Chief Charles A. Taku*
Permit me to repost an article I published in the very reputable Pan African Vision sometime late last year. The decision to republish it is informed by the urgency of the message I wish to bring to the attention of the public.
In the reposted article below, I stated that a careful observation of some of the characteristics of Boko Haram pointed to the fact that although undoubtedly a terrorist organization, it seemed also to be a political tool at the service of political interests working independently or in aggregate in or out of Africa.
The politicization of terrorism is not new. It is not an African creation. It is a significant driving force behind the struggle for power and control at national and international levels. For this reason, it should surprise no one that some of those who set out to lead the war against terrorism made the conditions that led to terrorism possible. Also, once engaged in the war against terrorism, they gain politically from their participation in the war. At times it is by political calculation as opposed to pure military and security objectives that these individuals and forces define the enemy; evaluate and allocate the resources required to sustain the war effort, and the ways and means of wining the hearts and minds of the civilian victims of the war against terrorism.
One of the difficulties in conducting the war against terrorism is the paucity of an acceptable definition of terrorism. Terrorism so far eludes a universally acceptable legal definition leading instead to the criminalization of acts of terror. This however has not precluded some countries and organizations from defining terrorism in manners that suit their national, geo-political and hegemonistic interests to justify a declaration of war or participation in it once it is declared.
The world today is confronted with terrorism and terrorist organizations as actors which were not in contemplation in 1946 at the creation of the United Nations. The UN Charter in its article 51 did not contemplate the fact that non state actors will play an important role in international relations. The UN Security Council and state parties, led by the super powers and power blocs under their control have been innovative in pushing the frontiers of international legality to the extent of establishing new legal concepts to justify their military interventions in several armed conflicts worldwide. The use of these new legal concepts as justification for military interventions has impacted the international law environment where diplomacy and the instrument of international rule of law were hitherto the acceptable means of fighting impunity. These traditional means of fighting impunity promoted and encouraged the enthronement universal peace for all nations, big and small. The implementation of these new concepts have created new conflicts and conferred legitimacy on some criminal non-state actors; in the result, contradicting the very rationale for which these policies were conceived.
Through its Responsibility to Protect Mandate for example, the Security Council in contemporary times validated the NATO intervention in the Balkan conflict. This led to the indiscriminate massive bombardment of the territory and civilian population of the former Yugoslavia. These would have been categorized as war crimes and investigated as such had the key to international justice not been in the hands of the super powers members of the Security Council and NATO.
NATO’s unjustified bombardment and near destruction of Libya led to Libya becoming a terrorist haven and the Launchpad for intercontinental terror. Similarly the US intervention in Iraq on the fallacious ground that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was non-compliant with a UN Security Council Resolution emboldened the forces of terror worldwide. In particular it emboldened US and its coalition of the willing supposed allied jihadists who unsuccessfully fought for years using terror to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The legitimacy accorded these non-state actors jihadist forces and terrorist organizations contributed to the spread and use of terror as an instrument of political expression and acquisition of power.
Eluding a clear definition and a UN Charter authority, some of the measures undertaken to counter the emerging challenges posed by these non-state actors have in context been interpreted as acts of terror making the prosecution of terrorism as an international crimes hard. Just as terrorism threatens our common humanity, the uncontrolled bombardment of civilian populations and civilian targets violate the Laws and Customs of War and the Geneva Conventions (1949) and constitutes a significant to our common humanity as well. Whereas the civilian population of the world is protected against the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other international crimes and the Geneva Conventions (1949) offers a general legal framework for the prosecution of these crimes when they occur, the crime of terrorism still lacks an adequate legal frame work to prosecute. This is slur on the conscience of humanity .
Unfortunately the so-called free world which prides itself as the custodians of civilized human values have contributed to the rise in profile of international criminal gangs and international criminality. The French and UN bombardment of Cote D’Ivoire caused massive civilian casualties and facilitated regime change. In the Libyan situation, NATO intervention and the UN Security Council support for the said intervention accorded a de facto recognition to criminal gangs and terrorist organizations that were classified as allies and provided the training and weapons to fight to overthrow and assassinate Mouamar El Kaddafi. ISIS and other criminal gangs today control Libya, a sovereign African nation thanks to NATO intervention and the UN Security Council support.
Libya today is a symbol of death for the Libyan people. It is a symbol of death for the rest of humanity judging from the hundreds of thousands of Africans immigrants led loose to die in the Mediterranean sea by criminal gangs now occupying and ruling Libya. Facilitating the death of these African immigrants provides these gangs with the resources with which to sustain its hold on the territory of Libya and to further the perpetration of their criminal activities.
