Cameroon Military Fights to Maintain their Record in Barbarism

Some have argued that the videos had already been taken and stored in an archive, where they are being released. Some argue they were taken recently. It is difficult to tell from the videos exactly when they were taken. Some have even argued that the videos are taken at the same spot, which seems to be the execution area for the Cameroon military.

 

What is not difficult to see is the barbarism that takes place within these videos. As the war rages on in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, many commentators are worried that similar atrocities are being committed and might be released on a later date.

This video might not evoke the same feelings as it did in the last one involving women and children, but it seems to take the barbarism up a notch. The video shows a single man, sitting, blindfolded and hands tied to his back. He is about to be summarily executed, but one soldier thinks that death from gunshots will not inflict as much pain as he would love. So he goes on to use a machete to cut one of the man’s feet. Other, speaking in French, say ‘he will be taken by surprise’, meaning probably that the man will not be expecting the cut as he knows he is about to be shot. The man’s reaction is slower than one would expect from such sharp pain, maybe a bit disappointing for his torturers, who would have expected more. Probably, because he had already been tortured to the extent that he is numb to pain.

Mercifully, for the man, before he could begin to experience the excruciating pain inflicted on him by the cut, the order is given and many automatic weapons ring out. Listening to it, one would think that the army is attacking another battalion. But no! All those bullets are for one man, helplessly tied to the ground already bleeding and dying. He does not stand a chance.

It makes one wonder. Why are the Cameroon military exhibiting so much anger? Could it be because they are involved in wars against citizens of their own country, something they are not trained to do? If that were the case, then why do they not take out the anger on the one person, who is responsible for the dilapidation of the country?

The man in the video is accused of being a Boko Haram ‘terrorist’ but what one sees from the military, the reverse seems to be the case. They seem to be the ones carrying out the acts of terrorism that will forever haunt all who watch their gruesome videos.

 

Open Letter To Mr. Paul Biya, President of Cameroon. RE: US Troops in Cameroon!

Dear Mr. President!

For the past few days, Cameroon has been trending on social media. Unfortunately, it is not because we achieved something wonderful. Rather it is because your request for US assistance in fighting Boko Haram was granted. Hence, Cameroon was trending alongside a word like Boko Haram. Imagine that!

US Troops to Cameroon

I do not know the nitty-gritty of what transpired between you and President Obama, but I do know that on Wednesday he notified the US Congress that he intends to deploy 300 troops to Cameroon to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. I also saw a letter released by the White House, stating that APPROXIMATELY 90 personnel had already been deployed, and would be armed for self-defense. Now two things worried me about this letter – first, Obama is talking of troops and yet he cannot say exactly how many have already been deployed. Only 90 and it is a matter for approximation??? I hope some of them will not be forgotten behind. Oh! and that brings me to the second worrying thing – there is no time frame for this mission  because the troops will be there – “until their support is no longer needed”! If we are looking at other cases the US has been involved in as a guide, then we should be thinking of at least 10 years??? Remember they are not yet out of Afghanistan!

Also, I know it is none of my business but when an American president starts talking about self-defense, I really get worried. I know you are oblivious of anything that goes on around you (given that you have not done anything to change the deplorable situation of Cameroon for over 33 years) but I am sure you must have seen on the news that the US is one of the countries in the world with the highest number of people who shoot each other for no reason whatsoever! In fact, in 2015 alone, according to the Gun violence archives, the total number of gun-related incidents in the US was 41,433 and the number of deaths from guns was 10,448.

So permit me to ask some questions:

BUT WHY THE USA?

The statistics I just presented above are for the deaths caused by Americans on their fellow citizens and nothing has been done about it. Do you really think that if Americans do not care when fellow Americans are needlessly killed, they will care what happens to someone in Northern Cameroon? Just imagine that! You have forgotten about Northern Cameroon since you took over power, yet you want Obama who has not visited Cameroon before, to send troops to help you fight to terrorists?

Also, if I were to employ someone for a job, I will look at their CV. There is something employers talk about called ‘track record’! The US has a track record of starting wars, making existing conflicts grow worse, and looking at their CV, I don’t see any time they successfully stopped terrorists – check it out – from Afghanistan, to Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Uganda (Obama sent 100 troops in 2011 to catch Joseph Kony but they are yet to find him; and as a matter of fact, by 2014, Obama was sending in more troops)! What makes you think that Cameroon will be any different?

And by the way, Boko Haram started in Nigeria, why did Obama not agree to help Nigeria fight them? We all know that the best way to solve a problem is to go to the source! How do you think fighting Boko Haram only in Cameroon and its environs will stop them completely?

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ALL THIS WHILE?

Now enough about what the US can or cannot do, let us focus on you! What have you been doing for 33 years that you cannot even protect the territorial integrity of your country? As I was growing up, the image I had of you was that of a man who had a lion by his face depicting courage. In fact I remember you presented yourself during the 1992 presidential elections as l’homme Lion, (Lion Man) imbued with the power, courage and ability to protect Cameroon. What happened to that courage? I vividly remember that I was just a young child, when you were able to declare a state of emergency over the North West Province and deployed troops to throw teargas at Cameroonians.

L’homme courage! What happened to the Battalion d’Intervention Rapide (BIR) that you have been building over the years? I thought you said they were an elite force capable of fighting terrorism within the Northern regions? Now if such an elite force that you have spent billions of CFA Francs training and equipping cannot fight Boko Haram, what is the guarantee that 300 US troops will do anything to make a difference?

NOW LET’S GET SERIOUS!

