftaincy disputes, ethnic, religious, and communal rivalries are undermining security at the local, regional and even at the national level.
By ignoring economic and social development of the people especially the youth, Ghana is slowly setting itself on the path of insecurity. The evidence of this is not only the ethnic and communal clashes that have become rampant this year, but the daily report of armed robberies taking place in cities, towns, communities, and on the country's highways. Over the past two weeks the following armed robbery headlines have appeared on “Chairman of Public Accounts Committee of Parliament robbed”; “Armed robbers in mass highway robbery, close to 20 vehicles involved”; “Abelenkpe, Dzowulu residents terrorised by armed gangs”; “Armed attacks: Dansoman residents worried over police inertia”. These armed robberies have direct relationship with lack of economic security and employment opportunities for the people. They show that the lack of economic security is slowly opening the doors for crimes to the extent that even public officials are not safe.
In other words there is a strong correlation between lack of development and the armed robberies and recent ethnic, religious, chieftaincy and communal clashes in the country. The development-induced clashes are in line with the notion that equitable, just and inclusive development not only increase a country's security, but also lead to lasting peace and stability. As we have seen increasingly in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Mali, countries that take care of all their people not only tend to be stable, but they also tend to enjoy long periods of peace and stability and are not characterised by conflict and civil strife. Put differently the long term security of any country (Ghana included) is linked to the safety, dignity, welfare and wellbeing of all her citizens. In other words the absence of development (job security, income security, food security, water security, energy security, health security, education) acts as a trigger for armed robberies, conflicts, instability, social turmoil and general insecurity.
President Obama echoed these issues in December 2009, during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway noting that: “It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It [security] does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within”.
Thus politicians and policymakers who understand the inextricable relationship between development and security always aspire to meet the immediate and long term physical and material needs of the people. They create opportunities for all the citizens, providing them with capabilities, assets and the enabling environment that allow them as Frances Stewart of Oxford University puts it, 'to lead longer, healthier and fuller lives' free from financial poverty, economic misery and from every kind of want, fear and threats including joblessness, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, diseases, crimes, danger, food, water, health and energy insecurity.
In the case of Ghana the presence of socio-economic problems are acting as points of frustrations, depleting the tolerance and patience of the people. The collective effects are the armed robberies and the fatal ethnic, religious, chieftaincy and communal clashes that surfaced in several parts of the country this year.
It indicates that if nothing is done to aggressively address them not only will our MPs and public officials not be safe, but the long term stability, peace and security of the country may be compromised. Put differently while investing in the latest military and police hardware could contribute to insuring security and safety of Ghanaians, the cheapest way to avoid armed robberies, ethnic, communal and religious conflicts and instability is through genuine and inclusive development i.e. development that provides economic security for all Ghanaians and bridges inequality between regions, districts, and all the social classes.
This therefore calls for inclusive economic growth where the benefits of economic growth as well as revenues from resources such as oil, gold, timber and other resources are equitably distributed to ensure that the material welfare of all Ghanaians is improved. Thus we need to prioritise the security of the people, not only their safety but also their dignity, welfare and well-being. The task however should not be left to the politicians alone. Closer collaboration between politicians, bureaucrats, universities, the private sector and civil society is importantly needed.
By Lord Aikins Adusei,
5 October, 2012


