Lagos — Former External Affairs Minister, General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), yesterday, cautioned President Goodluck Johnathan against taking a hasty decision to deploy Nigerian troops to Mali as part of the multilateral military intervention force to rout the Al-Qaeda-backed Tuareg rebels that have taken the northern part of the Sahelian country.
Nwachukwu, who was Nigeria's External Affairs minister during General Ibrahim Babangida's regime that sent troops to Liberia and Sierra Leone, under the auspices of the Economic Community of West Africa Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), to quell the civil wars in the two Mano River countries, said Nigeria should "make measured intervention in Mali" after carefully weighing the options and forces at play rather than adopting egoistic approach of being a big brother in the region.
Nwachukwu, who is the chairman of the Governing Council of Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos, made this known at a two-day international conference on the current situation in the Sahel and West Africa. The event was jointly organised by NIIA and the Institute of Security Studies (ISS) to take a critical look at the future of Global Peace and Security in Africa.
The Director General of NIIA, Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, said Nigeria, the United Nations, and African Union must first ascertain what the people of Mali want before proffering any form of solution to the crisis in the West African region.
Akinterinwa argued that ECOWAS leaders misread the development in Mali where a military group had seized power from a democratically elected government which was unable to protect and defend the country against the onslaught from Al-Qaeda-backed Tuareg in Northern Mali.
Ashiru seeks support
Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru, in a key note address to the conference said what was required is the support of the international community for the ECOWAS peace plan, including assistance to the Malian Armed Forces as well as provision of intelligence and equipment when ECOWAS countries are ready to deploy troops.
He said: "Our approach which is an essential part of the ECOWAS approach, is to assist in stabilising and unifying the various forces and factions of the government in Bamako," adding that without a common approach from the government, it would be difficult to confront the rebels in the North.
Associate Prof. Fred Aja Agwu, who is a Senior Research Fellow at NIIA, told Vanguard that no meaningful move would take place in Mali, without an active participation of Algeria.