In 2011, I conducted a research in Ngaoundéré and my focus was on Regional Inequality and the role of religion in Cameroon politics. It was my working hypothesis then that if nothing was done to change the state of development of the Northern Regions of Cameroon, the religious violence (including Boko Haram insurgencies) that was already plaguing Northern Nigeria will spill over to Cameroon. So you see, I already knew that something needed to be done as early as 2011 to stop Boko Haram but you did not know. And yet, you are the Commander in chief of the Armed Forces and have the responsibility to protect the nation!

I know you must be wondering how I knew. I will try to be as brief as possible. I will take you back to Huntington (1993) who makes the strong argument that the “Clash of Civilizations” was going to be the result of the growing threat of violence arising from renewed conflicts between cultures and countries, especially those that base their traditions on religious faith and dogma. Categorising the civilisations. Huntington (1993, p.26) suggested that the world is returning to a civilisation-dominated world where future conflicts would come from clashes between “civilisations”.

The question that could be worth asking is why conflict arises? Aristotle had already opined that: “The lesser engage in factional conflict in order to be equal; those who are equal, in order to be greater” (Politics: 1302a29). And that  “as for the things over which they engage in factional conflict, these are profit and honour and their opposites….They are stirred up further by arrogance, by fear, by pre-eminence, by contempt, by disproportionate growth, by electioneering, by underestimation, by (neglect of) small things, and by dissimilarity” (Politics: 1302a33). This Aristotelian passage could be a huge pointer to the causes of conflict in Northern Cameroon given that there already are great dissimilarities in development within different regions of the country and there is disproportionate growth of Cameroon compared to other countries. This argument gains more credence because Huntington, in presenting the nature of Islam and Christianity lists five factors that have exacerbated conflict between the two religions in the late twentieth century:

  • The Muslim population growth has generated large numbers of unemployed and dissatisfied youth that become recruits to Islamic causes.
  • The recent resurgence of Islam has given Muslims a reaffirmation of the relevance of Islam compared to other religions
  • The West’s attempt to universalise values and institutions, and maintain military superiority has generated intense resentment within Muslim communities; this is a fact not limited to religion or culture but common to human nature.
  • Without the common threat of communism, the West and Islam now perceive each other as enemies.
  • Increased communication and interaction between Islam and the West has exaggerated the perceived differences between the two societies (1996, p.211).

Now as you can see Mr. President, the Boko Haram problem is has its roots more in the lack of development and employment opportunities than by an innate desire for violence or even by religion on its own. There are many other factors to consider when thinking of insurgencies like Boko Haram!

THE WAY FORWARD

I know you must already be wondering if I will suggest a way forward! Of course I am going to do just that. The first thing to do now is for you to call you buddy Obama and tell him that you are withdrawing your request for troops, because US military intervention cannot solve the terrorist crisis in Cameroon. Ask him that if he has taken over 4 years with hundreds of troops and cannot catch one man – Joseph Kony – what is the guarantee that he can deliver on Boko Haram.

Secondly, since you and I both know that you lack both the political will and ability to change the situation in Cameroon, you should step down quietly and hand over power to someone with a vision who can engineer change.

Finally, I will suggest that after your resignation, if the new president is kind enough to let you go free, take a holiday, go somewhere quiet and read some of the blog posts I have written before about your terrible lack of vision and horrible governance. At least by the time you finish, you will realise that I had no ill will towards you as a person.

OH! And one last thing, Obama will be completing his second term in office soon so you can actually ask him for an invitation to visit him. As two former presidents, you might have something in common to talk about – but please let it not be about troops to Cameroon!

I wish you the best as you think of these suggestions!

Long Live the Republic of Cameroon

REFERENCES

Aristotle, (1998) The Politics; Translated by C.D.C. Reeve, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing,

Huntington, S. (1993). “The clash of civilizations” Foreign Affairs, 72(3):22-49.

Huntington, S. (1996).  The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster

Paul Biya Dies: What Difference Would it Make?

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog as I have been trying to sort out some personal issues that did not allow me much time to write. However, since the beginning of March, I have received lots of messages with questions regarding current happenings in Cameroon. The most recent has been the hoax announcement of the passing away of Cameroon strongman and dictator Paul Biya. After some reflection, I started to ask myself the question: would it really make a difference if Paul Biya truly died?

Paul Biya

For those who care to remember, this is not the first time that there has been a fake announcement that Paul Biya was dead.

In June of 2004 it was rumoured that Paul Biya had died following an undisclosed illness at some undisclosed location. As no reporting or discussion of anything related to the president is allowed the late Journalist, Pius NJAWE incurred the full wrath of the President and his institutions for daring to ponder about the state of the President’s health. Njawe was to spend 10 months in prison.

In October of 2008, similar rumours began making the rounds and there were widespread celebrations on the streets of Cameroon. To many people’s chagrin and surprise, Paul Biya returned the country on November 01, 2008 exactly 43 days after abandoning the country, just two days short of him being constitutionally replaced. This time the rumor had it that the absentee president had died at the exclusive “Clinique Générale-Beaulieu” in East Geneva. Given that news of an ailment Biya was said to be suffering had leaked out fueling the speculation of his death, some members of his entourage were fired for violating the code of secrecy.

At the beginning of March, 2015, The Commander in Chief of the Cameroon Armed Forces, Paul Biya again left Cameroon for Switzeroland while soldiers where being killed by Boko Haram insurgents. The conclusion many arrived at was that it must have been nothing short of an emergency to make a president abandon his country and travel abroad at a time when there was a crisis involving terrorists. As the African adage says: “A man whose house is on Fire does not chase rats”. Hence, in line with another axiom which states that “a toad does not run in the daylight for nothing: either it is after something or something is after it”, it was easily surmised that nothing short of an emergency could have pushed Biya to leave the country. By a process of elimination and taking into consideration the man’s age, the most logical conclusion arrived at was another death announcement.