One of the major challenges confronting Africa today is how to tame or reverse the tide of terrorism sweeping across the continent. There is a strong belief among policymakers that terrorism in Africa is largely the product of economic hardship, poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, corruption, alienation and economic, social and political marginalisation and dispossession of the masses. For example on 15 November 2001, two months after the 9/11 attacks, Susan E. Rice, the current Obama Administration's top Security Adviser told the Congress' Subcommittee on Africa that:
'Africa is the world's soft under-belly for global terrorism...Much of Africa is a veritable incubator for the foot soldiers of terrorism. Its poor, overwhelmingly young, disaffected, unhealthy and under-educated populations often have no stake in government, no faith in the future and harbor an easily exploitable discontent with the status quo. For such people, in such places, nihilism is as natural a response to their circumstances as self-help. Violence and crime may be at least as attractive as hard work. Perhaps that is part of the reason why we have seen an increase in recent years in the number of African nationals engaged in international terrorism...Al-Qaeda and other terrorist cells are active throughout East, Southern and West Africa, not to mention in North Africa. These organizations hide throughout Africa. They plan, finance, train for and execute terrorist operations in many parts of Africa, not just Sudan and Somalia. They seek uranium, chemical weapons components and the knowledge of renegade nuclear, chemical and biological weapons experts. Terrorist organizations take advantage of Africa's porous borders, weak law enforcement and security services and nascent judicial institutions to move men, weapons and money around the globe. They take advantage of poor, disillusioned populations, often with religious or ethnic grievances, to recruit for their jihad' (Rice, 2001).
In 2004 Chris Mullin as UK Foreign Office Minister, pointed out in a speech in New York, USA that "the problems of terrorism [in Africa] are inextricably connected to Africa's other problems“... "The factors which sustain and feed terrorist networks and activity [in Africa]... stem from a complex relationship between geography, institutional weakness, corruption, poor borders, economic and social issues, radicalisation and alienation, and simple opportunity” (Mullin, 2004).
However, the poverty, unemployment and illiteracy that drive African youths to embrace terrorism in Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Mauritania among others are the product of another issue: The Bad African Politics. As Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute of Security Studies, South Africa has observed:
'African politics easily degenerates into a life-and-death struggle over private access to limited public resources; the zero-sum nature of the struggle compels would-be political leaders to obtain material benefits in order to wield influence over followers and competitors. Accordingly what all African states share is a generalised system of patrimony and an acute degree of apparent disorder, as evidenced by a high level of governmental and administrative inefficiency, a lack of institutionalisation, a general disregard for the rules of formal political and economic sectors, and a universal resort to personalised and vertical solutions to societal problems'.
In this zero-sum game politics, helping the masses to climb out of poverty isn't the priority of the politicians. Once they are in power the politicians quickly forget about the electorate and rather work hard to monopolise national resources and use it for their personal gain. As has been argued by Hussein Solomon of University of the Free State, South Africa:
'Part of the reason for the conflict-ridden nature of African polities is that a tiny elite has often been allowed to monopolise the wealth of the nations giving precious little back to ordinary citizens. President Mobutu Sese Seko's rule (1965-1997) of the former Zaire is perhaps the quintessential example of this. For his entire 32-year rule, Mobutu and his kleptocratic coterie gave his hapless citizens little more than an ill-disciplined and predatory military rule while spending practically nothing on public health and educational services'.
The danger is that because politicians refuse to address the extreme poverty facing the people, the poverty quickly gives way to grievances. The grievances when they mature also metamorphose into secession, violence, ethnic-religious conflict and terrorism. In the last three decades for example Africa has experienced an increase of secessionist movements which has already desintegrated Ethiopia and Sudan and may as well dismember Libya, Mali and Nigeria. The reason is that poverty and marginalisation of the masses from the largesse of the state by the tiny political elite and their cronies usually force the marginalised to take extreme measures in order to secure their share of the national resources. In Mali and Niger for example poverty has served as a major motivational factor for both terrorism and secession by the Tuareg people who have complained about poverty, neglect, and marginalisation. In Mali for instance, while the poverty rate averaged 64% of the population in 2004, the figure was much higher in the Tuareg dominated north: Timbuktu had a poverty rate of 77%, Gao had 78.7% and Kidal had an astonishing 92%. It is these conditions of poverty and despair that led Tuareg to join forces with the terrorist group Ansar Dine to battle the government in Bamako in 2012 for the creation of Azawad/homeland for the Tuareg people.
Poverty has been a driving force for terrorism in Nigeria. Since oil was discovered in the late 1950s the country has earned more than $350 billion and continues to earn about $74 billion a year but a tiny elite of top civil servants, military and civilian regimes have plundered the money leaving very little for the people who live on one dollar a day. As Hussein Solomon of University of the Free State, South Africa points out:
'Despite soaring oil prices benefiting the Nigerian state, the growing impoverishment of the citizenry stands in sharp contrast to the growing wealth of the political elite, and perceptions of endemic corruption. Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigerian politicians have reportedly embezzled between US$4 billion and US$8 billion per annum. At a time when Nigeria's oil revenues are in excess of US$74 billion per annum, more than half of Nigerians live on less than $1 a day and four out of 10 Nigerians are unemployed'.
Cyril Obi, one of Nigeria's respected political scientists observes that:
'Apart from being Africa's largest oil producer and exporter, Nigeria is also a producer of natural gas, accounting for an estimated output of 22 million tonnes per year. Natural gas exports account for about $4 billion worth of earnings annually. Most of the natural gas is produced from the Niger Delta or its coastal waters. However, this oil- and gas-rich region that generates billions of dollars worth of revenues and profits annually is also paradoxically one of the least developed and conflict-ridden parts of Nigeria'
In the absence of economic opportunities for the average Nigerian, jihadist groups such as Boko Haram and Ansaru with radical Islamic ideologies have found fertile ground in the country's north, recruiting the youth and radicalising them to carry out act of terrorism against the state. According to Thomas Fessy of the BBC, Boko Haram pays more than $3000 to each new recruit. As a result the ranks of the terror group have been swelled by thousands of destitute young men from even Niger who are willing to swap their poverty and joblessness with terrorism and death. A group of poor and jobless youths told Thomas Fessy of BBC: "We break into houses for cash; sometimes we beat people for money, we steal their animals so we can eat and then we gather up and take Tramol [an opiate drug], smoke ganja [marijuana] and drink alcohol...We have no jobs; some of us are still at high school but we need money. Violence has become a form of work for us...They [Boko Haram] have paid 500,000 Nigerian naira ($3,085, £1,835) to those of us who followed them over there" (See BBC documentary headlined: 'Niger hit by Nigeria's Boko Haram fallout' April 22, 2014).
The same poverty was responsible for the insurgency that took place in the Niger Delta between 1999 and 2009. Many of the youth sensing that they had been deceived by the politicians, after billions of dollars' worth of oil and gas was taken from their land without any direct benefit, began to agitate for greater control of their natural wealth as well the revenue accrued from the exploitation of those resources. When the government-corporate alliance failed to address their concerns, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other ethnic militias embarked on armed rebellion, destroying and sabotaging oil and gas pipelines, flow stations, kidnapping oil workers and killing security officers sent to confront them. This is one of the reasons why Nigeria cannot supply gas to Ghana through the West African Gas Pipeline.
Poverty therefore is a major driver for terrorism in Africa. In the just ended Fifa World Cup in Brazil the international media (BBC, Al Jazeera) reported embarrassing news about 200 Ghanaians who had sought asylum with the Brazilian government claiming to be fleeing religious persecution. According to media reports the asylum seekers claimed their life would be in danger if they returned to Ghana. While the claim of the people to be fleeing massive religious conflict is totally false, it cannot be denied that those claiming asylum are in fact fleeing poverty, economic hardship, unemployment, inequality, underdevelopment, neglect, dispossession, and economic and social marginalisation.
Some policymakers, security experts and political scientists have rubbished the idea that Ghana might go the way of Nigeria if the poverty of the people is not addressed. They argue that Ghanaians are not so enthusiastic about shedding blood and radicalisation may be difficult to take root because the Muslim population in the country follow a moderate form of Islam. The danger of such argument is that it continues to give the politicians in the country a license not to do anything about the suffering of the people. On the larger note the argument that Ghanaians are not blood spilling people holds no water if one considers the ethnic and chieftaincy conflicts in the north that has claimed the lives of thousands of people including Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II of Dagbon and Naa Dasana Andani the Paramount Chief of the Nanumba Traditional Area.
The truth is that the high poverty levels and economic hardship facing Ghanaians are increasing their agitation against the ruling elite. The July demonstration by the Occupy Flagstaff House group; the two month old strike action by POTAG; chiefs in Western region fighting Ghana Gas Company over land compensation; 817 highly skilled Ghanaian professionals renouncing their citizenship; the increasing fatal armed robberies are all signs that the country is slowly slipping into something that resembles Nigeria's Niger Delta.
To prevent Ghanaians from embracing terrorism or any form of political violence, the swamps of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and corruption must be drained. And to quote Dr. Susan Rice 'we must do so for the cold, hard reason that to do otherwise, we place our national security at further and more permanent risk. We must do so out of realpolitik recognition that our long-term security depends on it'. To drain these swamps, we must invest in education and healthcare of the people. We must build roads and rail infrastructures to connect our cities and rural areas to speed up development. We must industrialise by building and expanding our energy infrastructures to take advantage of Ghana's huge untapped natural resources. We must increase trade, investment and promote economic growth. We must strengthen state institutions to deliver better, efficient and high quality public goods to the citizens. And we must at all cost fight to end endemic corruption in the country.
Without progress on these fronts we should expect the international brotherhood of terror groups (made up of Al Qaeda, AQIM, Boko Haram, Ansaru, MUJWA, ISIS and future such enemies) to infiltrate communities in Ghana to recruit and radicalise the youth to engage in local or international terrorism.
Cilliers, J. (2003) 'Terrorism and Africa', Africa Security Review, Volume 12, Issue 4, p. 98.
Fessy, T. (2014) 'Niger hit by Nigeria's Boko Haram fallout' April 22, 2014
Mullin, C. (2004) 'Chris Mullin 2004 Speech on Africa'
Obi, C. (2009) 'Nigeria's Niger Delta: Understanding the Complex Drivers of Violent Oilrelated
Conflict,' Africa Development, Nov. 2, 2009, pp. 106-107;
Solomon, H. (2013) 'The African state and the failure of US counterterrorism initiatives in Africa: The cases of Nigeria and Mali' South African Journal of International Affairs, Volume 20, Issue3, pp. 427-445
Rice, S. (2001) 'September 11, 2001: Attack on America Testimony of Dr. Susan E. Rice Before the House International Relations Committee Subcommittee on Africa - "Africa and the War on Global Terrorism"; November 15, 200.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Insurgency in Northern Mali: Diplomacy or Counterinsurgency?

