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?
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!
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.