Vanguard (Lagos)

16 November 2012

Nigeria: No Nigerian Troops to Mali

It is a great idea to restore civil rule in Mali. Promoters of the idea must fund it as well as send their own troops to Mali. It is no time to shift the burden to Nigeria as has been the case in the past 20 years.

Nigeria has no obligations to bear the burden of another intervention. Nigerian troops fought in Somalia, providing cover for escaping US troops in 1993. Records of that operation are replete with the success of the Americans in Somalia - Nigeria did not get any credits. Another 140 Nigerian troops are currently in Somalia to stabilise a country without a central government since President Siad Barre fled to exile in Nigeria in 1991.

Since 1989, Nigeria has funded military missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone, hosted thousands of refugees from both countries, lost its troops who fought until elected governments were restored in both countries.

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Chief Tom Ikimi in 1998 put Nigeria's expenditure in the wars at $9 billion, a big waste, at a time her economy was haemorrhaging. Credits for ending the strife in Sierra Leone and Liberia do not mention Nigeria.

Missions in Darfur, Sudan cost us lives as well as resources that could have been used in battling the internal security challenges we face.

An intervention in Mali should be out of the question for Nigeria. The coup plotters in Mali teamed up with Tuareg nomads to save their country from Amadou Toumani Toure, a paratrooper, who came to power in 1991 through a coup. Those who say Toure's was a democratic government are giving democracy new meaning.

A decision on Mali would be tough and Nigeria's tough decision is to keep its troops out of Mali. The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, does not support coups. Will ECOWAS not be supporting the junta if it joins it to rescue northern Mali?

The other claim is that it is a war against terrorist and criminal groups in northern Mali. Again, Nigeria has to weigh its own local situation. The global community can muster the resources to fight terrorist groups, our concerns should be dealing with our internal security issues for which we get little assistance. Our ailing economy dictates so.

Mali is a testy case. Former Libyan rebels have joined the separatists. Algeria supports them. Mali needs no military intervention. The global community should sanction supporters of the separatists and ask Mali to return to civil rule.

Any support for the junta in Mali, whatever the reasons, will set dangerous precedent in dealing with prospective coup plotters and Nigeria should not risk lives of its troops in unappreciated interventions.

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