By Lord Aikins Adusei
The recent take over of Northern Mali by National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Al Qaeda franchise groups such Ansar Dine and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) present difficult challenge to the civilian and military leadership in West Africa. There is no question that AQIM working closely with Ansar Dine would use their new trophy i.e. northern Mali not only as a supermarket for terrorism but also to fuel kidnapping, drug trafficking and other contraband activities in the Sahel region and beyond. Therefore allowing them to use the region as a safe haven for terrorism and their criminal enterprise could worsen Mali’s security problems and threaten the already shaky stability in neighbouring countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mauritania, and Niger. At the same time a counterinsurgency offensive on the part of ECOWAS to dislodge the MNLA rebels and Ansar Dine could trigger multiplier effects that ECOWAS might not be ready for. It is a serious dilemma that needs to be approached with extreme caution.

In formulating a proper response to the Malian problem, the leadership in West Africa should be guided by lessons in Somaliawhere efforts to root out Al Shabaab have remained not only elusive but to a larger extent have been counterproductive: spreading terrorism to Uganda and Kenya. More lessons could be drawn from the U.S.experience in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Paul Scharre, former officer of the U.S. 75th Ranger Regiment and the author of “A More Agile Pentagon” observes that the Afghan war was initially conducted with a “shock and awe” strategy using light and fast vehicles but that soon changed to the use of heavily armoured vehicles as Taliban and Al Qaeda began using improvised explosive devices (IEDs)and roadside bombs to destroy convoys, road clearance vehicles and even the most potent of the coalition armoured vehicles with impressive results and with strategic consequences for the U.S. led coalition.
NATO, with its well trained 150,000 strong fighters and overwhelmingly superior capabilities, in addition to 305,000 Afghan Police and Armed Forces could not easily win the war against the battle-hardened, religiously and ideologically entrenched Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. A change in both strategy and leadership on the part of U.S.-- including a 30,000 troop surge in 2009-2010-- did not overwhelmingly alter the battle environment in favour of the coalition forces. In the end U.S.began to engage the Taliban in dialogue for a negotiated political settlement. In June 2011, after ten years in Afghanistan and hundreds of billions of dollars spent in the war effort, President Barack Obama announced that he was bringing the U.S.troops home telling Americans “it is time to focus on nation building here at home”.
President Obama's announcement was made in spite of the obvious fact that Afghanistanis still unstable. While writing this piece report came in that the Taliban on Monday August 20, 2012shot and damaged the parked plane of General Martin Dempsey, the top-most officer in the U.S.military. The attack came months after U.S. Defence Secretary Leone Panetta was made a target of a suicide attack in mid-March 2012 while on a visit to Camp Bastionin Afghanistan. It is highly uncertain what will happen in Afghanistan when the troops leave, however the U.S. willingness to engage the Taliban in dialogue for a political settlement is a major lesson that ECOWAS’ political and military leaders could learn from. In other words ECOWAS’ leaders should hesitate in launching counter offensive against the insurgents and give diplomacy a chance while keeping the military option on the table.
There are several reasons why ECOWAS must give diplomacy a chance. First AQIM, Ansar Dine and the MNLA rebels are not only unconventional fighting force that respect no rules of engagement but are also heavily armed and could put up stiff resistance to ECOWAS' counterinsurgency efforts. This means that combined with the difficult and hostile Saharaenvironment, it will be difficult to completely defeat them. The war could in fact drag on for years if not decades as pointed out by James Thomas Snyder author of “Counterinsurgency Vocabulary and Strategic Success” who notes that modern counterinsurgency warfare usually last between 12 and 15 years. Going by this it implies that ECOWAS will find it difficult to conduct and sustain a war that will last for 12 or 15 years especially given other serious threats in the sub region such as maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, terrorism in Nigeria, fragile stability in Ivory Coast and narcotics trafficking that equally need human, financial and material resources to confront them.

