At the Abidjan African Union-EU get together, the two bodies along with the United Nations came up with a task force to check abuse of migrants in Libya. The belief is that “This action will build on, expand and accelerate the ongoing work done by countries of origin, and the IOM, with EU funding, which allowed so far the voluntary return to their countries of origin of 13 000 migrants since January”. This is progress but it is not any radical solution that took note of history and international political economy of the migration crisis now christened ‘Second Slavery’ and what that is evocative of.
It is worth recalling how this was triggered by the CNN and the ‘CNN Effect’. CNN reported sale of other Africans as slaves in Libya and suddenly everyone is jolted into a frenzy as if that was the first time they would be hearing of that. Africans could not have been hearing of that for the first time. Certainly not African presidents whose external intelligence services must be in the know. If it is true they are just hearing of it, then the theory that, sometimes, western dominated transnational media serve to disrupt the geopolitical power script of their home governments must be taken more seriously. In other words, these media outlets are involved in videocameralism – a post modern form of management of power in the images of ‘reality’ that challenge the hegemonic impulse underlining contemporary global governance.
The catastrophe that the careless elimination of Gaddafi has unleashed on Africa is a direct consequence of NATO’s careless geopolitics. Gaddafi has been taken out in such a way that has left his Armoury in the hands of too diverse combatants. The consequence is being felt across the continent.
The tragedy is that only a CNN is powerful enough to point at this, not by saying so directly but by playing up images that reminds everyone of this careless geopolitics. CNN is protected. By doing so, it does not set out to undermine NATO/Western conception of world order. It is simply that CNN is not a homogeneous entity committed to following the flag sheepishly. It doesn’t make it radical or anti-West. It only signposts the intellectual nature of journalism and the autonomy of mind that goes with it.
For Nigeria, the African country for which Africa is the centrepiece of her foreign policy, the CNN story is bound to be a source of headache. It has not been that vocal on the migration crisis before then. It is true Abike Dabiri-Elewa, Presidential Adviser on the Diaspora has been forthcoming with advisory to willful migrants, that is not a standpoint on the migration crisis. Compared to Europe/EU which has a clear framework on migration, Africa is still not too clear. For the EU, migration is a security threat, a force multiplier in terrorism and criminality. On the basis of this securitising discourse, they have put in place unbelievable mega-machinistic mechanisms for checking migration, from the ‘border’ to the airport, sea ports, fences and walls, etc. Not for them any narrative of globalisation and borderless world.
Africa is not that categorically clear. Conscious of border control and statehood, (you cannot call yourself a state if you have no control over your traditional borders), it is ‘sympathetic’ to EU. But the victims are Africans and so the leaders are angry or are forced by local pressures to appear to be angry. Of course, there are some African leaders who believe in their mind of minds that EU countries cannot run away from their past: they cannot have gone about colonising everywhere, develop their own countries from the human and material proceeds of colonialism and think they can shut off those left behind by development from the prosperity they have created.
But bellicosity on the part of EU and African leaders will not solve the problem. The gory human rights contradiction around the Mediterranean will continue to trouble everyone. The contradiction could spill over into anything. The ‘second slavery’ discourse of it must be troubling to strategic thinkers on both sides already, what with the images that are consistently emerging as in the case here.
This is where the challenge comes for Nigerian foreign policy. That challenge is the challenge of re-framing the phenomenon in such a way that persuades the EU to shift from its rigid construction of migrants as terrorists and criminal scavengers while at the same time offer a model of social transformation that can absorb the migrants at home. Providing this re-framing is a challenge for Nigerian foreign policy because such is what would give it the leadership position it aspires to in Africa and which is hers by the reality of its wealth and demography. Such a sensitive discourse would then provide the grounds for negotiating the crisis and solving the problem. What the discourse could be is not what anyone can provide. It requires team work in the Nigerian foreign policy establishment.
As noted before, the video below is grisly. Viewer’s discretion, as the warning goes, is advised. It is used because it speaks to the enormity of the crisis, the human rights complications and, in any case, it is not original to Intervention. It is already on social media platforms. So, view and reflect rather than agonise!