This is a presentation by Marcel Kitissou at a symposium organized by the Department of Africana Studies at the University at Albany on October 23, 2019 in commemoration of “400 Years of Inequity” and of the celebration of the Department’s 50th anniversary. The main argument of the presentation is that, without the West, Africa would be less westernized (or at least in its own terms) but certainly more modernized. In Africa south of the Sahara, unlike any other parts of the world, the colonizer “decolonized” but never left. Therefore, “westernization,” as can be observed today, is not a free choice. With the constant presence, and constant control by the West (Francophone Africa particularly), Africa is more westernized than modernized. Westernization, in its current form in Africa, is likely to perpetuate dependency and prevent Africa from being a global power player as was the case in the past. Read more at
Lessons from countering the corona virus for war and violence –
containment, common security and cooperation
The world is engulfed in the ‘Corona Virus’ pandemic. As national health
systems are being stretched to their limits, countries are closing their
borders, banning travel, and isolating themselves…all in an
international co-operative strategy to contain its spread and eliminate
Andreas Herberg-Rothe sees valuable lessons in this international
co-operation to be used to contain war and violence. Taking a leaf out
of the broad ‘containment theory’ articulated by the late George Kennan
in an anonymous article published in 1947 in the FP magazine, Andreas
proposes a containment strategy for the world from the scourge of
terrorism, religious fanaticism, and wars for world dominance (both
proxy as well as interventions). This strategy for ‘common security’ can
succeed only if it respects pluralism of cultures, religions, and social
Rooting out corruption in the security sector will help the country address its growing terror threat.
04 FEB 2020 / BY MAURICE OGBONNAYA
Despite massive expenditure by the Nigerian government over the past decade, counter-terrorism operations by security forces have achieved limited success and the country is still ranked on the Global Terrorism Index as one of the states most affected by terrorism. Is the problem one of bad policy, strategy and tactics, or is corruption in the leadership ranks of the security forces also to blame?
It is estimated that terror groups have killed over 30 000 people in Nigeria since 2003, causing the displacement of more than 2.4 million people. These groups include Boko Haram, operating in the Lake Chad Basin region, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Ansaru, also called al-Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel.
In December 2019, ISWAP beheaded 11 Christian hostages to avenge the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by United States forces. In January this year the group killed the chairman of the Adamawa State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Lawan Andimi. It also kidnapped three university lecturers in Yola in eastern Nigeria, and carried out several coordinated attacks in Borno State.
Nigeria’s government allocated over N6.7 trillion to the security sector between 2010 and 2017 to strengthen its capacity for counter-terrorism operations. This amount doesn’t include extra budgetary allocations such as the US$1 billion the government borrowed in 2013 to fund counter-terrorism operations and the US$21 million approved for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in June 2015.
The secrecy surrounding military spending for counter-terrorism encourages misappropriation
Despite increased money for the security sector, counter-terrorism operations by the Nigerian military in collaboration with multilateral agencies such as the MNJTF of the Lake Chad Basin Commission have achieved limited success. The military did for a time succeed in pushing terrorist groups out of major cities, as was seen when the frequency of attacks in urban centres dropped between late 2015 and early 2018.
However, terror groups found operational bases in the large civilian populations in rural and remote areas from where they launched a barrage of attacks on poorly secured villages, military units and critical state infrastructure. After suffering a ‘technical defeat’ by the military in three local government areas in Borno State, a resurgence by extremists has given them control of these regions.
Why are Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operations failing? Some say it’s because of strategic and tactical imprecision due to poor intelligence and rivalry among security agencies involved in the operations. However, evidence suggests that corruption in counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria may also be to blame.
Conflict entrepreneurs within the hierarchy of military leadership and the ministries, departments and agencies in the security sector apparently use military funds meant for counter-terrorism operations to enrich themselves. Military spending is usually not audited due to its sensitive nature. The secrecy that surrounds it encourages misappropriation.
Unless conflict entrepreneurs are stopped, terrorism will continue in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin
Examples include the probe into the alleged diversion of US$2.1 billion meant for arms procurement by the Office of the National Security Adviser, and another N3.9 billion by the office of the Chief of Defence Staff, both in 2015.
