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Democratisation is not solution to Mali’s crisis

For Western nations, holding elections to restore democracy in Mali is an end, but the prospects of a successful election in the Sahel country is bleak. The country remains divided and the insurgents in Northern Mali remain active.

The second part of  the Vanguard Conference focuses on the reconstruction of the polity in Mali, the role of AFISMA and the presence of US drone center in neighbouring Niger Republic.

To discuss issues are: Professor Ogaba Oche, Director of Research and Studies at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos; Associate Professor, Victor Ariole, Lecturer at the Department of Modern European Languages, University of Lagos; and Associate Professor , Fred Aja Agwu, Senior Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos.

They are joined by the Vanguard Conference Hall team led by Foreign Affairs Editor, Hugo Odiogor, Kunle Kalejaye and Mrs. Nkiruka Nnorom, both of the Business Desk of Vanguard Newspaper, Lagos. Excerpts:


What is your take on our concept of formal and civic education, especially our religious education that is fuelled by indoctrination?

Prof Ariole: The world has known some models of education that is moving from theocracy to secularity. France at a given time was known to be the mother of Catholicism. Their military personnel were fighting war everywhere to get everybody proselytized to be a Catholic. French people were going everywhere fighting to promote the Catholic faith, but now, they have to come to realise that theocracy cannot be used to govern a nation, so they have changed.

Now, in West Africa, Mali is an Islamic state, Senegal is an Islamic state, even Cote d’ lvoire would have been an Islamist state, if not for the approach of late President Houphouet Boigny. He provided the model that can contain theocracy. He was a Catholic and he even built a Basilica in his own village, Yamoussoukro, which is the capital of Ivory Coast, but he was not ruling Cote d’ Ivoire in a Catholic way.

That is why the war that happened in Cote d’ Ivoire was not so devastating as a war based on religious or ethnic divide. The killings were not too much there. The people did not see the conflict as north and south divide.  What am saying is that he was able to put in place values that are Ivorians, he did not to see himself as a theocratic leader,  but as a citizen that believed in running Cote d’ Ivoire as a secular nation that will profit everybody. Don’t forget that Cote d’ Ivoire is bordering Mali, they are very close.

The UNSC Resolution 2085 made provision for the political unity, territorial restoration and reconstruction  of Mali, the French military intervention may have been a welcomed necessitate but some people are of the view that this would led to a re-colonisation of Mali and above all manipulating the UNSCR 2085 to accomplish a Euro-centric agenda.

Prof. Oche: I agree with them when they say foreign powers wanted to help rebuild Mali. We should not forget that ab-initio; I had said that the Malian State needs to be strengthen, by that, I mean the State in its broadest conception.

This will include development of the infrastructure, reconstruction of the society, rebuilding of its democratic structure, armed forces, rebuild the economy to reduce poverty and corruption, but above all, improve on the process of governance.

Don’t forget that whenever there is conflicts, wars, etc, you will always find that outside actors and outside powers usually come in, to profit from the conflict.

This often comes through the process of post-war reconstruction effort. I don’t think the case of Mali will be any different. Let’s not forget that right now, there is competition between Western powers on one hand and China on another, they both want to be engaged in construction projects on the African continent and they are also engaged in the scramble for resources from Africa.

China wants as much as possible to be able to construct infrastructures in Africa and be able to make profit from it, the same thing goes for the Western powers, considering the state of the economy of European countries, they cannot afford to waste their resources fighting wars in Arica, without some hope of their making gains from doing so.

Some people have argued that getting it right in Mali may not necessarily mean getting it right in the Sahel because of the endemic material conditions of poverty, bad governance, corruption etc, that have been identified in Mali and other West African States. We know that the existence of these conditions which is what the promoters of politics of terror are capitalizing on, gentlemen what do you think?

Prof. Agwu: We must understand that terror in today’s world has become an international conglomeration and the solution to terrorism today, is not in the Maghreb or in the Sahel,. It is not even in Afghanistan because if you remember when Osama Bin Ladin was killed, there was jubilation that the head of Al-Qaeda has been decapitated, but those who were informed about the dynamics of terrorism, knew that the death of Osama Bin Laden, was not the end of Al-Qaeda because Al-Qaeda has globalized.

