LIBYA – GADDAFI’S AFRICAN LEGACY AND NIGERIA (UPDATED 2ND AUGUST 2013)
Western intervention, ostensibly to help the citizens of Benghazi who had mounted the ‘17th February 2011’ rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi, soon turned into an exercise in regime change which crucially upset Vladimir Putin and influenced his response to the Syrian crisis.
Libya has since held its first peaceful and successful elections for sixty years. The elections were as nearly democratic as might be expected in country so long without a civic society but the problems facing the new government are manifold and difficult. The presence of powerful armed militias, the imprisonment and alleged torture of black African workers from Mali, Niger and other sub-Saharan countries, the cessationist movements in eastern Libya and the damaging rumours of corruption together threaten the emergence of a strong central democratic government.
One effect of the massive military intervention by the western nations (and Qatar) was the near destruction of the Libyan Army leaving no force able to control or absorb the proliferating militias. Realists now recognise that the destruction of the Iraqi army and civil service after the removal of Saddam Hussein resulted in serious loss of lives and civic disorder. The dangers of similar period of havoc in Libya cannot be dismissed easily.
The effect of Gadaffi’s demise on Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso draws little attention from the mainstream press. It should not be thus. Hidden amongst these impoverished and divided countries lie problems for oil rich Nigeria, a country struggling to reconcile its more populous Muslim north with its oil rich Christian south. There is growing unease, notably in the USA, about the current state of affairs in Nigeria, a country which some pundits are saying is ripe for Balkanisation.
Gaddafi himself, as President of the African Union, called for the division of Nigeria into two states; a Muslim north and a Christian south. Gaddafi was ever simplistic and naive in his meddlesome interventions in the politics of other countries.
The dangers for Nigeria lie in the destabilisation of Mali, already partially accomplished by the al Qaeda franchise Ansar Dine and the potential destabilisation of Niger threatened by a restive Tuareg population strengthened by returning Gaddafi mercenaries. Both these countries have porous borders with Nigeria’s impoverished and restive north in which a further al Qaeda franchise, Boko Harem, has established a foothold. It is exploiting the endemic unrest, harsh military rule and police corruption.
‘Boko Haram’ is the local name for the ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’ (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad). It is led by Abubakar Muhammad Shekau and said to number 3,000 fighters. It is based in north east Nigeria conveniently close to the Niger and Mali borders and where people feel ignored by the predominantly Christian government led by Goodluck Jonathan.
As Professor Jean Herskovits wrote in the New York Times on 12th January 2012 ‘……..Meanwhile, Boko Haram has evolved into a franchise that includes criminal groups claiming its identity. Revealingly, Nigeria’s State Security Services issued a statement on Nov. 30 , identifying members of four “criminal syndicates” that send threatening text messages in the name of Boko Haram. Southern Nigerians — not northern Muslims — ran three of these four syndicates, including the one that led the American Embassy and other foreign missions to issue warnings that emptied Abuja’s high-end hotels. And last week, the security services arrested a Christian southerner wearing northern Muslim garb as he set fire to a church in the Niger Delta. In Nigeria, religious terrorism is not always what it seems…………’
This volatile situation has been further intensified by the arrival of arms in Nigeria, looted from Gaddafi’s extensive armouries in the aftermath of his demise. Nigeria’s Minister of State for defence, Mrs Olasula Obada, speaking in Abuja, said recently ‘Today in Nigeria, we are at peace with our neighbours and do not face any external threats…..However, we are aware that since the end of the Libyan war, some weapons made their way down south and [into] Nigeria. Nevertheless, today in Nigeria, we do face serious internal threats, but we do hope that the threats will be reduced to the barest minimum.”
The United Sates is becoming interested. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the US Assistant Secretary on African Issues has stated; “Over the past year, Boko Haram has created widespread insecurity across northern Nigeria, inflamed tensions between various communities, disrupted development activities, and frightened off investors. The near daily spate of bombings and attacks that have claimed the lives of thousands of Nigerians is unacceptable, and the United States strongly condemns this violence”
We should note that Ansar Dine in Mali has been ‘absorbed by AQIM (al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb). This is possibly one of the richest al Qaeda franchises having profited greatly from kidnapping, smuggling and other illegal activities. The core members of Boko Haram were trained by AQIM.
A pessimistic view, and one which is becoming increasingly common amongst observes, is that an absorption of Ansar Dine in Mali and Boko Haram in north eastern Nigeria by AQIM might create a new focus for al Qaeda operations and their attendant lawlessness in the bad lands south of Algeria and Libya with the dangerous destabilisation of Nigeria as one of its consequences.
Strangely the ‘Gaddafist’ blog ‘Libya360’ appears to suggest that Boko Haram is a child of the CIA and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM); an interpretation which illustrates the strange twists and turns matters are now taking in sub-Saharan Africa.
Update 1st November 2012
See Amnesty International’s report;http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR44/043/2012/en/04ab8b67-8969-4c86-bdea-0f82059dff28/afr440432012en.pdf
Update 11th February 2013
Reports of Boko Haram terrorists training in Mali
Update 9th March 2013
A disturbing killing of a British captive.
Update 2nd August 2013
This in al Jazeera today shows that Boko Haram has developed a new strategy in northern Nigeria. It is killing school teachers.
Update 12th August 2013
A valuable compilation of articles about Boko Haram in the British Guardian newspaper:
Update 25th August 2013
Further violence is reported in this today. The possible death of Abubakar Shekau between July 25 and Aug. 4 from gunshot wounds inflicted in a gun battle with security forces is raised here also.