By Adagbo ONOJA
General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, two time National Security Adviser as well as a former Minister of Defence of Nigeria has thrown into question the Islamicist claims of Boko Haram, saying that it is a secondary consequence of Cold War and post Cold War conflicts in Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Libya, leading up to export of terrorism, insurgency and crime in other parts of Africa. Gusau is categorically asserting that Boko Haram in north eastern Nigeria draws sustenance from the safe haven of radical groups in Somalia and Sudan in addition to unfolding instability in Libya which he attributed to “ill-conceived intervention by the major powers in the Libyan political crisis triggered by the Constitutionalists in Cyrenaica protesting Muammar Qadhafi in 2011. But Libya has, in his view, added the factor of a conduit for what he called movement of radical fighters and weapons into West Africa.
In what seems his most explicit intervention in the discourse of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Gusau said in a book chapter titled “Controlling Crises in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea” that current challenges manifesting in the Boko Haram insurgency, for instance, have their origin in conflicts, rivalries and ideologies of Cold War competition or post Cold War vacuum and the revival of great power competition. The book published earlier in the year in the US for the triad of The International Strategic Studies Association in Washington DC; The Gusau Institute in Kaduna, Nigeria and The Water Initiative for Africa based in the United States recently became available in Nigeria. It is also downloadable for free.
Attributing to inter-power rivalry much of the strategic reality in contemporary Africa, Gusau argued that the African crisis is no longer the legacy of colonialism but the legacy of the Cold War and competition between major powers which now involves state and non-state actors. Interpreting this as change in the nature and framework or context of Africa’s security challenges, the security expert warns as to how this change is likely to evolve further in the years ahead, requiring change in political, diplomatic and military institutions with which Africa could deal with the changed situation.
Resting the inevitability of a full re-evaluation of the situation as well as in the mechanisms for managing sovereignty by the Africans on how little of their diplomatic and intelligence skills the industrial powers or what is called the international community devote to the Red sea/Horn of Africa, Gusau draws attention to a number of questions to be answered. Among the five questions are whether the concept of peace keeping as presently construed provides a response in terms of long term response or causes of the conflicts in question; how adequate Africa’s economic, political, security and diplomatic mechanisms for conflict prevention is; how adequate the threat assessment and intelligence collection and sharing across the continent is and the adequacy of the continental conflict resolution capabilities.
Answering the questions in the negative, Gusau says the continent would not be facing current security challenges if the answer were to be otherwise. Dismissing as unrealistic, Africa’s expectation of the world to continue paying for peace on the continent, he said a number of changes have made nonsense of some of the conceptual bedrocks of the post 1945 international order and the problem might be that Africa is not reviewing the concepts and re-ordering priorities accordingly.
On what is to be done regarding the Red Sea/Mediterranean region as far as Africa is concerned, Gusau suggests a low-cost “Good Offices” mission managed by The International Strategic Studies Association and The Gusau Institute. His criteria for the selection are non partisan professional bodies based outside the region in question as a safeguard against bias. Regarding funding, Gusau believes that a few hundred thousand dollars from littoral and dependent states of the Red Sea/Mediterranean region such as Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Djibouti, Somaliland, Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan could sustain the “Good Offices” to the benefits of them all, Africa and the ‘global trading community’.
The book itself titled Rise of the RedMed: How the Mediterranean – Red Sea Nexus is Resuming Its Strategic Centrality is a representation of the arc as “the pivotal geographic junction of global trade and energy”, according to one of the authors who went on to argue this moment to be an interregnum in terms of the absence of any dominant powers in the arc. The ambition common to all the authors of the book seems to be the development of a framework to underpin great power rivalry and co-operation which they observe to be unfolding already, especially between the US, China, Russia, the EU, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Australia.
There is a sense in which one paragraph in the book offers so much about this concern. The paragraph goes as follows: All of these possibilities are open in this pivotal region, stabilizing not only the controlling lands of the Suez/Red Sea lane but also creating one of the world’s great new market places. This is a strategic vision worthy of consideration. We know there are great negotiating hurdles to overcome… But the rewards are worth the struggle if, first, we can define the overarching vision”, (p.21).