Globalization is like a Spirogyra, if you cut the head of one, each part will develop into a full grown organism. That is the nature of terrorism in the world today. France alone cannot deal with; the way they are dealing with it now in Mali. The European Union alone cannot deal with it; remember that the European Union does not have a standing force on its own.

From the onset, France had explained that its presence in Mali is for the sake of its own national interest, Europe and Africa as a whole. Although there must always be a conspiracy theory, but I don’t think that the mission of France in Mali can wholly be explained within the context of its own national interest.

For now, it is spending its own money and logistic to secure Mali, there are bound to be some benefit because in terms of dealing with any military conflict, whatever the country spends, it has to recoup in peace time.

France came in to Mali because the Interim President Dicounde Traore invited them He was tired of Africa or West Africa, while the rebels were threatening to overrun Mali. By September 2013 when AU / ECOWAS had planned to deploy troops, the rebels would have overrun Mali by then.

AFISMA cannot do that work because AFISMA is not an organic force. At the last AU assembly the common complaint by all the Heads of State and Governments that were present was that Africa needed a stand-by force, so that the continent will not be depending on Europe or any other Western power, to defend it. They argued that Africa has to defend itself. But Africa does not have the force?

The whole idea of AFISMA is not an effective force because, first, the resources are not there, two: the logistics are not there; in fact, AFISMA cannot boast of being an organic force. It is just a bit and pieces of forces from different African countries.

At  the level of intelligence, you need an international effort and all countries participating in AFISMA do not have the capacity for effective intelligence. For instance, here in Nigeria, when Boko-Haram, attacked Kano, they posted the threat on the internet days before the attack. Boko-Haram will announce planned attack, its target and on the stated day, it will strike clinically, without our intelligence organization meeting up with the challenges, because it is one thing to have the capacity for intelligence and another to enforce it.

What is your view on this issue of standby force for Africa and the issues of shared intelligence?

L-R: Hugo Odiogor Prof. Fred Agwu, Senior Research Fellow at NIIA, Lagos and Prof. Victor Ariole of University of Lagos .
L-R: Hugo Odiogor Prof. Fred Agwu, Senior Research Fellow at NIIA, Lagos and Prof. Victor Ariole of University of Lagos .

Prof Ariole: It is very welcome to have such an idea. The reason is that this was the initial conflict between Kwame Nkrumah and Houphuet Boigny, between the Casablanca corner of OAU and the Monrovia corner of the OAU in the 1960s.

Those in the Monrovia camp believed that you cannot have an African country that will take charge of helping Africa to survive economically. They argued that there is nothing wrong in agreeing to have a more established power, which is the West, to be in charge of security of African countries, while the African countries are allowed to blossom economically.

It was part of the initial conflicts that characterised the formation of the defunct OAU. The argument continues to recur even till date. The argument is that don’t have the forces to protect Africa and prevent foreign intervention.

We don’t produce arms; we don’t produce anything in terms of security gadgets. So, what is wrong in allowing them to come in and help us so that we can stabilize and have a buoyant economy? What majority of Africans need now is to grow economically is, to have the basic necessity of life before talking about self-actualization. But France came into Mali because we have a Socialist government power.

If it was Nicolas Sarkozy, and the conservatives were still in power, it would have been a different thing, they wouldn’t come in to assist Mali because Sarkozy was interested in Mediterranean countries coming together to be one, that was why he re-established the Mediterranean economy but he got frustrated

What do you say of the bringing of American drone station in Niger Republic and the total silence from Nigeria’s defence and intelligence community given the fact that this could compromise our national security?

We should really divorce our mind from proving that we are capable of protecting ourselves when we don’t produce any arm, we don’t have the gadgets to protect ourselves. Bringing American Drone close to Niger Republic may serve as a deterrent to the terrorists so we must find a way of working with them, to see how they can help us to cover the territories and to fight the terrorists in the region.

Mali could not wait till September for Africa to help her, which was why they ran to France for help. Thank God, France has been able to identify one African nation, Chad, to help him do the fighting. They are using the Chadian forces in Mali as against the totality of AFISMA.

If you use all the money that you have in Africa, you cannot protect Africa because; you don’t produce any of the arms or gadgets.

