Tuesday Platform

May 7, 2013

Will Nigeria-led ECOWAS be a footnote to the French in Mali?

Will Nigeria-led ECOWAS be  a footnote to the French in Mali?

By John Amoda
MALI is one of the Achilles heels of the territorial arrangements of the global inter-state order. And Africa is the region where opportunities for re-drawing of the global political map is most fecund. Al Qaeda’s search for a regional space for its global anti-secular anti-westernisation Islamist statecraft is a fundamental interest in the politics of the Malian crisis.

The Security Council’s decision on December 15, 2012 to authorise the deployment of an African-led military force to help the government of Mali re-conquer the North occupied by Al Qaeda affiliated Islamists and to re-establish constitutional democracy phrases the stakes in Mali in fundamental terms. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the one hand describes the crisis from the Malian perspective.

“The situation in Mali is critical. Terrorist organisations threaten the way of life of the Malian people and even the existence of the state”. The United States on the other hand views Mali in global security terms.

Then Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton said the United States cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe-haven for Islamist “state predators” that could eventually pose a more direct threat to US interests. Clinton testifying to a Senate Committee on the September 2012 attack on the U.S diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, called the expanding international campaign against Islamist fighters in northern Mali a “response to a very serious ongoing threat.

We are in a struggle but it is “a necessary struggle. We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe-haven” Clinton said. Russia while backing the U.N resolution authorising military intervention in Mali noticed that the insurgents that the French are presently fighting are the same fighters that the West armed in the revolt that ousted Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

France in January 11, 2013 in response to the Malian Government request for military assistance launched a war whose policy is “total reconquest” of the strategically important but sparsely populated north of Mali.

The Islamist Occupiers of Northern Mali

They have links with Al Qaeda and with Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and are tested fighters with Algerian insurgent experience. They are empowered by huge arms secured from stockpile in Libya. They have transformed the northern region with weapons looted from Libya.

The Mulathameen Brigade, whose members were from six different countries, including nationals of Arab and African and non-African countries, that carried out the hostage taking from Algerian gas plant deep in the Sahara have threatened to organise further attacks if there was no halt to western military involvement in northern Mali where French forces are fighting to end control by Islamist groups.

We see with the interest of the Mulathameen Brigade in the military campaigns in Northern Mali, that the intent of the U.N Security Council to deploy an African force with international support is being set aside by the geopolitical interests of the West and Islamist groups who have chosen Mali as their base of insurgency.

The Globalisation of Interest in Mali

The French on January 11, 2013  launched a military campaign against Islamist fighters in Mali amidst fears that the vast desert country can become a launchpad for international attacks, in Africa and beyond Africa. The U.S  started air-lifting French army personnel and equipment using the U.S Africa Command. Britain and Canada rendered logistical support to the French. Belgium and Denmark volunteer needed support to the French. Great Britain lent France two military aircrafts with promise of more help with transport and surveillance. Northern Mali has therefore become proxy security theatre for the EU, NATO and the U.S outside of the U.N approved Resolution 2085 (2012).

The support for the French as detailed above makes very clear the EU and U.S distinction between the war against the Islamist Groups and ECOWAS peace-support military deployment. The war would be fought and won by the French with the support of the Malian troops and the Nigerian led ECOWAS forces. Benin, Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Togo and of course Nigeria have pledged troops. Nigerian troops are already on ground in Mali. The Islamist occupation Forces presently control Kidal, Timbuktu, Gao, Niafounke, Lere, Nampala. The French have retaken Diabaly, Douentza and Kona. The course of the war is dictated by the French policy of “total military reconquest” against a war tried opponent with Al-Qeada network. It is not going to be veni, vidi, vici (we came, we saw, we conquered joy ride). If it is going to be a war won- will it be won by the French with NATO members support? Or will it be won by the French and the Nigerian Forces with NATO and ECOWAS support? Or will it be a French war legitimated by the UN ECOWAS Forces?

Vanguard World News Thursday, January 24, 2013 captioned War in Mali: U.S, Africa disagree with Ban Ki-moon reports as follows:

“The planned 3,300 member African force- known as AFISMA- was not expected to be ready until at least September, but France asked that it be accelerated after Paris launched air strikes and deployed 2,150 ground forces this month to halt a surprise Islamist offensive toward the Mali capital Banako. “The capabilities of the armed groups occupying northern Mali have proven to be strong, as they are better equipped and trained than initially anticpated Feltman told the Council.”

The French policy of “total military reconquest” is the NATO, EU and US policy and not the UN Security Council and ECOWAS policy with the more limited goal of securing the territorial integrity of Mali and restoring constitutional democracy of the people of Mali. It is clear that the EU and US support for French is in keeping with Hilary Clinton’s statement “that the US cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe-haven for Islamist rebels that could eventually pose a more direct threat to US interest”.

If the Great Britain are prepared to give France all that it will take to “reconquer all of Northern Mali and to secure the rest Mali, how is Nigerian ECOWAS Mali Policy to be accommodated or harmonised with the French?

If it is clear that the EU and U.S military aid will be in support of the French campaign how is Nigeria’s ECOWAS Policy to inform the deployment of AFISMA that is military differentiated into the French and the ECOWAS Campaigns and diplomatically articulated as an African UN/ECOWAS Peace-enforcement (Resolution 2085) and French unilateral statemaking campaign. The French have defined the benchmark with the full support of the U.S and Great Britain behind them. How Nigeria will lead ECOWAS in Mali playing a role equivalent to the French military role will be the test of a Nigerian regional leadership in ECOWAS and in the AU.