2 November 2012

Nigeria and Foreign Intervention in Mali

Ever since the takeover of northern Mali by some Muslim rebels, the country's political turmoil has been getting worse, and the growing insecurity threatens to spill over to some other countries within the region and beyond, while some major western countries have been pushing for an international military intervention in order to sack the rebels, who are generally regarded as terrorists.

In a situation like this where different countries' interests are involved, each county or group of countries ordinarily pursues its own interest notwithstanding any other considerations. This explains why the western countries insist on arranging and deploying such international forces in Mali, because they simply approach the issue in the perspective of their strategy of the so-called war of terror, even though from their involvement in similar operations in some other parts of the world particularly over the past decade, they are increasingly growing militarily exhausted, financially distressed and psychologically desperate amid the worsening economic recession sweeping across Europe in particular.

This among other things explains why such western countries are obviously concerned about the rise of any new war front of such nature while they have not been able to close any of the ones they have opened over the past decade.

And this is the reason why they are steadily shifting their militarily strategy towards gradual but sustained withdrawal from the increasingly precarious war fronts in favour of resorting to some regional or international proxies to literally execute such wars on their behalf under different regional and/or international military alliances. And though this strategy may reduce the human cost they suffer, it will keep the pressure on their already shrinking budgets and struggling economies anyway.

Yet, they massively spend huge amounts of money and other miscellaneous inducements with a view to winning the hearts and minds of the people of the affected areas, with view to discouraging potential recruits and enticing the active ones to renounce violence, though a large portion of such money ends up in the pockets of some local political, military and communal elites in the areas.

Anyway, pragmatically speaking (not necessarily morally) such western countries' strategy is quite understandable, after all as I pointed out earlier the whole game is actually interest-based notwithstanding whatever ethical or moral value it is coated with.

Accordingly, countries particularly which are bound to be affected in one or another by the turn of events in Mali should approach the crisis in the same way. Nigeria is of course one of such countries that would be affected by the crisis hence it is expected to live up to its responsibilities within the framework of its strategic interests, of course without prejudice to the standards of fairness.

After all, it is obvious that by virtue of being the military powerhouse of western African sub-region where Mali falls, Nigerian forces are expected to constitute a significant portion of such international forces and indeed play a major role both military and otherwise in the impending confrontation.

Moreover, given the supposed religious nature of the motive and motivation of the Malian rebels and the similar phenomenon happening in Nigeria against the background of its already intricate ethno-religious equation, complex demographic composition and security fragility, it risks being seriously affected by the crisis in Mali. After all, there have been some intelligence reports indicating that some members of Boko Haram are being trained by the rebels in Mali.

Moreover, Nigeria's vulnerability to such security implications is particularly clear if the whole crisis is viewed against the background of other crises of similar nature in, say, Afghanistan/Pakistan. This is because though with their superior military might, the international forces are likely to sack the rebels at least from their urban bases, the guerrilla warfare tactics which the rebels may resort to, would make it quite difficult for the international forces to end the war in their favour, hence they may resort to using disproportionate force e.g. drone attacks to cause substantial collateral damage where multitudes of innocent civilians would be killed across borders. And this will definitely arouse more public sympathy for the fighters, who would capitalize on it to recruit more fighters across the borders, as the conflict persists and spreads to other countries in the region and even beyond.

Obviously this would not only compound Nigeria's already deteriorating security situation, but would actually jeopardize its already insufficient and largely inefficient effort to solve. Moreover, the more it deteriorates in Nigeria the worse it impacts on the whole region's already delicate security condition thereby causing human suffering of an unimaginable magnitude.

Nevertheless, despite all these looming challenges, Nigeria does not seem to show any reservation let alone opposition against this idea, much less push for any alternative proposal to end the crisis. This irresponsible indifference further highlights the country's incompetent and sluggish diplomatic machinery, which is best described as "dan amshin shata" i.e. parrot-like, as it also exposes its inefficient intelligence unit, which does not seem to realize this reality.

Incidentally, I am not being that gullible to overestimate Nigeria's actual weight or that of the whole sub-Saharan African countries for that matter, in international politics and diplomacy, after all, during the last deliberation on the crisis in question, the United Nations Security Council disdainfully gave a clear time limit of forty five days to African countries to come up with a specific strategy for military intervention in Mali. Nevertheless, a country worth its salt should at least play the few pressure cards it has to protect its interests and eventually come out with the maximum gain possible at the minimum cost.

After all, Algeria; another leading country from the other side of the region which is equally bound to be affected by the Malian crisis, is actually opposing such proposed international military intervention, and the United States and France are reportedly pressuring it to support the idea. And even if eventually Algeria succumbed or even agreed to participate alongside the international forces in the impending military operations against the rebels, it would have secured some significant economic and/or diplomatic concessions, after all nothing is for free.

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