So why not allow these foreign powers that have them, to protect you while you develop economically. Sincerely speaking, we should not get ourselves too much involve in spending our money on security, when we know that we don’t produce equipment that will be of protection to us.

Let’s talk about development as a whole nation in Africa

Prof Oche: It does not speak too well about our development as a nation. I am of the view that Nigeria as we are now, is not developing. There is a lot more that we can do. I think like I said earlier that we need to strengthen the capacity of the Africa states in this case with specific reference to West Africa.

Industrially we are not developed in fact we are de-industrializing. I cannot but make reference to our earlier discussion on the presence of Drones in Niger Republic. Nigeria can use ECOWAS, as a diplomatic platform, to ensure that these Drones are not used against neighboring countries because that was one of the reasons/ purpose of peaceful co-existence which Nigeria pushed for in the formation of ECOWAS which was to have a regional platform on which she could work to ensure peaceful co-existence with fellow West African countries.

Have we as a country applied the best diplomacy allowing the establishment of a Drones site in Niger republic regardless of our internal and national security?

Prof Agwu:  Nigeria used to parade itself as regional power but Nigeria is not a regional power because power in international relations is not to have the indices of power but to maximize these indices of power.

Nigeria with about 150 million people, in terms of demography that is an item of power but we have not instrumentalise that position. The quality of life is declining everyday. The literacy level in Nigeria in the 60s was more qualitative than the literacy we have today. We are not talking about in quantitative terms. Yes, in the 60s you might have about 1000 graduates and you have 1 million graduates but in qualitative terms NO.

As I said before, Nigeria is not a region power because you do not only have to possess the indices of power, but you must be able to instrumentalise it, you must be aware of your interest. For instance, in Mali the United Nations passed a resolution authorizing the use of force. The UN asked ECOWAS to go and bring its action plan, but ECOWAS couldn’t agree on anything until the Ansar Dine took over Mali and declared a state of Azawad. Even before that, there was a coup which over threw the government of Ahmadu Traore, who was the Malian president.

If ECOWAS countries knew where their interest lies, they wouldn’t have opposed the coup the way they did. The leaders in the region began to talk about democratization. They were talking about elections when the insurgency was waxing stronger. You don’t democratize in a jungle.

The point is that when Mali coup happened, ECOWAS should have supported the undemocratic government in Mali, secure Mali before talking about democratization. They would have joined forces with the de-facto government and ensure that the insurgence did not make any further gain. Rather they began to talk about democratisation to install a democratic government. It was even in the process of talking about a democratic government that the insurgence gained ground.

The point is that when France realized that the insurgence was making gains, it realized that it wouldn’t be for their interest to allow the Islamists to take control of the country. France did not talk about democratization and they took action. So we don’t need democracy, we should have supported them to control the danger caused by the militancy before talking about democracy.

Secondly, what has happened in Mali is an indication that the international communities are now accepting that a de-facto arrangement as long as it is functional, it should be permitted because all these intervention and democratization is embedded in Chapter 7 of the United Nation Charter.

By the rules of the Charter, any application of force or intervention that diverts from Chapter 7 is deemed to be illegal but when you are waiting for a legal force to be used, you will wait till thy Kingdom come, you will wait forever. It was  the same logic Nigeria should have utilized alongside other West African countries to say that “Look we don’t want you people here” and they can join hand with them to push the insurgence  out of Mali.

Democracy should be installed in an environment that has developed its culture, in an environment that there is peace. In Cote d’ Ivoire we had the same the problem, a civil war was going on, the place was not pacified, they held elections and it was contentious now they used their kangaroo force to remove Gbagbo. Whatever was Gbagbo short coming the fact is that you don’t conduct election in a fractious society.

You will never get a consensus and that was what happened. At the end of the day, they installed Alassane Ouatarra and Ivory Coast does not know peace, it is peace of the graveyard.

The most important thing at this point in time is to ensure that the right is done. If you want to do the right thing in the right way and you discovered that it will prolong the suffering of the people, you will do the wrong way that is the implication of the certain expenses case which says that UN force is not designed by its consistency with the good book but by the function it has performed to advance the principles and purposes of UN.


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