The rumours of  Biya’s death gained momentum on Thursday the 26th of March, 2015 on  Facebook and other social media outlets like Twitter and WhatsApp!

While no official announcement has been made to refute the rumours two days after they started, one is apt to wonder what it would mean for Cameroon if Biya truly was dead!

To the ordinary Cameroonian, it would actually mean very little because as far as they are concerned, The Man Already Died!

Since “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” (Wole Soyinka), it is safe to conclude that Biya died a long time ago. Biya has been dead for most of the 33 years that he has been Cameroon’s president. Biya died when he let the country slump into an economic crisis from 1986 and did little to salvage the situation; Biya died in 1990 when in attempting to stop the rise of Multiparty politics in the country, he ordered the killing of many innocent Cameroonians; Biya remained dead from thence as he was focused only on maintaining his hold on power while the country slumped into a morass of poverty, corruption, greed and hopelessness. So in principle, to many Cameroonians; Biya actually went stone cold when he cracked down on public protests, changed the constitution that made him stay in power; Yes for a the tyranny visited on Cameroonians PAUL BIYA IS DEAD!

However, if Biya was to leave the scene, it would be a make or break situation for Cameroon. Given that most of his cabinet members and close allies are now languishing in prison, a smooth transition after his dead remains a matter of speculation. Perhaps like some of his ‘friends’ his son Frank Biya will take over. Given that Frank is not much in the picture, one therefore wonders what type of president he would make. The most likely and constitutional choice would be the President of the National Assembly Cavayé Yéguié Djibril. But as someone who has been the ruling party – CPDM Political Bureau, one wonders if he will offer anything different from what Biya has been offering!

One thing is certain though, as Caiaphas, once said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.’There is no situation which is more appropriate for this statement.

Biya’s dead would be a blessing to Cameroon but let me be quick to add that it would not be in the same sense as Christ’s death was to Christendom but would be exactly in the manner in which Caiaphas meant it!

US-Africa Summit: The Apogee of African Distress

To say that Africa is a continent in distress will be an understatement.

Ebola is threatening the very fabric of life within the West African region; there are endless wars in the DRC, South Sudan, CAR amongst others; Boko Haram has made Africa’s biggest economy a security nightmare. In the midst of all these travails, African demagogues, strongmen and clueless leaders have been flocking to Washington to hold a summit? What do they really think can come from the USA that will solve any one of Africa’s woes?

Obama in 2009 in Ghana was bold enough to say “we don’t need strong men, we need strong institutions”. His Secretary of State John Kerry followed up with that line of argument with he met with Joseph Kabila few months ago and spoke on the importance of not changing the constitution.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, and Mrs. Chantal Biya, in the Blue Room during a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet Paul Biya, Strongman of Cameroon, and Mrs. Chantal Biya, in the Blue Room during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit dinner at the White House, Aug. 5, 2014. (Photo Credit: State Department Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

During this summit, Obama has met with almost all the strongmen of Africa and there has been little talk of strengthening institutions. One would have thought that with some like Paul Biya of Cameroon (who changed the constitution in 2008 amidst violent crackdown of protesters) being booed, some sense of decency will make Obama think about his words in Ghana a few years ago. Unfortunately, this was not the case as John Kerry went as far as praising Kabila during a press conference.

Far from being surprising, this should have been expected. No country in the world today can compare with the US when it comes to double standards and hypocrisy.

My heart bleeds rather for the blindness of those who call themselves African leaders. It is evident to any discerning person  that the US called this summit not because it is intrinsically interested in African development but because it serves her purpose perfectly. The main focus is clearly to curb China’s influence and gain access to Africa’s resources. With 6 out of the 10 fastest growing economies in Africa, a new scramble for the continent is underway.

The US started its anti-China campaign since the early 2000 when The Heritage Foundation hatched a plan to militarise the continent, a plan which Obama has been executing… Having drones hovering over African countries and ensuring the rapid spread of AFRICOM despite an initial rejection by 14 African countries is just another phase of this wider plan. The US is therefore doing the one thing it knows best, create disorder and wars!

If one were stupid enough to think for a moment that the US was seriously considering a viable strategic trade alliance with African countries, let that person ask the one question, WHY WAS AFRICA SO CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT FROM ANY DISCUSSIONS DURING THE LAST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES ON FOREIGN POLICY?

The answer is simple – Africa is not considered important in its own right, but is only useful as part of a wider strategy to ‘go after China’. So at the end of the day, Africa will be the battleground for the imperialist power play.

 

Boko Haram Edges Closer to ‘Home’ While Chibok Girls Gradually Become Invisible Children!

A hundred days following the abduction of over 270 young girls by the militant terrorist group, Boko Haram, came and passed a few days ago with very little mention by the major news outlets. After what seemed like an eternity, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan finally met the families of the abducted girls and some who had escaped.  The day itself was actually celebrated by Boko Haram by detonating two bombs in quick succession, killing over 75 people and narrowly missing the ex-military president and the country’s topmost opposition leader Mohammadu Buhari.

Boko Haram

Of course, as expected, this is the news that made the headlines as everything regarding the missing girls is gradually dwindling into oblivion. Skeptics like me who had already questioned the social media hype – comparing it to a similar situation in the quest to catch Joseph Kony – are not in the least surprised.

It happened that international media outlets were initially very slow in reporting the news of the kidnapping of the girls, which even led to some questioning the veracity of the scanty early reports that emerged. When social media took up the campaign, the tempo was upped but the objective seemed to be one thing only – portray Nigeria as incapable of handling the situation and ask foreign intervention. Under pressure, international help was enlisted.

