World Economic Forum hosted by the West African state amid internal security crises
Africa’s leading oil-exporting state Nigeria has been designated by the West as Africa’s largest economy yet the security situation inside the country is deteriorating. The Pentagon recently concluded naval maneuvers off the coast in the Gulf of Guinea while cooperation on military and intelligence affairs with the United States has reached an unprecedented level.
In the wake of the escalating attacks by Boko Haram, the Nigerian government has stated that it will accept assistance in the intelligence arena from around the world. Such a statement implies that western intelligence services, including those of the U.S., are involved in counter-insurgency operations inside the West African state.
In a New York Times article on March 5, writer Eric Schmitt noted that “American officials are putting the finishing touches on a plan for United States Army instructors to help train an 850-member battalion of rangers as part of Nigeria’s new Special Forces command.”
This same article continues saying “There has long been a small-scale relationship between American and Nigerian militaries, mostly focused on training regional peacekeepers. In the past, it was the Nigerians who were reluctant to expand this relationship out of a mixture of national pride and a dislike for the transparency and accountability upon which the U.S. insists. Things are different now, apparently.”
The security crisis is marked by the recent bombings that targeted civilians in Abuja and the kidnapping of over 200 high school girls in the North at a village in Borno State. Demonstrations have been held by women in several cities demanding the security services take decisive action to rescue the girls.
Security and Economic Development in Nigeria
These events were taking place on the eve of the convening of the 24th World Economic Forum for Africa in Abuja. This conference is taking place after Nigeria has been proclaimed as the largest economy in Africa edging out the Republic of South Africa recently.
Western financial publications have been championing what they describe as phenomenal economic growth on the continent. New findings of oil, natural gas and other strategic resources have fueled investments but the conditions of the majority of working people and farmers have not fundamentally changed.
Rises in the prices of consumer goods and energy for households are placing strains on those still in poverty and seeking to elevate their social status. At the same time, the increasing attacks by the Boko Haram group is exposing the flaws within the security apparatus and the failure to resolve regional conflicts that have plagued Nigeria since its independence from Britain in the 1960s.
In response to the security concerns surrounding the WEF, Federal Republic of Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered all schools and government buildings closed for the duration of the gathering that will bring in many foreign leaders and businesspeople. The closing of schools and state office buildings could ease traffic and make streets more accessible for security checks.
Tensions are high as a result of two bombings in the vicinity of the locations in Abuja where the WEF conference is being held. On April 14, 75 people were reported killed when bombs were planted in an area where there is dense pedestrian traffic.
Later on May 2, another explosion just 200 meters from the previous blast, raised questions about the ability of the government to provide adequate security for the WEF conference. The Boko Haram religious sect has claimed responsibility in the attacks as part of its efforts to expand a campaign against the Nigerian government.
Most of the previous Boko Haram attacks have taken place in the northeast of the country, Africa’s most populous. Three states in the region are currently under an emergency order as the military and police conduct counter-insurgency operations.
Abductions of High School Students Poses Crisis for Jonathan Government
In the midst of the expansion of the Boko Haram campaign of attacks against the federal government, the kidnapping of over 280 school girls in Chibok, Borno State, has sparked protests led by women across the country and internationally. Initial reports from the military suggested that most of the girls had been returned, however, these claims proved to be false.
On May 5, a spokesman for Boko Haram took responsibility for the abductions saying that the girls should not be in school but married. The group said that the girls will be sold into marriage and not returned to their families.
In a video purportedly released by Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, he states that “I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” while being shown in the video, laughing and standing in front of an armored personnel carrier alongside two masked men holding AK-47 rifles.
“Allah has instructed me to sell them. They are his property and I will carry out his instructions,” Shekau said.
The failure of the Nigerian administration of President Jonathan to rescue the students has severely damaged his credibility. Demonstrations led by women inside the country generated controversy when it was reported on May 5 that the first lady, Patience Jonathan, had ordered the arrest of one the leaders of the protests Naomi Mutah Nyadar. The first lady later issued a press release denying she had ordered Nyadar’s arrest and that the government critic was under investigation for misrepresenting her relationship with the abducted girls.
Why Africa Needs Its Own Continental Military Force
The increasing role of the U.S. intelligence and military forces in Africa is a reflection of the character of modern-day neo-colonialism. By increasing the investments into the mining sector of the African nation-states the Pentagon and other imperialist countries have more than enough reasons to intervene under the guise of assisting the continent in enhancing its security capacity to meet the so-called “terrorist threats.”
Nonetheless, the escalating role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Department of Defense in the internal affairs of Africa has not improved security but is leading to the growing insecurity and instability of the various states across the region. In Mali, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and other states where the Pentagon has a substantial military presence the existence of security threats and instability have not subsided.
The resolution of the questions of economic development for all and the overall security of African resources and populations are dependent upon forces internal to the continent and not those from the outside. Imperialism was built on the oppression and exploitation of African people and not their prosperity and peaceful existence.
As the 51st anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the African Union (AU) approaches, the political unification of the continent becomes crucial in the overall security of the individual nation-states and the continent as a whole.
As Kwame Nkrumah, the founder of the modern state of Ghana and the chief strategist and tactician of the African Revolution, stated in an address before the Ghana parliament in early August 1960, “A loose confederation of economic co-operation is deceptively time-delaying. It is only a political union that will ensure uniformity in our foreign policy, projecting the African personality and presenting Africa as a force important enough to be reckoned with.“ (Taken from “Black Star” by Basil Davidson, p. 188, 1973)
This same speech went on to say that “I repeat, a loose economic co-operation means a screen behind which detractors, imperialists and colonialist protagonists and African puppet leaders hide, to operate and weaken the concept of any effort to realize African unity and independence.”
Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.