In 2017, US$43 million cash meant for covert operations by the National Intelligence Agency was discovered in a private building in Lagos. And in 2018 there were investigations into US$1 billion that went missing after being appropriated to the Nigerian Army for arms procurement from the Excess Crude Account.
Conflict entrepreneurs in the security sector also allegedly operate through the award of fictitious procurement contracts, and illegal extra-military activities such as extortion and collusion with militants in illegal fishing in the Lake Chad area.
These activities undermine effective security force action by hollowing out the military’s capabilities. For instance, because they don’t procure by approval, and sometimes procurements aren’t even made, the military may be lacking in weapons and logistics, making it difficult to adequately counter terrorism.
Corruption has undermined effective security force action by hollowing out the military’s capabilities
Despite huge financial allocations for arms procurement and logistics supplies, military sources blame the death of 83 soldiers in a 2016 Boko Haram ambush and a similar 2018 attack on the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, on equipment shortfalls, poor weapons and logistics supplies, and low morale among combatant officers, who sometimes aren’t paid. Over 118 soldiers including the battalion commander died in the attack.
This failure of counter-terrorism operations may account for the resurgence of terror attacks in Nigeria’s north-east, especially Borno State. And despite significant financial allocations for these efforts, the terror threat in Nigeria remains huge.
Questions need to be asked about whether counter-terrorism funding is being used wisely, and whether the operations themselves are effective. Unless Nigeria’s government stops the activities of conflict entrepreneurs, violent extremism will probably remain a major security threat in Nigeria and across the Lake Chad Basin region.
To do this, the state needs to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks for dealing with corrupt practices in the security sector, especially in counter-terrorism operations. It also needs to investigate and prosecute those who have taken advantage of their positions in the counter-terrorism campaign to enrich themselves.
Most fundamentally, a strategic change in the leadership of the military may be needed, along with a rethink of the excessive militarisation of counter-terrorism operations in the country’s north-east zone.
Maurice Ogbonnaya, Senior Research Consultant, ISS Pretoria
In an article published in Africa Times on December 22, 2019 by AT editor, we learned that Presidents Ouattara and Macron announced the end of the CFA franc.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, speaking alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, announced the reform of the long-disputed CFA franc on Saturday, a currency that is used in eight nations in West Africa.
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Below is an analysis by Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim. As a reminder, the article below represents the work of the author. It has not been reviewed by the entire Sahel Consortium and does not represent the position of the organization.
Why France Kidnapped West Africa’s Eco Currency
Jibrin Ibrahim, Deepening Democracy, Daily Trust, 27th December 2019
Last Saturday, France, through the instrumentality of their most faithful poodle in West Africa, Alasane Ouattara kidnapped the West African currency that was to be launched next year for the 15 countries in the region. In a press conference in Abidjan, Presidents Macron and Ouattara announced that the 8 West African countries using the CFA Franc currency would adopt the Eco as their new currency next year. The announcement was done the day ECOWAS was meeting for a final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020. The French move breaks up the 30-year struggle by ECOWAS to establish a regional currency to promote trade and development. What France has done is that it takes over the responsibility of establishing and even printing the new currency and presents the other countries in the region with a fait accompli. France is also keeping the new currency attached to the Euro and therefore aligning it with its colonial interest as it has always done with the CFA. This means that the other seven West African countries can only join on conditions established by France. The implication is that Nigeria is essentially kept out of the currency because the country will not accept the conditionalities established by France.
The long delay in establishing the Eco has been caused by the inability of the 15 ECOWAS countries to meet the convergence criteria they set for themselves. These are that the inflation rate of less than 5 percent is maintained. The budget deficit is not more than 3 percent of GDP and that each country has enough foreign reserves to cover at least 3 months of imports. The problem now is after failing to meet these conditions over the past two decades, the eight countries have now adopted the currency without meeting them. This means economics has been set aside for political reasons. There are three political factors that motivated the French decision to take over the baby ECOWAS has had great difficulty in delivering.