The effect and impact of these unprecedented acts of international lawlessness on the African continent and the humanitarian immigration tragedy in the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean as well the rising profile of terrorist groups in the African Sahel is heart wrenching. The massive amount of weaponry that the French army dropped to these criminal supposed allies to fight to topple Kaddafi; allies who were well known terrorists, today accounts for the devastation caused by terrorists in their senseless slaughter of armless men, women and children throughout the African Sahel and beyond.
This is but part of a complex web of criminality on which Western peddlers of supposed democratic values rely on to justify regime change, or encourage and sponsor their stooges and political lackeys to ride on the wave of terror inflicted on the citizenry in their African vassal states to power. A critical review of the manner in which the war against terror has been fought in Nigeria a year after President Buhari came to power; in Cameroon, Chad and Niger establishes a pattern that justifies my opinion in the Pan African Vision that Boko Haram is hated and loved in equal measure by power seekers in the Boko Haram war afflicted countries.
Although a significant ally in the regional war against Boko Haram, Nigeria has so far considered the war against Boko Haram within its national territory as an insurgency. This has implications in international law regarding the character of the conflict. Yet the national and trans border devastation caused by the Boko Haram war against mainly civilians and civilian targets was serious enough for President Buhari to ride on the disaffection with the inability of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan to end the insurgency among other factors to power. He did so, by promising to end the insurgency within his first hundred days in power. Like most of his election promises, this has proved to be false. It is predictable that by mere political calculations, by the end of his first mandate in three years Boko Haram will still be a stark reality in the lives of Nigerians.
Many observers believe that had President Buhari deployed the same zeal he has deployed to selectively target his PDP political opponents in his war against corruption in identifying and incapacitating the sponsors of Boko Haram, its resources and its elaborate terrorist structure, the Boko Haram insurgency would have ended in his one hundred days in power. That he has not done so and will not predictably do so lest it opens a can of warms that may lead right to the political structures and the resources that brought him to power is becoming a reality by the day. One of the known resources that is close to the Buhari political establishment and which he shares a platform with Boko Haram is political Islam. The elaborate confederate structure of Islamic political power brokers in Northern Nigeria believes in the northernisation of power in Nigeria. It is hard to enquire into and investigate the elaborate network and resources of Boko Haram and other violent political networks in essentially feudal Northern Nigeria without unsettling this powerful Islamic political base. Its influence transcends the entire northern political power establishment.
In Cameroon, the French neo-colonial contraption that took over power after the assassination of the total-independence ideological leaders deployed state terrorism as a tool of political control and economic despoliation. The genocide of the Bamileke’s and the Bassas; the ongoing state terrorism against citizens and the territory of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) and the rise of Boko Haram gave the regime of personal power for half a century, a viable reason to justify its eternalization political power supposedly to face the challenges posed by terrorism. This neo-colonial policy, a variant of the so-called the policy of France-Afrique requires the fueling of internecine conflicts and terrorism to justify control by France of its African vassal possessions.
The fact that Cameroon and Nigeria needed the intervention of France to join forces to combat a supposed common enemy despite the fact that the Lake Chad Basin Commission to which both countries belong provided a multilateral regional treaty framework to join forces to confront this challenge, better explains the negative neo-colonial mindset of supposed leaders of independent African countries and the neo-colonial political patronage sustaining the conflicts and their power base.
This painful assessment of the African condition and that of the black race in the fight against terrorism is a powerful indictment of African intellectuals, in particular lawyers, African politicians, and most important African masses. It challenges the black race and Africa to critical soul searching on how to bring peace and development to our troubled continent. Africa and black people the world over must stop portraying ourselves as laughing stocks.
The number of black peoples and Africans in particular dying in painful circumstances fleeing from a continent at a self-destructive wars with itself but which prides itself as the depository of a majority the world’s natural resources must prick our consciences to critically think about how to protect our continent and resources for our common good.
The time to proclaim an end to neo-colonial remote- controlled governance by proxy has come. The time to stop the plunder of the resources of the continent is now. The time to say no to the individual and collective slaughter of our own people is now. The time to say no to diseases that are devastating Africa and the black race is now. The time to put an end to the search of power for the sake of power is now. The time to put an end to massive corruption and abuse of power is now. Africa and the black race must rise again to say no to impunity. Africa must demonstrate that it can stand and survive on its own and provide African solutions to African problems.
To set this agenda rolling, we need to go back to the drawing board and invoke the spirits and seek the inspiration of the pioneers of black emancipation, genuine freedom, and self-preservation like Marcus Garvey, Osageyfo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore, C.L.R James, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Milton Obote, Patrice Lumumba, Ruben Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Zik of Great Africa, Anthony Enahoro, Aminu Kano, Augustine Ngom Jua, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Samora Machel, Bate Besong, Fontem Asonganyi, Thomas Sankara and many others to recommence a genuine discussion about the issues confronting us to seek genuine solutions.