According to State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki the US was “providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support“. Military and law-enforcement teams on the ground were “digging in on the search and co-ordinating closely with the Nigerian government as well as international partners and allies”. These allies were Britain, France and China, with Israel promising to join the team! Strangely, Boko Haram seemed to have become bolder and are hitting closer and closer to ‘home’ despite the massive international presence.

The recent targeting of prominent figures and the news that emerged today of the abduction of the wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister only makes the case harder to fathom. Does it mean that Boko Haram has over just a few years become so sophisticated that the ‘best’ intelligence agencies in the world cannot take them out? Or could it be that the efforts are just not significant to counter the threat?

ChibokGirls1
Have they been ‘sold’, forced into marriage? Their fate hangs on a balance as weeks have turned into months!!!

Worse, there is little news about what is happening on the ground in the search efforts to bring the girls home. Gradually, therefore, this case is becoming a cold one and the Chibok girls are gradually becoming like the child soldiers that the US charity Invisible Children sought to free from Joseph Kony. Each day that passes, the issue seems to be buried deeper and deeper under the radar but what will simply not disappear is that the world could not save over 270 young vibrant girls from ragtags such as Boko Haram.

Maybe hope should be rekindled now that some prominent people have become targets of bombings and kidnappings. Maybe the Cameroon elite force, (the Battalion D’Intervention Rapide, which is said to be well trained to counter insurgencies of this type,) will step up and prove that they are not only good at cracking down on civilians to keep Paul Biya in power!

Whatever the case, we pray that the girls can still be found! After over a hundred days, one is scared to imagine what the girls might have been subjected to!

 

 

“US Cannot Teach Nigeria How to Fight Rebels” – Retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu Once Said!

I remember vividly the day the guest on an NTA programme was retired Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Victor Malu. Some of the things he said then have since stuck to my mind. Perhaps this is due to the fact he said some things relating to my country of origin – Cameroon – and how the US was playing the Machiavellian advocate in the conflict between both countries. However, with the recent events of the past few weeks, that whole programme came flashing to my mind.

During my days in Nigeria, I rarely watched the National Television, but there was one programme I never missed. That programme was called POINT BLANK. It was hosted by the then Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority Tony Iredia. Living to its name, this was a programme that was started during the Abacha era, during which guest were drilled POINT BLANK by the host without fear or favour. Something similar to BBC’s Hard Talk, guests had to answer well researched questions about the issues of the day affecting their departments, ministries or even personal life.

I have not been able to get the talk, but during a quick research, I have come across an interview Victor Malu granted the Sunday Sun on July, 31st, 2005, where he expressed almost carbon-copy sentiments. Below are excepts of this interview which sheds a lot of light in the current US quest to ‘help’ Nigeria find Boko Haram. 

Victor Malu

US Dubious Move

“I didn’t have disagreement with Obasanjo. I went first to the Minister of Defence to tell him the Americans are not coming to train us on peace keeping. The Nigeria Army should teach the Americans on peace keeping. Peace keeping is not nuclear, chemical or biological warfare. That’s the job for an infantry man who walks on his feet, carrying his ammunition, rifles, you maneuver to get to the point using fire. That is what Americans don’t do.
The Americans would first bomb the place before going in. If you survive, you survive but you can’t do peace keeping that way. 
“If you remember Ambassador Twaddel, he was the last but one U.S ambassador in Nigeria. He represented the American government at the Liberian crisis. At the end of that crisis, he wrote a report to the American government. I had come back, he had gone back to the U.S. He sent me two copies of the report. There were whole chapters that were on the Armed Forces of Nigeria after observing them in operation. 
“What they said in effect was that if in future, the American government wishes to support any regional grouping that has a peace-keeping outfit like ECOMOG in the case of ECOWAS, they should not talk about sending personnel. He said give the people the logistics. He found out that what the Nigerian Army did could not have been done by any American soldier. That man never knew he would ever come to Nigeria as ambassador.

“If you remember the five years of Abacha, we had completely severed from any other western country. All our officers who were in the various institutions abroad were sent back. We were not going on course. America was curious to know how from a third world country with all the sanctions, the Nigerian Army could achieve the feat we achieved in Liberia. And then, they came and found a willing person in the name of Obasanjo. They got everything they wanted. It was at that point I told him (Obasanjo), ‘Sir, we cannot have Americans come here to tell us they want to train us on peace keeping.’

“An interesting thing happened in Sokoto. The Americans insisted on staying in the barracks with our soldiers. I said over my dead body. I asked General Danjumah who was my GOC before he became a chief of army staff, ‘Would you, during your tenure have allowed this foreign troop to come and stay in the barracks with your soldiers?’ He said no, that he would need to discuss it with Obasanjo. 

“At a stage, we agreed that the Americans would give us some support in terms of equipment required for peacekeeping operations. We compiled a table of tools and equipment so that they would help us with them. That was the only time that we agreed that if they are giving out equipment, they should not give us what we already had in our ordinance. We agreed to allow them train us on that equipment for as long as they wanted. 

“We were waiting for them after we gave them the list to tell us what they were bringing and the quantity so that we could start arranging the training. We woke up one day and found many American instructors. Where is the equipment? No equipment. So what are you going to give us? They said they were to start training us on peace keeping.

“So, this kept going on but the dangerous part of it was that as at that time we were in Bakassi nose to nose with the Camerounians. The same Americans that were claiming to be training us for peace keeping were training and equipping the Camerounian army. I was the one that captured that place and I know what we suffered.”

