African solutions for African problems: Putting rhetoric into practice, the need for an African coalition against Boko Haram
With the U.S leading a coalition of 40 nations against ISIS is it not about time that the A.U. or anyone willing led a coalition against both Boko Haram and al Shabab? The terrorist threats facing Nigeria and Kenya are showing signs of developing into serious regional threats. Both Boko Haram and al Shabab are still relatively small in stature necessitating the need to nip them in the bud. It is better to tackle them now when they are still in their “infancy” before they develop into full-fledged terrorist behemoths like what has become of ISIS.
September saw the U.S. bring together a coalition of willing nations to fight ISIS, following the beheadings of a Briton and two Americans by the terrorist organisation. Although one would argue this is a late response relative to the threat that this organisation has been exhibiting for the past two years, it is still a much-warranted response nonetheless. What is admirable about this anti – ISIS coalition is the swiftness with which willing partners of this coalition have shown an inclination to bring together resources to fight ISIS. Terrorism, as shown by the incredible and amazing pace at which ISIS has wrought a campaign of terror and mass murder across Iraq and Syria, is a transnational issue.
Boko Haram seems to be the most menacing terrorist organisation in Africa given how it is increasingly imitating the dangerous strategy and tactics of ISIS. Right on the heels of ISIS declaring a caliphate stretching from parts of Iraq into parts of Syria, Boko Haram did the same. It appears that Boko Haram is trying to establish its own caliphate stretching across West Africa. It has shown that it is now capable of seizing and holding on to territory, instead of simply executing attacks. Boko Haram, like ISIS uses the same indiscriminate killing and cruelty like its Middle Eastern counterpart. It is estimated to have killed more than 1, 200 people between May and mid-December 2013 and 20 000 since 2011.
Boko Haram also seems to be growing ever bolder. In 2011 it attacked the UN headquarters in Abuja. Earlier on this year it attacked a village in Chibok and abducted at least 200 girls. In August this year, four teenage girls carried out suicide bombings in Kano, Nigeria, fuelling speculation that it had managed to turn some of the abducted girls into suicide bombers.
Boko Haram is no longer a threat to only Nigeria. Indeed, it has extended its reach to Niger and Cameroon. Additionally, Chad and Benin face credible threats from Boko Haram. There is even evidence of Boko Haram operating training camps in Mali. The threat posed by Boko Haram is further compounded by the possible existence of transnational alliances with other terrorist organisations in Africa, namely Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab in Somalia. These transnational alliances require a transnational coalition to tackle them.
Steps taken so far:
The most credible steps in combating Boko Haram taken so far have been anything but home grown. These have included the provision of military aid by the U.K and military training by the U.S.Additionally France convened a summit in Paris, much to the disdain of some Africans who felt that the meeting should have been held in Africa.
We are often subjected to the mantra of African solutions for African problems. So far the only African solutions Africa seems to have had towards the terrorist challenge raised by Boko Haram involve:
– The A.U’s Peace and Security Council during its 455th meeting on the 2nd of September 2014 called upon African countries to take necessary steps to fight Boko Haram.
– Regional structures have also been set up like the Lake Chad Basin Commission Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and the Regional Intelligence Fusion (RIFU).
– A meeting of Heads of Intelligence and Security Services of the Sahel- Saharan region states held in Burkina Faso in May 2014, culminating in the Ougadougou Operational Conclusions, which laid out steps to fight Boko Haram.
It is important to acknowledge that the A.U. is at least thinking of taking on the terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram and that there are steps that have been taken in this regard. However, they are simply not tangible or speedy enough. The five countries faced with the immediate threat posed by Boko Haram do not possess the financial resources, military training or intelligence gathering abilities required to carry out a counter – insurgency campaign against the terrorist organisation. Additionally, despite steps and structures being taken in the plan to fight terrorism, A.U. member states appear to have not taken steps to implement many of the plans.
Kwame Nkrumah once envisioned a militarily united Africa. Decades after the formation of the A.U this still remains a pipeline dream. The growth of terrorism in Africa has re-emphasised the need of a standing A.U. army, specifically one with task forces trained in counter – insurgency.
South Africa is said to be in the running for a permanent place on the U.N Security Council. Well renowned for its human rights diplomacy, it has shown little nerve when it comes to matters of security. Leading an African coalition against Boko Haram would lend credence to its aspiration for a seat on the council. After all, its main African contender for that seat, Nigeria is clearly struggling to contain Boko Haram.
Boko Haram and al-Shabab have not grown beyond being contained by African states. Boko Haram is after all an African problem and as such it warrants an African solution. If anything the growth of ISIS has shown that ambitious terrorist organisations like Boko Haram require speedy and forceful responses. In essence, nothing short of regional / global coalitions can stem the growth of these.