The first reason is that over the past five years, a successful campaign has been on-going castigating the CFA Franc as the instrument through which France maintains total control over the economic affairs of its colonies – the argument being economic decolonization never occurred. The Francophone countries have to keep 50 percent of the foreign reserves permanently with the French treasury and they cannot make international transactions without going through Paris. There were demonstrations that French board members in the West African (French) Central Bank must be removed, which is the reason that France has finally agreed that it will not have direct representatives in the Eco Central Bank. What France is trying to do now is to argue that the “colonial” CFA Franc established is now dead and the Eco is a new currency that is not French controlled. It’s the biggest lie of the year.
The second political reason is related to recent developments on the war on terror in the Sahel. It will be recalled that on 11 January 2013, French warplanes attacked jihadist convoys that were advancing on Bamako, Mali’s capital. The jihadists were already in control of two thirds of Malian territory having successfully defeated and evicted the Malian army from northern Mali. Initially, the three jihadist groups involved, namely Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), its offshoot The Movement for the Oneness of Jihad (MUJAO by its French acronym) and Ansar Dine were confident that they would takeover Bamako but the French stopped them. I visited Mali shortly after and France was super popular in Mali and ordinary people were flying the French flags in their houses and cars.
Over the past few years however, France became very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that they were pretending to fight the jihadists in public but supporting them in secret. People are saying with their vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without warning from the French. These attacks have been happening with increasing regularity and devastating effect. President Macron has been very angry that Sahelians were criticizing his country and ordered the Presidents of the five Sahelian countries to report to Pau in southern France to be told off for not convincing their citizens that France was a good friend. The meeting which was to hold this December has been postponed to January following the killing of 71 soldiers in Niger by the jihadists. France is therefore using the Eco currency launch as a public relations gimmick to rebuild its battered image.
The third political motive for the Eco move is to ensure that Nigeria is permanently kept out of the currency. As Professor Ibrahim Gambari has always said, France has always defined itself as the main power block in Africa and so has always seen Nigeria’s self-definition as an African power as a threat to its interests. It is therefore surprising that Nigeria, which is the main target of this French action has been quiet about what is going on. Meanwhile, the French are trying to woo Ghana to join Eco so as to completely isolate Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria has closed its borders with its three Francophone neighbours also created conditions to push the Francophone countries to join this plot against Nigeria. In this tenth year of the battle against Boko Haram in which France is a major player with troops, planes and drones on the ground, understanding the French role in West Africa is very important and my hope is that we have a strong working group following the issues.
Jibrin Ibrahim, PhD
Senior Fellow, Centre for Democracy and Development
In this article published by Africa in Focus (the Brookings Institution) on November 14, 2019, Dr. Jideofor Adibe raised several questions: “Last month’s Russia-Africa summit—the first of its kind—ended with the usual optics and photo-ops, but also spawned $12.5 billion in business deals, largely in arms and grains. Beyond the splashy show of unity and camaraderie, the summit also raised a number of questions—namely, what does Russia really want from Africa? How will Africa’s traditional allies, especially the United States, respond to Russia’s newfound love for the continent? And, does Russia have what it takes to compete with China in Africa?”
and commented: “It will be simplistic to frame the just-concluded Russia-Africa summit as a copy-cat jamboree organized by Russia to latch on the bandwagon of the increasingly fashionable trend of organizing and institutionalizing Africa summits by countries like China, India, Japan, France, and the United States. The truth is that, since the 2000s, there has been a noticeable re-awakening of Russia’s interest in Africa. Indeed, between 2005 and 2015, Africa’s trade with Russia grew by 185 percent, and Russia has several reasons to engage Africa more intensely.”
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In an article published by Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options on August 12, 2019, Hannah Richards assesses France’s military operations in the Sahel during the 2013-2019 period. The author concludes that:
“Although the overall contribution of Barkhane to the stability of the Sahel is as yet unclear, France’s military commitment remains steadfast. When viewed in the context of its historic engagement with the region, the implications of a permanent French presence are vast. As such, a nuanced understanding of the different narratives at play will be increasingly important in determining whether French intervention is ultimately regarded as a success or failure.”