Thus Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, one of the authors, talks of a clearing house to create understanding and mastery of the region that is, according to him, the nexus of global strategic balance whose stability is crucial, (p. 17). This strategic rating of the region is rested on how what happens in the Indian Ocean and its key straits would determine “much of the wealth of the world”. Water abundance in terms of what Ethiopia, for example, is trying to achieve with its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is a second argument for the primacy of the RedMed.
It is an absolutely empirically rich book, very current and highly informed too. It is truly the work of intellectuals of statecraft who are on top of the theory and practice of contemporary geopolitics. Almost every chapter is framed by an interfacing sense of the interaction between the local power players and the out of region powers contrary to a one sided view of power which would have given exclusive focus to what the US, China, Russia, the EU, India, Australia, Iran, Israel and Turkey are poised to do in the RedMed. Instead, the reader gets a good dose of the role of the littoral and surrounding states such as Djibouti, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Ethiopia, Kenya; which of them are heading for major cracks, implosion, reconfiguration or stability.
It could thus be an inviting as much as a disturbing book except that language use in such a book or in any book at all is not a project of innocent analysis. Geopolitical identities such as fragile and failing states, secure versus insecure space, stability versus instability can hardly be understood outside of the geopolitical visions of the global space they inherently refract. Related to this book, a market discourse of the Red Sea/Mediterranean region appears to be on sale as a safeguard against threat of great power rivalry and its destabilizing consequences if not moderated by a consensual view of freedom of navigation. What a great idea except that such framework automatically privileges the big powers, their transnational companies, giant technology, big profits, the same conditions that produce the distressing modernisation that are at the heart of resistance in terrorism and insurgency.
Speaking in Sokoto, Nigeria as part of a 3 – nation African tour last week, John Kerry, US Secretary of State said, among others, “We see this in every part of the world – whether we are talking about the Lake Chad Basin or the Sahel, or a village in the Middle East or a city in Western Europe, it’s the same. When people – and particularly young people – have no hope for the future and no faith in legitimate authority – when there are no outlets for people to express their concerns – then aggravation festers and those people become vulnerable to outside influence. And no one knows that better than the violent extremist groups, which regularly use humiliation and marginalization and inequality and poverty and corruption as recruitment tools”.
This particular portion of Kerry’s speech could be spoken of in terms of a new discursive framework for international security because, three weeks earlier, Pope Francis pushed the same argument, using virtually the same vocabulary by situating transnational terrorism in the alienating character of contemporary global capitalism. The social and economic marginalization of Muslim youth in Europe helped explain the actions of those who joined extremist groups, he said, asking: “How many youths have we Europeans left empty of ideals? They don’t have work, and they turn to drugs and alcohol. They go (abroad) and enroll in fundamentalist groups”.
Analysts take Kerry’s echoing of the papal intervention as admission that the existing social order breeds discontent that can disrupt the international order. It is regarded as a major and an important shift from the initial attitude to any attempt to link terrorism to the distressing nature of modernisation in the global borderlands. Those who spoke of the need to pay attention to the crises of modernisation as a source of trouble to the global order in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 were labeled as justifying terrorism. Now, there is a shift in the status quo’s attitude to a point where the conservatives of yesterday are now the radicals of today. Both John Kerry and the Pope have superseded even radical Marxists in the comprehension of contemporary international security challenges. Unfortunately, this is coming after unspeakable cruelty and crimes against humanity that have characterised transnational terrorist operations as well as the Global War on Terror, (GWOT).
It is something to ponder upon that revolution in the 21st century is no less bloody than the two previous revolutions that followed each world war: the First World War and the Socialist Revolution in the defunct USSR; the Second World War and the Chinese Revolution and now the GWOT and what we might call the ‘Reformed New World Order’. While in Nigeria, Kerry left no one in doubt that the world has formally arrived at a new framework for international security, 15 years after 9/11: a global war on corruption, to be led by the powers and lead players in international security. How this plays out in Nigeria under a self-alienating and an alienated presidential leadership is what everyone is watching out for.