Reading this again today, I now remember how I felt back then. I wonder if the US has drastically changed its strategy in Africa. If this is not the case, then this Boko Haram saga has just handed them an opportunity to completely distabilise the whole West and Central African region.

#Bringbackourgirls Vs Invisible Children’s #Kony2012: What is The Score?

Pre-Match

The past few weeks would have been really disturbing for anyone around the world and especially Africans who have some sense of empathy in them.  Since April 14, when it is alleged that a band of heavily armed Islamist militants raided the Government Girls Secondary School in Borno state, northern Nigeria,  and ultimately fled with an estimated 300 captives all of whom are young women and girls who the militants’ leader has threatened to sell into slavery or marriage, there has been no shortage of media coverage and social media hype about finding the girls. Today, the BBC reported that hopes of finding the girls is fading fast. But was this unexpected?

Bring Back our Girls

There is a saying that once bitten twice shy hence,  I was not about to make the mistake that I made in supporting the Kony2012 campaign before realising what the real agenda was. I wrote a post then titled The African Dilemma: Kony 2012 – Liberation or Recolonisation? in which I questioned the whole logic of the campaign and regretted that history was repeating itself and Africa was experiencing a second colonisation. I have therefore been very slow in joining the clamour for the Chibok girls to be found. This does not in any way mean that I did not hope they should be found. Rather, I have been hoping to find answers to some questions but, the more I try, the more questions there are to answer.

How realistic are the Evaluations and Pronostics?

Anyone familiar with the Kony2012 saga will inevitably ask this question. The objectives seem to be the same, getting foreign troops into an African country because the quest is one that the country cannot handle and one that failure to accept foreign help will amount to barbarism on the part of the government.
Over the past few weeks, the story of the abducted girls and Nigeria’s Boko Haram militant group has become a roaring inferno with the press and come to dominate world news with one endgame in sight – Nigeria and its neighbours should allow unfettered access to Western troops to help find the girls.

Is this real?
Is this real?

Whether or not girls are missing in Chibok is not a question I can answer, despite some skepticism creeping into my mind when I started coming across contentious views. However, I cannot ignore some more questions.

What Happened to Kony2012?

Those who followed the media hype of Invisible Children’s Kony2012 will remember that they claimed Joseph Kony will be caught before 2012 ran out. We are in 2014 and despite the fact that Obama sent hundreds of specialist troops into Uganda and the Central African region, there is nothing to show for it. Oh wait! I almost forgot! Joseph Kony has not been caught yet, but the Central African Republic and South Sudan have joined the Democratic Republic of Congo as the latest additions of conflict ridden African states.

The question one cannot fail asking at this stage is: Where are the specialist troops Obama sent? Why did they not help in stopping the carnage that took place in the CAR? why are they not able to help South Sudan avoid a famine catastrophe? How come the countries they entered in the quest to catch Kony all suddenly erupted into conflict? What role are these specialist troops actually playing in the outbreak of conflict in these countries?

These questions will appear really naive when it is recalled that the USA seems to be able to offer nothing but conflict to any country they enter. Rewind back to the immediate post 9/11. The quest to catch Bin Laden and free Americans from the fear of Al Qaeda resulted in the complete collapse of Iraq, Afghanistan and has left Pakistan struggling to hold itself together. The quest to catch Al Qaeda members and other terrorist across the globe has left the fear of drones hanging over every area that has been identified as a stronghold (Yemenis can testify to this fact). It will therefore be out of character for the US to engage in a search and rescue mission without leaving a trail of horrifying conflict. Which brings me to another question.

Who Arms these Rebels and Terrorists?

I cannot believe I am asking this question. It may not be immediately obvious who arms Al Qaeda (at least not the ones in Syria) or who currently arms the Taliban, but when it comes to Boko Haram, it is obvious to any discerning mind. Boko Haram began as a local group and with the quick execution of their leader in 2009 during the reign of late Nigerian President Yar’ Adua, the sponsors of the sect could not be uncovered. The group however began to dwindle until 2011 when Libya collapsed and the arms that the US had indiscriminately handed to rebels in Libya conveniently found their way into Nigeria and saw the rebirth of the current Boko Haram. Questions abound as to weather the weapons simply changed hands or the same people who used them in Libya simply changed locations. Obviously, this is a difficult question to answer, I will look at the score of the two campaigns against terrorist groups championed through the use of social media and mass promotion.

The Scoreboard

It should be obvious at this stage where I am driving this analysis. In 2012, there was a massive social media campaign claiming to be aimed at catching Joseph Kony. Kony has not been caught, but all the countries in which he has been associated with are all experiencing armed conflict. The only success was that registered by the Obama administration which got troops into these countries, without going through the drudgery of explaining to anyone why that was necessary. That makes it One for #Kony2012 and the Obama administration, and Zero for African security.

More Questions
Can We Beat his Logic?

 

With the current state of affairs regarding #Bringbackourgirls, the campaign has already scored one and with US troops already in Nigeria, that is also one for the Obama administration – the question of whether Nigeria and her neighbours will score anything in this game remains a matter of future conjecture. The recipe for failure has already been prepared when the The presidents of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin were invited to a meeting, with representatives from France, the UK, the US and the European Union. The operating word here is ‘invited’ because the affected countries did not choose to meet – but were invited to discuss an issue the was of grave importance to them and the meeting did not take place in any of the countries affected, but in Paris of all places.

Not to stretch this too far, I will end by asking anyone  who thinks that the same players who are yet to win in a dangerous game that has engulfed Ukraine in conflict, will all of a sudden provide a lasting solution to a problem in Africa, should have their thought processes examined.

In one of my posts, I asked and I ask again: AFRICA: QUO VADIS?

