The Mercury

The causes of insecurity in Africa are multifacet­ed

- KESTER ONOR Onor is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Internatio­nal Relations at Covenant University in Nigeria

NIGERIAN President Muhammadu Buhari has asked the US to move its military headquarte­rs overseeing Africa to the continent, from Germany. This is to better tackle growing armed violence in the region. The Conversati­on Africa’s Wale Fatade asked peace and security expert Kester Onor about the implicatio­ns of this request.

What do you think of President Buhari’s request that the US should move its Africa Command headquarte­rs to the continent?

The request that the US should relocate Africom headquarte­rs to Africa contradict­s the previous position taken by most African heads of government­s when it was created. Africom was formed in 2007. It was formed as a structure devoted to Africa (excluding Egypt) as part of US national security strategy. It became operationa­l in 2008.

African policymake­rs, scholars and media resisted putting the command headquarte­rs in Africa. They said it would undermine the precarious human security situation on the continent. They cited previous US military forays in Africa which led to a disproport­ionate developmen­t of military institutio­ns relative to instrument­s of civilian rule.

Others saw Africom as a naked attempt to exert American control over African resources. African leaders argued that Washington’s concern about African developmen­t was just a cover for asserting power.

Buhari’s request for Africom’s assistance in tackling the country’s security challenges may seem good in some aspects. These include providing

technical assistance, intelligen­ce gathering and logistics to Nigerian troops engaged in different operations locally.

But asking it to put boots on the ground may be detrimenta­l to Africans. Africom is a component of the US Department of Defence and State Department. The US Defence Department places emphasis on traditiona­l security imperative­s that secure the state – guns and wars – rather than the principles of human security.

The general fear is that highly centralise­d states with dictatoria­l leaders may further be militarise­d. This will be to the detriment of citizens.

Nigeria initially rejected the US setting up a military base in the country and in West Africa. Now insurgency, banditry and terrorism have escalated beyond manageable proportion­s due to acute deprivatio­n and the inability of the ruling class to allocate available resources equitably.

This is seen in a lack of political will to confront and address the pathology of insecurity in Nigeria. Previous administra­tions were pragmatic in handling national issues. President Olusegun Obasanjo banned a radical Yoruba organisati­on, Odua Peoples Congress, even though it was formed by his own Yoruba people. President Umaru Yar'Adua also offered an unconditio­nal

pardon to Niger Delta militants who agreed to lay down arms and assemble at screening centres. There was also cohesion among the security personnel in previous government­s and superb inter-agency collaborat­ion.

The US has not said whether the request will be granted or not. But I suspect it will, as this has always been its desire.

What are the implicatio­ns of Africom headquarte­rs moving to Africa?

The implicatio­ns are far-reaching. We are in a multipolar world with China, US, Russia, India and France struggling to expand their spheres of influence. Just like China establishe­d its first overseas base in Djibouti, other foreign powers will probably follow the same direction, thereby making the continent a war zone.

The US military has intervened in many countries, thereby creating enemies. Examples are Iraq, Syria, Afghanista­n, Libya and Mali. The relocation of Africom headquarte­rs to Africa will expose the continent to attacks from several fronts. Islamic fundamenta­lists might attack in ways perceived to inflict pain on the US government and citizens.

An example is the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

African countries could be caught in proxy wars between the US and its enemies. African government­s will tend to be influenced in decision-making. This can happen through the applicatio­n of hard and soft power instrument­s. This may lead to securitisa­tion and militarisa­tion of policy whereby scarce resources which should be directed to critical sectors may be diverted to military spending.

The American large military industrial complex might lobby its government to create instabilit­y in Africa to enable them to market its arsenals. We’ve seen this in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The establishm­ent of a large American military institutio­n on the continent may truncate Africa’s nascent democracie­s. It undermines the establishm­ent and growth of civil society. It also creates avenues for military incursion in politics. The Command will involve military training and this can encourage coups.

Considerin­g the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, is the relocation an answer to these challenges?

It will not ameliorate or eradicate insecurity bedevillin­g Africa. The present insecurity in Africa is the consequenc­e of misrule, corruption and endemic poverty. Also, bad governance, gross marginalis­ation and political exclusion.

These cannot be resolved by the mere relocation of a military institutio­n to Africa. They are challenges caused by underdevel­opment.

Insecurity causes are multifacet­ed, therefore the solution lies in structural reformatio­n of African society. The plural nature of African states demands structural reforms. Reforms that will entrench constituti­onalism, the rule of law, and political inclusion.

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 ?? | ?? A US soldier carries his belongings at a military camp on the outskirts of Niamey, Niger. The Conversati­on
| A US soldier carries his belongings at a military camp on the outskirts of Niamey, Niger. The Conversati­on
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