Africa has long been noted as a continent fraught with economic deprivation that heightened unrest and conflict. As a result, civil wars and unstable government characterized its political landscape. While there is little doubt that economic and political instability fuels the various conflicts, much less has been noted regarding the exploding Islamist Insurgency that seems pervasive and in definite rise for over a decade now. While it may appear as African Continental headache, the result and negative impact sure has far global implications. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, the spate of Islamists radicalism and insurgency has spiked. The roots yet of both the Arab Spring that swept through Egypt, Tunisia, Libya at Yemen has yet to fully abate, Mali and Nigeria continue to fan the ambers of Islamist radicalism in rebel outfits that continue to terrorize some sections of their respective countries. The link between Al Qaeda ideology and the festering Islamist Insurgency groups in Somalia, Sudan, Mali and the Nigeria Boko Haram sect will continue to strengthen unless and until serious alternate steps are taken in combating the menace.
It has now taken French direct intervention in Mali to bring a temporary lull to a near civil war that would have plunged Mali into years of uncertainty. Much worse, the re colonization of Africa will increase under the guise of UN Security mandate to checkmate the Islamist Insurgency. In a flash, France, Germany, US and other Western nations scrambled their military might and descended on Mali. While Mali now boasts of the Islamist rebels on retreat, the case of Nigeria is surprisingly on the rise. Just recently on February 1, 2012, the Nigeria Military announced the killing of 17 Boko Haram members in an operation in a deep forest described as the Militants terrorist camp. Since 2009, Nigeria has faced increasing violence from the Boko Haram sect just as she was settling the economic hardship in its oil output caused by the then Niger Delta Militants. It took the pragmatic step of the late President Shehu Musa Yaradua who offered amnesty to the militants that included economic welfare package that soothed the gun tooting and terror ready militants of Niger Delta.
Similarly, the danger on the horn of Africa where Somali Sea Pirates laid siege on merchants ships passing through the Gulf of Eden have largely abated on a different approach. The Somali pirate menace peaked in 2010 before radical steps were brought to bear on the hapless pirates. . US Today reports that Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Eden has dramatically plunged from all time high of 45 attacks in 2010 to 24 attack in 2012. Merchant ships now enjoy a relative safe passage at a huge cost of naval and military protection from over 11 countries that patrol the waters of the Gulf and Indian Ocean. Merchant ships now parade onboard security equipped enough to combat and almost annihilate any threat of few pirates that escape the near total aerial surveillance. The costs associated with the enhanced security should be noted. Private avoidance measures by ocean vessels add close to 30 cents cost per barrel of oil. The total cost to governments and private ship owners sure ads up to billions of Dollars per year. While relative calm returned to the Gulf, it certainly cannot be said that danger posed to the world peace and economy both by the incidence of Piracy and Islamist insurgents have been curtailed. It appears readily that decline in the Piracy resulted in increase in insurgence.
Strong evidence appears to show that many of the beleaguered pirates simply drift to insurgency. The Tuaregs of Mali or the audacious Algerian Gas plant attack by the Movement of Sons of the Sahara for Islamic Justice bear similarity to reactive activities not unconnected with heightened restiveness propelled by frustration. Aggressive enforcement and renewed Western incursions cannot be the only solution that can bring abatement to the present scourge. If anything, I would argue that it would be counterproductive and bring about an opposite result.
It is time therefore to proffer alternative approach that is tested and would result in both saving costs and preserving life. Nigeria was behest by years of increasing militancy in her Niger Delta Oil producing region and the attendant drop in her oil output capacity. After years of seeming iron fist approach to the activities of militants, it took the courage of late President Shehu Musa Yaradua in 2009 to proclaim the amnesty program that since marked a turning point in the relative peace now recorded in the Niger Delta region. Nigeria’s oil production capacity dipped to as low as 700,000 barrels per day in October 2008 far from her OPEC pegged capacity of 2.3 million barrels per day. At the same period kidnapping of oil workers was at a frightening dimension which worsened matters. All the task forces and government forces deployed to quell the exploding situation in the Delta failed woefully in combating or abating the situation. The carrot approach used by President Yaradua that tempered justice by infusing economic and financial reward to militants that surrendered their arms worked remarkably.
In Africa context, the result shall not be different. Much of the conflict both in the Islamist Insurgency, the Somali Pirate, the Gulf of Guinea Pirates and the Tuaregs of Mali and Nigeria Boko Haram sect come from the pangs of economic hardship or the frustration brought by perceived dwindling opportunities. Poverty has heightened as the cost of living has dramatically increased. These mostly young adult males see little or no opportunities for economic advancement due to pervading poverty. While the immediate causes of the poverty can be traced to bad and weak governments, corruption of the various leaders and leadership of the restive nations bear grave suspicion in contributing to the alarming state of insecurity. The activities of small arms dealers and drug trade appear attractive to the restive miscreants that fuel that the social strife. Their expected result therefore is rather for economic survival. The right thing to now do is for the various Directors of Human Rights groups in the affected country to pilot a new approach that would result in organizing a continental conference to articulate the effective vision of harmonizing a common Amnesty Program for the Insurgent groups. The task must be taken with all seriousness. While rights abuses attach to the root causes of the various militant groups, it is proper therefore for the Human Rights Directors of the affected nations to organize the conference. Sensitization trips must be made to the leadership of the warring groups and to Western nations that would realize now that the course of dialogue and potential amnesty by far looks rather more promising in achieving long lasting peace rather the present militarization of Africa.
It is a well delivered adage that there s nothing that peace did not solve that war could solve. In Africa today, the pockets of civil conflict dotting the continent is rather alarming. No matter the profit to the Arms manufacturers that wash Africa with weapons to fester the conflict, the negative impact would nonetheless affect the world, not just Africa. Even with the touted success in combating piracy in the Gulf of Eden, presently, a total of six ships and over 175 hostages are being held by the pirates. The costs continue to mount as the danger shifts like the sand dunes of the Sahara desert. It is now right to do the right thing. Amnesty is both necessary and desired to achieve lasting peace in Africa.