Twenty Years After Apartheid – Religious Segregation Takes Over

It has been a weekend of festivities in South Africa and for many Africans across the globe who share the solidarity. Sunday in particular was glammed by street parades, speeches, prayers, music and military salutes and and many more fanciful displays.

Credit: SAnews
Credit: SAnews

 

While a parochial glance at the African continent makes such a celebration worth the while, a more synoptic view will only reveal one fact: as far as segregation and conflict go, Africa is in a relay race. So, while South Africa celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first ever all-race, democratic election that ended decades of sanctioned racial oppression under the apartheid system, other countries in Africa have taken the baton of segregation and mass murder. In most cases, it has not been much about race or ethnicity but about religion.

The paradox of it all lies in that Christianity played a crucial role in providing theological rationalisations for maintenance of apartheid, in the same manner it did with colonialism. The South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church was unwavering in its support of the regime until the late 1980s. There were only a few voices, like that of Desmond Tutu, crying in the wilderness. Little wonder the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report, Volume 4 Chapter 3 clearly states that:

Some of the major Christian churches gave their blessing to the system of apartheid. And many of its early proponents prided themselves in being Christians. Indeed, the system of apartheid was regarded as stemming from the mission of the church…Religious communities also suffered under apartheid, their activities were disrupted, their leaders persecuted, their land taken away. Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples – often divided amongst themselves – spawned many of apartheid’s strongest foes, motivated by values and norms coming from their particular faith traditions.”

So today, being Low Sunday, the Sunday in the Octave of Easter, the Sunday in which Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were canonised and millions gathered at the Vatican to witness the event,  in the Central African Republic, another kind of service was being held by ‘Christians’ in a Mosque.  In a conflict that has already accounted for thousands of deaths and 700,000 IDPs and a further 290,000 who have fled to other neighbouring countries, am apt to wonder if many Churches or Church leaders so much as thought of what is happening in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their sermons and prayers as they marked this Easter Octave.

The conflict in the CAR began since March 24, 2013. Muslim rebels known as the Seleka seized Bangui, the capital of the CAR, sparking the division between Christians and Muslims. As soon as François Bozizé was ousted, the Social Contract ceased to exist and there was a swift return to the State of Nature where chaos an anarchy is the only language the people understood .

central-african-republicIf there is one thing I know about Christianity and Islam, it is that the adherents of these religions have an almost unquestionable loyalty to their leaders. The mind-boggling question remains therefore whether the leaders have not spoken to them in this instance or whether they have simply decided to kick the can down the road and look the other way as has been the case with other past atrocities.

In the case of South Sudan. its church leaders have urged expansion of peace talks to include the religious leaders probably because many Christians played a crucial role in South Sudan’s independence, reconciling fighting factions, providing services and building structures. But the fragility of the first mediation must be questioned and questions asked of this conflict which began  after Salva Kiir alleged that his former deputy Riek Machar was planning a coup and arrested several senior politicians.

In Nigeria, it seems as if Boko Haram is the only faction gaining from the many Inter-religious Dialogues that have been taking place. The recent kidnapping of 230 young school girls and the bombing in the Nigerian Capital Abuja  are silent testimonies that much more has to be done by the religious leaders in Africa than holding dialogues.

Wole Soyinka was spot-on when he said that The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” And since according to Henri Frederic Amiel “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence“, the silence or half-hearted condemnation by religious leaders, of the mass murders going on in different African countries under the banner of religion, makes the leaders not only ‘dead men’, but given that these religions claim to be based on truth, out-rightly challenges the core of whatever these religions profess. 

From Libya to Nigeria – Is Sharia Really the Problem?

Preamble:

In the early hours of the 2nd May 2011, US President Obama greeted the world with the news of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most notorious terrorist leader. One thing that was not lost in the drama that ensued through and after the announcement, ranging from the widespread jubilation; assurance that the war on terrorism was not a war on Islam to the hasty burial that was attributed to be in ‘line with the dictates of Islam’, (Whitaker, 2011) was the undertone that the international political scene in the last ten years has had this shadow of a war cast on it. This is a war that from all intents and purposes began as a form of religious extremism and will not simply go away with the killing of Bin Laden. This therefore is not simply about one man but about religion – either interpreted wrongly or misunderstood. Whatever the reasons, religion is making headlines so much in recent years to go unnoticed. For on New Year’s Day of 2011 there was the case of Egypt where a suicide bombing at a church killed 21 people and wounded 79. The Daily Times quotes Time magazine as having written that “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians — in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam” (Daily Times Editorial, 03/01/2011). Meanwhile, in April, the declaration of Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South of Nigeria as winner of the 16 April presidential elections, against his main opponent Mohammadu Buhari from the Muslim-dominated North, was the only signal that the Northerners needed to go out on the rampage and cause the death of over 500 people (The Guardian, 2011).

But the questions that need answering ab initio is whether when a thing looses its essence it can still be rightly called the same thing. If we are in agreement that it is the essence of a thing that gives it being, we are apt to agree that when that essence is lost, that thing should cease to exist.  Hence this question could be extrapolated to ask whether when a group becomes extreme and commits heinous crimes and terrorist activities like the recent bombings on Christmas Day in Nigeria, it is logical to keep labeling them ‘Islamist’? How logical is it to label Boko Haram as bad because they are asking for an ‘Islāmic’ State according to Sharia Laws when NATO powers effectively installed a government in Libya that declared it was going to be governed according to strict Sharia Laws? If Boko Haram which claims to be adherents of Sharia are extremist, does it follow that the new government of Libya is extremist? Does this have any bearing on the facts being peddled that arms are leaving Libya to Nigeria? Is the problem really a religious one or religion is simply being used as a pawn in a broader political game to create chaos and division, which could be the prelude to another imperialist intervention in Africa?

