AU’s Troops To Fight Boko Haram
AFRICAN nations, outraged at the atrocities being committed by Boko Haram recently demonstrated their solidarity with Nigeria by proposing to set up a regional force of 7, 500 troops to fight the rampaging terror group. Such intervention by the African nations under the aegis of the African Union (AU) is undoubtedly commendable as the threat to security posed by the terrorists requires a collective effort by Nigeria and her neighbours to contain it.
Since its disturbing emergence in 2001, the ravages of Boko Haram have been felt in the entire Nigeria. Wherever it attacks, it leaves a trail of blood and death. Aside from its predilection for kidnapping which resulted in its abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls last year, the group holds the ignoble record of being responsible for the brutal killing of more than 13, 000 persons till date. Although it professes to be an Islamic group, Boko Haram attacks both Christians and Muslims and destroys their places of worship.
But from being Nigeria’s problem, Boko Haram has spread its tragic tentacles to neighbouring countries like Chad, Cameroun and Niger Republic. Beyond making regular incursions into Cameroun, Boko Haram has kidnapped the wife of the country’s deputy prime minister and issued a death threat against the president. Obviously taking into congnisance the need for a collective action against Boko Haram, some African countries like Chad have already joined Nigeria in the campaign against Boko Haram. France has also joined the fight against Boko Haram, though it has limited its direct support to Chad and Niger.
Consequently, a move by African countries under the auspices of the AU to deploy a collective strategy to defeat the terror group is welcome. The AU tabled a proposal for a regional force of 7,500 troops at the yearly summit of the organisation in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. To give the force global legitimacy, the AU would seek the approval of the UN Security Council.
Although this continental response is long overdue, its delay cannot be blamed on the AU since the Federal Government of Nigeria had hardly been forthright in seeking external help to tackle Boko Haram. In this regard, Nigeria needs the help of its neighbours and indeed, the global community outside Africa, in the fight against Boko Haram.
While playing the role of big brother, Nigeria on many occasions has helped other African nations to resolve their crises. So, it is in fact expected that now that Nigeria is in a crisis, such nations that have benefited from her help should readily come to her aid. Indeed, since Nigeria’s independence in 1960, Africa has been the centrepiece of her foreign policy. This has resulted in successive Nigerian governments deploying enormous human and material resources in the pursuit of this foreign policy. Under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria led the moves to resolve crises in the West African sub-region.
Nigeria’s quest for peace made her play a major role in the resolution of the crisis in Liberia, which spread to Sierra Leone. Nigeria was largely instrumental to the creation of ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), which was responsible for ending the civil wars and the rebirth of democracy in both countries.
Nigeria intervened to end apartheid in South Africa and her commitment to peace resulted in the resolution of the conflict in Sudan. Nigeria played a major role in the mediations under the aegis of the African Union and the United Nations which paved the way for the consensus on the Declaration of Principles through which the warring parties, the Central Sudanese Government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement agreed on the principles and conditions for self-determination for the Southern Sudan.
While the action of the AU is commendable, it should be stated that Africa needs to be more committed to peace on the continent. This is imperative in so far as a threat to the peace of one country is a threat to its neighbours and the entire continent. In this regard, the idea of African Standby Force that could be deployed within 14 days should be pursued with greater vigour. Indeed, Africa should have troops that could easily be deployed at a short notice. This is imperative at a time when crises are breaking out in different parts of the continent.
The Nigerian government should avail itself of the offer of assistance from the continental body. The severity of the crisis spawned by Boko Haram makes no allowance for insisting that Nigeria is faced with an internal problem that does not require external help to resolve. After all, President Goodluck Jonathan has always insisted on the international dimension of Boko Haram by arguing that it is a replication of similar crises in different parts of the world. Now that help is coming from other countries, there is a renewed hope that the time has come now for Nigeria to defeat Boko Haram.