We must look ourselves in the mirror of history, scrutinize our past to find out what went wrong; the present to seek lasting solutions to enable us confront the future with visionary hope. . The black race in general and Africa in particular can no long accept to be used as guinea pigs on which new concepts in international criminal justice are tested in foreign far away courts while we have the capacity to end impunity and criminality against our people.
Lest we forget the many wars in the continent and the proliferation of weapons and resources used in prosecuting these wars have eluded investigations by the ICC, the UN Security Council and the Ad Hoc Tribunals established to investigate supposed African crimes. These crimes and the distinctive category of perpetrators may never be investigated by the governments of the afflicted African countries either. It is common knowledge that Africa does not manufacture the weapons used to commit these crimes on the African continent. It is also common knowledge that the weapons are supplied to foment the armed conflicts by individuals, countries and forces out of the African continent. We call them arms for minerals merchants. To request and expect investigation of these weapon merchants tantamount to tasking terrorists to investigate themselves. This will be a tough sell to largely external criminal syndicates to whom Africa has sold its soul.
Chief Charles A. Taku
PAN AFRICAN VISION
BOKO HARAM: REDEFINING THE ENEMY
By Chief Charles A. Taku
There is a fundamental obligation in all armed conflicts (internal, international or mixed) for conflicting armies to define the enemy. This definition is often reviewed to take into consideration the complexity of the conflict, the nature of the enemy, and the resources at its disposal, its intelligence gathering capacity, its operational capability and its war efforts. Without this definition, the danger is great, that military operations may be deployed towards the wrong targets, undermining the war effort, security policy and the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
DEFINING THE ENEMY
Although the definition of the enemy is the preserve of every army high command, the responsibility to conduct this highly sensitive assignment is conducted under civilian political supervision. The Head of State, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, is holder of the constitutional mandate to defend the security of the state and its citizens. How this delicate assignment has been conducted in the ongoing war against Boko Haram in the countries engaged in this extremely complicated and unconventional war is hard to say. It will be unusual if anyone outside a Military High Command of any or all armies worldwide will ever know the definition of the enemy. It is the most restricted document ever. In any case, it is the very heart beat of any army; indeed, the lifeline of any country’s security and defense. If the document defining the enemy were to be captured or exposed to public scrutiny, the army involved in armed conflict may well surrender. It will be futile to persist in battle under these circumstances.
REBUST PUBLIC DISCUSSION
This article does not seek a redefinition of the enemy in the ongoing war against Boko Haram out of the context of classical laws and customs of war, military law or humanitarian law, or the national security needs of each participating country. I have relied on certain contextual factual and legal assumptions which make it impracticable for me to address the content or context of a participating army’s definition of the enemy.
However, considering that the war against Boko Haram did not happen in a vacuum, but within socio-cultural, religious and political contexts, it is but reasonable to urge the leaders and citizens of the countries afflicted by this vicious armed conflict to engage in robust public discussions about whom this enemy is and who it is not. Doing so, will enable protected populations, armless civilians and persons not participating in the war to know and appreciate the efforts deployed to protect them from the scourge of the senseless slaughter to which the ravaging criminal gang has subjected them with so far no visible end in sight. The discussion is also required to enable the citizenry and policy makers to identify the indicators, and the enabling environment that prompts the despair which entices our priceless youth to join this and other criminal gangs in the hope that they are a panacea to societal injustices suffered by them.
Citizens of the participating countries in the war against Boko Haram have for long been misinformed that Boko Haram is an organized group of uneducated religious perverts fighting against Western European education and alleged Western European values. This definition of Boko Haram seemed simplistic even at face value. The distain and opposition to Western Education and values presupposed a commanding knowledge of the said education and values. The constituting members of Boko Haram cannot therefore reasonably be said to be uneducated youth at least in the supposedly Western European sense. This is discernible from the manner they operate, their use of social communication, technology and the sophistication of their strategical and tactical military actions.
WHAT THEN IS BOKO HARAM?
The degree of sophistication of the operational capabilities, the organizational structures, the intelligence gathering ability and logistical efficiency of Boko Haram portrays it as a well-organized military organization with reasonable political objectives. Its ability to attack, capture and hold territory and a well-publicized resolve to carve out a caliphate in the territories within which it operates attests to this reality.
The religious motivation for the war is not enough to explain the wider objectives of Boko Haram to establish a caliphate in the territories it is fighting to control. The geo-political, economic, cultural, religious and environmental outlook of the said territories portray its objectives as potentially wider than those portrayed or publicized over time.