Before answering these question, I will like to take a look at how religion has been playing out with politics and development, especially in Africa.

Religion, Politics and Development:

Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, suggests that religion, like morality, should be eliminated if the world were to achieve a new political and economic existence. According to him, “Communism abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on new basis” (1968:52) hence, it would seem therefore that Marx did not simply seek to criticise the logic of religion as a set of beliefs but rather, his criticism sprang from the fact that he saw religion as a hindrance to the realisation of an egalitarian society. His argument was therefore that religion reflects society hence any criticism of religion must of necessity be a criticism of society itself.

These sentiments of Marx were also expressed by different writers in different forms but who all arrived at the conclusion that religion was going to wither away (Bruce, (Ed.) 1992; Aldridge, 2000). The prevailing rationale of such discourse has been underpinned by the four major assumptions of the Westphalian synthesis (Philpott, 2002) that: Political sovereignty lay with the state and the states were the key actors in the International Relations system; states would not interfere in the religious affairs of other states; states increasingly refrained from promoting the welfare of the church; as the functions of the modern state increased, the temporal functions of religious bodies also declined.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the foundations of modern sociological theory is the assumption that the modern world is becoming ever more secular and that religion is dying out or becoming irrelevant to modern life. (Berger, 1969) But it is now apparent that the facts do not bear this out. Even in China, as in the rest of the world, especially in the developing world, religion is evolving dynamically and having a great influence on public life and “…refusing to be condemned to the realm of privatize belief, …is once again reappearing in the public sphere, thrusting itself into issues of moral and political contestation” (Haynes, 1998).

Conventionally, development studies and international political economy focused on the causes of poverty, income distribution, disparity in wealth, and some baseless dichotomies between politics and economics while, religion was viewed as detrimental to progress. More recently, however, far from fading from political relevance, religion has assumed a new and more important, mobilising role in many cultures, including those considered fully ‘modernised'(Haynes, 1998). This has led to a breakdown of the negative view about religion, partly due to the widespread failure of secular development programmes to achieve poverty reduction and end inequality and injustice. Religion is now seen as a potentially crucial to the achievement of developmental aims (Haynes, 1998; 2007).

Setting the Records Straight…

While it may not be difficult to see that religion became divided from politics in the Western world with the increasing rise of secularism, this has not been the case with most third world countries (Haynes, 1998). A case in point is that of Nkrumah who, despite his adoption of Marxist materialism, makes it clear that “strictly speaking …Philosophical Consciencism even though deeply rooted in materialism, is not necessarily atheistic.”(1964, p.84) Nkrumah’s intention was to make his ideology an option for the African to rise up from their slumber and assert the dignity of the African personality. It was his conviction that the African personality is not an exclusive personality but must take cognisance of its historical experiences. This is because;

…with true independence gained… A new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and Euro-Christian African, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principle underlying African society. …A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time and ideology which will not abandon the original humanist principles in Africa. (Nkrumah, 1964, p.70)

Unfortunately, the level of progress anticipated by Nkrumah did not materialise and this can be said to be partly due to the great divide between theories of development and the practical realities in Africa.  It is in the light of this that Haynes (1998) analyses the effects associated with modernisation – socio-economic and political change, involving urbanisation, industrialisation, centralisation of government, and the insertion of national economies of Third World countries into a world political economic system, and comes to the conclusion that the nature of religion is accountable to structural and systematic traits and developments.

It is therefore obvious that the failure of most African nations to be able to forge that harmony that Nkrumah advocated, could be at the base of what is today termed Religious extremism or inter-religious conflict. Let us get back to the case of Nigeria then.

First: Is the Boko Haram a religious group and if so are they Islamic? 

The name Boko Haram in Hausa translates to ‘Western education is sacrilege’ while the Arabic interpretation of the Sects’ name is ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’. There is therefore no denying that Boko Haram is a religious group. What however is debatable is whether they are Islamic. The natural tendency for most mainstream media has been to take the easy way out – create news that will be popular no matter how cheap. Yes! Cheap because I have rarely seen a media house questioning how a group can be called ‘Islamic’ simply because they claim they are. At the beginning of this discourse, I made the point that if a thing looses its essence, it ceases to be that thing. If a group comes up claiming to be Muslim or Christian but has a unique interpretation of these religions, all what one has to do is go to the foundations of these religions and verify if their claims tie with the essential creeds of the religion – if they do not, the it is logical to look for another name for them rather than simply qualifying them as ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’. The fact that a person or group of persons claim to be Muslim or Christian does not make them that. A Muslim is one who lives according to the dictates of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet (and not their  personal interpretation of it) while a Christian will be a person who lives according to Biblical principles and inline with the teachings of Christ Jesus. Anything outside of these as St. Paul rightly captures “Comes from the evil one”.

Does Boko Haram bear any similarities with the New Government of Libya?

The answer is yes. First they both claim they want the institution of Sharia. Secondly, they are all rebel movements. The new government of Libya was a rebel movement that was given legitimacy by NATO and her allies. It therefore means that if Boko Haram is only illegal and bad today because it has not received the blessings of a UN Security Council Resolution and the backing of NATO forces – or have they not, perhaps not yet!

