We are to blame for kidnapped Schoolgirls #BringBackOurGirls Nigeria and AU

2014-05-14 14:40

The #BringBackOurGirls campaign is a culmination of the effects of a weak African Union and a passive Nigerian government. The terrorist group, Boko Haram, has existed in Nigeria killing innocent lives for a very long time. It has been allowed to exist with marginal outrage from the African continent and the global community at large. In actual fact, there are many South Africans that did not even know what animal Boko Haram is prior to the kidnapping of the schools girls in Chibok.

Whilst the kidnapping of innocent girls is an inhumane act, the continued carnage on human life by Boko Haram is barbaric and deserves the harshest intervention by the government of Nigeria. To this day, this terrorist organisation has killed thousands of innocent lives in Nigeria, in an attempt to get concessions from the government. Already, the government has failed on its duty to protect citizens from harm and danger. Whilst the world was busy condemning Boko Haram for kidnapping the schoolgirls, this terrorist group went on a merciless attack targeting the town of Gamboru Ngala on the border with Cameroon. The death toll, on this attack reported on the 8 May 2014, was estimated at 300 people. Not surprisingly, the world has expressed no outrage on this latest massacre.

The loss of life in Africa has become part of our daily menu, to the point that we no longer express outrage. You often find Africans more outraged by a killing of a few people by some lunatic imbecile in the United States of America. However, when such a thing happens in the African continent it is not publicized enough to reach the homes and residences of billions across the world. Perhaps, even media becomes fatigued on reporting on tragic events of lost lives in Africa as they occur frequently.

However, if we were outraged from day one by the killings committed by Boko Haram those girls would not have met such horrendous fate of being abducted by a terrorist group that could sell them off to the market of human trafficking. These girls would not have been exposed to the possibility of becoming sex slaves for these terrorists. These girls would not have been exposed to the inhumanity of rape. These girls would not have had their education and life dreams hijacked in the manner that they have been.

This regrettable incident must cause Africans in particular and the world in general to conduct introspection about their complacency and indifference with the loss of human life in the African continent. This is an opportune moment to begin a discussion on how we can avert the recurrence of these human tragedies in our land. Boko Haram is not only a Nigerian problem; it is a problem for the entire continent because its existence and modus operandi ferments the emergence of such terrorist groups in other countries throughout the continent.

Furthermore, the existence of Boko Haram builds regional insecurity, especially in the ECOWAS region of the country; as this terrorist group recruits members from neighbouring states or hides members in neighbouring states. As this practice continues, the borders become weaker and more dangerous and life becomes burdensome for those people located in the towns where most of the terrorist operations and trainings are conducted.

The Nigerian government has been passive insofar as it has failed to intervene decisively on the Boko Haram uprising partly because it afforded political meaning to the actions of the group. Whilst this may not have been, initially, the worst of moves; the government was unable to provide a political response to the meaning at which it used to interpret the doings of Boko Haram. That Boko Haram is a separatist movement, seeking an Islamist state governed by Sharia law, further feeds into the negative perception the world has been made to believe in about the Muslim religion. Equally, Muslims around the world must stand up and denounce this terrorist group.

Many have asked what of the African Union. My response to this is very simple – the African Union is now demonstrating that it is an institution that is built on weak foundation, which makes it impossible for the Union to take any radical steps in resolving conflict or assisting in intelligence gathering. The idea of the African Union seems to be what we obsess about; the structure is fatally incompetent and incapacitated to deal with conflicts in the continent. There have been some positives; however, prompt responses to conflict are often found wanting. Another problem is that the AU is designed to be a reactive institution and not a proactive one.

In the event whereby it is clear that some happenings within a particular country could lead to conflict, the AU maintains territorial sovereignty and allows that particular country to wallow in its own pitfalls to a point whereby there is loss of life in a massive scale. It must be the duty and burden of African citizens to demand the remodeling of the African Union. It is African citizens that must force their governments to commit in funding and supporting the AU, so that the long overdue Standby Force can finally come to life without the aid of the West. It is our duty as Africans to build an AU that is skilled, knowledgeable, less factionalised and forward looking if we are to discourage the intervention of the West in our affairs. Many of us loathe this reality but we have no practical alternatives due to a weak African Union.

Writing an academic investigatory piece, I critiqued the AU’s Peace and Security Council this way:

“Article 2(1) of the AU’s Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council poignantly states that the Council is established “as a standing decision-making organ for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts…” Ideally as a decision-making body of the AU, which has been ratified into existence by all governments, the Council has authority to make decisions and issue directives to Member States in pursuit of its objectives. What appears a noble principle in the Protocol pursuant of the Constitutive Act is article 4(g) detailing the need for the Council to respect “sovereign equality and interdependence of Member States”, which actually creates grounds for the Council to be in a state of inertia.

Does that mean the Council needs permission from the individual governments or warring factions before it enters a country to execute work, giving effect to what Bergholm (2010) labels ‘consent-based intervention’? This is asked in the light that intervention according to the AU Constitutive Act 4(h) is only permissible on the grounds of “grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity”. Whilst these are important, the curbing of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression is a fermentation of future conflict, as people will revolt. In Libya, citizens revolted demanding democracy even though Libya was the highest ranked (at 64) country in Africa in terms of the Human Development Index by the UNDP.”

Ideally, this #BringBackOurGirls campaign should not die down irrespective of its outcome. This campaign must propel Nigerians in particular and Africans in general to engage the Nigerian government to conducting the necessary reforms to unify the country. Furthermore, we must take the business of development, eradicating conflict and extremism in Africa very seriously.

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