Besides, counterinsurgency like any other war could be humanly costly. AQIM, Ansar Dine and MNLA may use guerrilla tactics; hide inside the populations living in the Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu thereby making it harder for ECOWAS’Forces to root them out. Attempt to attack the insurgents in the towns could lead to high civilian casualties which could be exploited by the insurgents to make the counterinsurgency unpopular among the population.
Additionally, a counterinsurgency could also worsen the already bad humanitarian situation in the north of the country. So far about 500,000 people are known to have fled their homes, additional 250,000 are internally displaced while a quarter of a million more live in refugee camps. More people could be forced to flee and the complicated food, water and health security situation could get worse.

Moreover, as it is common with many wars, the counterinsurgency environment can change very quickly with unpredictable outcomes. The insurgents could adapt to counterinsurgency offensive and even change the environment in their favour. They may decide to extend their activities to relatively stable areas in Maliand even to neighbouring countries. This is exactly what Al Shabaab did in Uganda on 11 July 2010 when they killed more than 85 people who had gathered to watch the FIFA World Cup that was underway in South Africa.Kenyahas come under similar attacks from Al Shabaab and Boko Haram recently extended its activities to states in the middle belt of Nigeria.

More problematic is the financial situation in the ECOWAS region. ECOWAS countries, like the rest of the countries worldwide, are cash trapped due to the global financial and economic downturn. Governments in West Africa, United Statesand Europe are implementing austerity budget and struggling to stay afloat. Launching a war against the insurgents will not only require men but also money and military capabilities. Sending poorly equipped 3,500 fighting force to a region as big as France or U.S. state of Texas will be similar to repeating what the Malian government did when it sent soldiers with poor morale, leadership shortcomings and limited capabilities to confront the heavily armed insurgents, resulting in the lightening victory for the insurgents.
Heavily armed Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine control key northern cities of Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu

In other words undertaking a counterinsurgency that could be lengthy and costly, in a financially weak-region, and in a global economy that is still struggling to recover definitely needs deep thinking and a deeper reflection. General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recently cautioned that the complexities of modern warfare particularly counterinsurgency require “leaders who do not think linearly, but who instead seek to understand the complexity of problems before seeking to solve them”. This means that politicians and military leaders in ECOWAS seeking solution for Mali should understand the situation before prescribing any solution.

Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, commanding general of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan and Captain Nathan K. Finney in an article titled “Security, Capacity and Literacy” published in the journal ‘Military Review’ in 2011 opined that “conventional military weapons alone will not win” the war against AQIM, Ansar Dine and the Tuareg rebels. Similarly Tony Blair in a speech on January 12, 2007 observed that “Terrorism cannot be defeated by military means alone”.

This suggests that there are other weapons that in addition to dialogue could be used to defeat the insurgents. One such weapon is the use of intelligence. Intelligence could be beefed up in the region controlled by the insurgents. This could help ECOWAS to know the mind of the insurgents, their strategy, tactics, their movements, weapons and their operational capabilities. Intelligence could also help to identify the leadership of the insurgent for special attention and to counter their propaganda.

In his book “The War within”, Bob Woodward observed that the strategy of using accurate intelligence to conduct precision raids, targeting insurgent leaders helped to turn the tide in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the threats he and other Al Qaeda leaders posed in Iraq were removed with the help of intelligence. Thus intelligence fusion and precision raiding focusing strongly on the leadership of insurgent could weaken the terror group’s ability to mount effective response. Intelligence could alsolimit damage and bloodshed and unnecessary civilian casualties. Although Ansar Dine may quickly replace their captured or killed leaders, the new leaders may lack experience and skill which will affect their decision making and ability to wage a sustained war. Intelligence could also help to dismantle the drug trafficking, kidnapping and other criminal activities that serve as a key source of funding for the insurgents.

Also a strategy could be adopted to divide the front of the insurgents. There are two broad groups involved in the insurgency in northern Mali: Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine. The Tuareg rebels are fighting for a homeland while the Ansar Dine is religiously fanatical organisation with links to AQIM that is seeking a haven to implement terror agenda in northern Mali. In other words the Tuareg rebels and Ansar Dine have different objectives when it comes ruling their captured territory. ECOWAS could exploit the deep differences the two groups have. For example ECOWAS could isolate Ansar Dine by talking to Tuareg rebels and working with them to implement the terms of the agreement they signed with the government in 2006. Energy then could be directed at AQIM and Ansar Dine.

Working with local leaders and improving governance could serve ECOWAS well. Local leaders could be of strategic value to ECOWAS’ forces regarding intelligence, and mobilising the people against the insurgents. Mark F. Cancian, a former Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, notes that in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar it was the involvement of the local leaders ‘Awakening sheiks’ that turned the war in U.S. favour in late 2006 and early 2007.

Similarly addressing poverty, inequality and underdevelopment in northern Mali could strategically tilt the hearts and minds of the population away from MNLA and Ansar Dine. By all account northern Mali is relatively poor compared to the south of the country. The lack of development combined with minimal government presence undoubtedly contributed in the takeover of the region by MNLA, AQIM and Ansar Dine. Thus improving food security, water, energy and health security and general infrastructure such as roads, education, irrigation and housing in northern Malicould win the population over to the ECOWAS and alienate the insurgents.

More crucial is building the capabilities of the Malian Police to provide security for the civilian population. The Police having operated in the cities in the north for years may know the leadership of the insurgents, where they live and could therefore provide useful information for their arrest. Building the capabilities of Mali’s 7000 poorly equipped and poorly remunerated soldiers and restoring the soldiers’ morale could tilt the balance of power in ECOWAS favour should full scale counterinsurgency become the last resort. In other words security must go hand in hand with governance and development. The three are what Bruce Hoffman and Seth G. Jones have termed “the holy trinity of counterinsurgency”.

Lord Aikins Adusei,