Which brings me to the issue of the recent unprecedented sophistication of  Boko Haram, a group which can effectively be traced back only to 2002. Where were they all the years following Nigeria’s independence? Why did they not surface during the periods Nigeria was going through one military regime to the other? How did they come to realise they had an ideology to propagate only during the so-called period of Nigerian ‘democracy’? How come Obasanjo, a ‘christian’ president could not stop them but Yar ‘Adua a Muslim was able to get them and get their leader killed only for them to wax stronger during Jonathan another ‘Christian’s’ regime?  The answer to these are obvious. During military regimes, it was difficult to simply play a political game hiding under the cloak of religion because  religious leaders such as the Emirs somehow had a voice then, and could easily rally the people to denounce such aberrations to their religion. Meanwhile, while Yar ‘Adua as a Muslim was able to forge the harmony needed for Nigeria to move forward, most of the so-called ‘christian’ leaders are not able to do so.

Malam Garba Sani, a senior official at the Nigerian Muslim Forum on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story points out that  “Boko Haram is not only expanding in terms of its area of operation, but also in terms of targets, in terms of strength, in terms of overall ability to strike. However it is only indicative of the level of strength and ability that Boko Haram has. It hasn’t yet elaborated or disclosed the strength of this organisation yet.” Has anyone paused to question why Goodluck Jonathan was quick to support a no-fly-zone against Libya and one of the first to recognise the National Transition Council? Has anyone questioned why it is that shortly after this recognition, there was a bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Abuja? Has anyone questioned why it is only after the Libyan conflict that Boko Haram has become this sophisticated only in 2011, effectively extending to the capital only in August? Has anyone questioned why it is that Boko Haram until the  July 10, 2011, bombing of the All Christian Fellowship Church in Suleja, Niger State and the recent December, 25th bombings been attacking mainly Muslims and government Institutions?

Patrick Wilmot, a Nigerian writer also on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story provides an insight but when he states that “Boko Haram is trying to create the maximum effect in terms of killing large numbers of people. The political effect is to create tensions within the ruling party itself, the PDP, which is a coalition of people from the north, the south, the east and the west and also Christians and Muslims. In the larger society itself, it aims to create more tension between Muslims and Christians, leading to a greater degree of segregation between the populations“.

This viewpoint shows that the original intention was to create antagonism within the political sphere, effectively destabilising the ability of the ruling party to take effective action as Yar ‘Adua did and crushed the group. When this has been somehow achieved given the willingness of the government to play ball in the Libyan case, with President Jonathan consciously or unconsciously providing the backing by supporting the no-fly-zone and recognising the NTC, the next phase is now in operation. Religious antagonism is therefore the trump card.

Any forewarning…

Gaddafi in one of the messages accredited to him, while denouncing all forms of religious extremism hiding under the cloak of Islam, issued a warning “Do not let them use you. Be united. Build your defences for they are coming if they manage to pass Libya.This warning was not hearkened to and the result is what we witness in Nigeria today – a very sophisticated Boko Haram which is now capable of creating a religious war in Nigeria. Does that ring a bell? Yes it should. Libya was just the first phase of a bigger game and having passed the litmus test, it seems it is time for Africa to await its recolonization – this time it will be under the guise of humanitarian interventions. The arms crossing from Libya into Nigeria is therefore not a coincidence. It is also not coincidental that arms that leave Libya should be able to find Boko Haram when the group has been and still is seemingly faceless with no known central leadership.

Final Words:

This write-up does not claim absolute knowledge of Boko Haram and neither are the assumptions made here considered dogma. What however I can say with certainty is that whatever the political game being played using Boko Haram, it is yielding dividends. The Nigerian government is gradually loosing the monopoly of violence over its territory and Nigerians are gradually getting to the stage where any tiny spark will ignite a horrible clash between Muslims and Christians. Unfortunately, neither the Muslims nor the Christians will be able to find the source of the problem because the ideology called Boko Haram will become faceless as the country disintegrates into a failed state.

THERE IS CLEARLY A MOVEMENT FROM LIBYA TO NIGERIA – A SHARIA STATE OF REBELS NOW RULE LIBYA AND A GROUP OF REBELS HAVE GAINED PROMINENCE IN NIGERIA WITH THE SAME INTENTION OF INSTITUTING SHARIA. THE ARMS THAT CREATED THE LIBYAN ‘STATE’ IS NOW IN NIGERIA WITH THE OBJECTIVE OF CREATING A BOKO HARAM STATE.

The difference however is that while Libya was small and her case could easily be manipulated using the so-called Arab Spring, Nigeria is so large that unless there is sufficient internal chaos it will be difficult for any external intervention to make headway.  Note should be taken then that Boko Haram far from being anything Muslim or Christian is simply a political cancerworm that is being used under the guise of religion.

NIGERIANS BE WISE!

References:

Berger, P.L. (1969). The social reality of religion; London: Faber

Bruce, S. (Ed.) 1992. Religion and Modernisation; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 170-94;

Aldridge, A. (2000). Religion in the Contemporary World. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Haynes, J. (1998). “Religion in Global Politics: Explaining Deprivatization”; A paper For the ‘Religion and Politics’ panel, PSA Conference, Keele University, (April)

Haynes, J. (2007) Religion and Development Conflict or Cooperation? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1975. On Religion Moscow: Progress Publishers, Marx, K. and Engels, F. 1968 [1848] , “Manifesto of the Communist Party” in Selected Works Moscow: Progress Publishers, 35-71

Nkrumah, K. (1964) Consciencism, Philosophy and Ideology for Decolonisation with Particular Reference to the African Revolution. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd

Petito F. & Hatzopoulos, P. (eds.) (2003) Religion in International Relations: The Return from Exile, New York: Palgrave,

Philpott, D. (2002) The Challenge Of September 11 To Secularism In International Relations World Politics, Volume 55, (1), (October) pp. 66-95

Whitaker,  B. (2011) Bin Laden’s Body Buried At Sea, The Guardian Newspaper, 02/05/2011 Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/binladen-body-buried-sea