Boko Haram overtime is emerging as a confederacy of distinct interests comprising various political actors in search of power and domination in the wider sub-region. Its territorial ambition stretches throughout the Africa Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa. As Boko Haram itself has acknowledged, it has a functional and ideological alliance to and subordinated to ISIS and Al Qaeda.
It may also be reasonably speculated that it has a functional alliance with local power seekers and power brokers. These opportunistically function as parts of the puzzle that sustain the campaign of terror that promises to significantly define the politics and future of the afflicted countries and societies within which it operates. Boko Haram was and is a political factor in the local, national and international politics of the participating countries in this war. This may explain the inability of politicians in the respective countries to appropriately or adequately address the underlying motivations and reasons that lead to components of the citizenry in the respective countries to take up arms against their own governments and fellow citizens, many of the victims, Muslims the religions they are alleged to fight to enthrone.
There can be no doubt that some politicians in some of the participating countries love and resent Boko Haram in equal measure. Some have benefited from the war politically and /or economically. Boko Haram has become a factor and fixture of national life in the participating countries. Some politicians actually rode on the back of the frustrations of disaffected Boko Haram youth to power. Having relied on them to wage campaigns of mayhem to undermine their political adversaries’ capacity and ability to end the devastation of the war and its underlying causes, these politicians are incapable of delivering on their campaign promises to end the war once in power. They are even incapable of calling Boko Haram by its real names which are: misery, social exclusion, excruciating poverty, economic alienation and life of hopelessness. They are incapably of doing so, for fear of being challenged to provide solutions to these enabling factors that pushed the youths into the welcoming hands of Boko Haram.
Strategically mischaracterizing a supposed enemy on whose back they rode to power, apart from being hypocritical, it negates the reality that Boko Haram did not just happen; it has been in the soul of our youth for so long. It will remain so, until governments come up with clear attainable programs to tackle this stain on our collective consciences. To attain this objective, the governments must admit that “Bokoharamism” is now a reality and part of the national shame in participating states. This fact must be publicly acknowledged before realistically providing enduring solutions to the war and its underlying causes.
The jobless youths who have fueled the ranks of Boko Haram may not have been driven by ideology when they were sought and accepted to join. They did so due to a desire to seek sad alternatives to social exclusion and hopelessness. Frustration arising from the policies and politics of exclusion that lead to lives without hope, societies without a future, and predatory vampirism of opportunistic selfish politicians are responsible for the revolt of these youths. These factors make them ready raw material for revolution within Boko Haram or other criminal gangs.
In societies where Boko Haram is not yet present, deep resentment of government expressed through the search for revolution resides in many jobless youths. The ongoing campaign against Boko Haram not with-standing, many more youths will readily join armed gangs targeting their governments whom they rightly or wrongly consider to be the enemy. With the promise of a better life fighting to change the institutions and governments that promised them hope and delivered misery and death, many of the youth similarly placed are but time-bombs of potential conflicts. There is an impending need for urgent solutions to the problems that have made placed African youths on the path of revolt spewing devastating wars that have made the continent exclusive focus of humiliating international armed and judicial interventions.
As the battle for the soul of our youth intensifies, the war against Boko Haram is an opportunity for serious reflection on the factors that make these wars and senseless slaughter of Africans by Africans an eyesore of shame and humiliation. There is impending need to rethink the very notion of governance and political power that have led to social exclusion, economic deprivation, joblessness, poverty, graft and corruption. A majority of Africans, in particular the youth have no sense of belonging in the politics and governance of their countries. Participation in the political life of their countries is elusive. The gains that independence promised are shortchanged for the protection of neo-colonial hegemonic economic interests and a guarantee of eternalizing power. This leaves the majority poor, in particular the youth at the mercy of criminal gangs like Boko Haram, ISIS and Al Qaeda with competing ideological, political and economic agendas.
Boko Haram may be defeated at the battlefield but will never be defeated at the battlefields of the souls of our youth and our nations unless the underlying factors which led to the phenomena are identified and comprehensively redressed. Failing this, the ongoing war may merely be scratching the surface of a wound on the collective and individual conscience of our countries and continent. If the youth are the leaders of tomorrow as some of the political leaders in the participating states who are in the very evening of their lives love to say, then the war again Boko Haram will be lost if these countries fail to wage a war to win the heart and mind of these youths.
There must therefore be a well laid out national policies for a grant of amnesty for Boko Haram combatants lay down their arms and be integrated into their respective communities. Additionally and significantly, African governments must establish policies that alleviate poverty, and place a majority of African people at the very center of governmental policies. The ideological and policy motivation for the battle against Boko Haram must be to rescue the souls of our youth from the fangs of Boko Haram and policies that make “Bokoharamism” possible.
*Chief Charles A. Taku, a distinguished author and Pan-Africanist is currently a lead counsel at the ICC at The Hague