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On May 31, 2019 The New Humanitarian (formerly IRIN News) published an article that might be of interest for our readers: “The Sahel in flames.”
The article begins with these findings:
The civilian toll in numbers
- Civilian fatalities rose 7,000 percent in Burkina Faso, 500 percent in Niger, and 300 percent in Mali compared to the previous year
- 440,000 people displaced by conflict, a five-fold increase over the previous year
- 1.8 million people face food insecurity
- 5.1 million people require humanitarian assistance
- 157 men, women, and children killed in March in one attack in Mali
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This symposium is hosted by the Institute for African Development (IAD), Cornell University, and co-sponsored by the Sahel Consortium and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies. For more information, contact Cornell Institute for African Development 190 Uris Hall Cornell University Ithca, NY 14853 or at email@example.com, 607.255.6849/5499. You can also visit IAD’s website at iad.einaudi.cornell.edu. Please see the full brochure of the symposium at:
Call for Proposals for a Symposium Sponsored by the Cornell Institute for African Development (IAD) and Sahel Consortium
April 26-27, 2019 Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Many governments around the globe have intensified restrictions on civil society. Authoritarian governments, in particular, are becoming more forceful in limiting civic space and in violating international norms which protect freedom of association. From 2015 to 2016 alone, 64 restrictive laws were adopted on civil society in both democratic and undemocratic countries (International Center for Not-for-Profit Law). The Washington-based International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, or ICNL, has identified 120 laws and regulations that have been enacted by 70 governments since 2012 that limit NGOs’ access to financing and the ability of citizens to organize and manage them.
“We’ve seen a paradigm shift in the view of civil society in the past 20 years,” says David Moore, ICNL’s vice president for legal affairs. “There is a perception, promoted by some governments, that civil society is somehow ‘other,’ seeking to undermine national goals and priorities.” According to the USAID Sustainability Index for SubSaharan Africa “ in many countries, civil society, especially those engaged in advocacy or human rights work, face significant and often vague restrictions on their operations.”
The Institute for African Development (IAD) and the Sahel Consortium symposium committee invite submissions of abstracts on the above mentioned theme. Proposals must be no more than a page in length; single spaced, and must have the name, title, and institutional or organizational affiliation and full contact details of the person or persons submitting the abstract. Deadline for the submission of proposals/abstracts in January 30, 2019. Submitted proposals should be sent to Jackie Sayegh firstname.lastname@example.org at the Institute for African Development (IAD).
For more information, contact Jackie Sayegh, Program Manager, Institute for African Development, 190 Uris Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, tel: (607) 255-6849 / e-mail: email@example.com. To read more go to:
For more than two and half decades, precisely between 1985 and 2011, Mali experienced rapid economic growth. For instance, between 1985 and 1994, Mali’s GDP grew at an average rate of 1.7 per cent; 5.8 per cent between 1995 and 2005 and at 4.9 per cent between 2007 and 2010, while annual GDP growth was 2.7 per cent in 2011. On the one hand, this economic growth was occasioned by a flourishing democracy and socio-political stability, which made the country “an acclaimed example of democratic process in the West African sub-region.” On the other hand, flourishing democracy, socio-political stability and the resultant economic growth in Mali were results of the successes in regional integration recorded within the West African sub-region by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Following decades of instability arising from a series of political upheavals, sporadic violent social conflicts and civil wars in West Africa, the emphasis in the sub-region shifted in the mid-1990s, from economic cooperation to peace-building and security cooperation. This was due to the realisation that there is a dialectical relationship among security, peace, political stability, and economic growth and that economic cooperation cannot be fostered on a conflict-ridden environment. However, the flourishing democracy, socio-political stability and economic growth experienced in Mali in particular and the success in regional integration recorded by ECOWAS within the sub-region in general, have come under threats by the resurgence of political conflicts and secessionist tendencies in Mali, military coup d’état in Burkina Faso and electoral violence in Gabon, among others.
OGBONNAYA, Ufiem Maurice
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