Before Sending Troops to Mali
Sending Troops to Mali
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mediation and Security Council has recommended for adoption by regional leaders, the report of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff for the possible deployment of a regional force that will assist Mali secure its territorial integrity and undertake peacekeeping and related operations. According to a recent statement from the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja, the deployment of forces to Mali is part of a strategic approach being pursued by the region to end the rebellion by separatist groups in northern Mali, notably the Tuareg rebels.
The statement explained that the council had at an extra-ordinary meeting in Abidjan decided that its regional force will be deployed if dialogue being brokered by the appointed regional mediator, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, fails to yield the desired results. It stated further that the report of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff at their meeting on April 5 had specified the form and mandate of the force, as well as modalities for its deployment, proposals for designating the force commander and the contribution of Troops and logistics.
While we understand why ECOWAS is making this response, there are pertinent issues we must pay attention to. The March 22 military coup in Mali, no doubt, threw up in its aftermath great peace and security challenges in the entire West African sub-region. It indeed came as a shock to a region that was already enjoying relative tranquillity and internal democracy among member nations after nearly two decades of domestic crises and wars. Instructively, the rebellious soldiers in Bamako intervened at a time when the country was gearing up for an election scheduled for last month. Even the ousted President who had served out his two terms was not a candidate in the proposed elections. If therefore the soldiers truly intervened to strengthen democracy, they ought to have cooperated with the authorities to ensure smooth elections instead of scuttling the process, no matter how genuinely concerned they felt.
Having gradually dismantled all democratic institutions in Mali, it is only proper that these rascally elements be stopped on their tracks to avoid their contagious virus spreading and thereby throwing the West Africa sub-region back to the dark days of coups and countercoups. Unfortunately, just as leaders of the regional body were contemplating how to deal with the Mali challenge another gang of copy-cats in neighbouring Guinea Bissau staged a coup d’état upstaging a legitimate government.
It would appear as if suddenly, forceful overthrow of governments by the military is becoming attractive within the sub-region and this should worry everyone. We therefore commend the instant diplomatic pressure by ECOWAS countries to ensure the capitulation of the Malian adventurers. The same should be done to the coupists in Guinea Bissau until they also surrender.
But at a time when Nigeria is seriously challenged by internal security problems, questions must be asked as to whether the government is in a position to undertake another ECOMOG-like assignment abroad. Granted that it is in Nigeria’s national and strategic interests to show more than a passing attention at events in Mali and Guinea Bissau. This is more so as there have been strong speculations of free flow of arms into Nigerian territory from across the Malian border. But we should also weigh our capabilities at this moment in time.
Even if the need arises for Sending Troops into Mali and maybe Guinea Bissau, it must be a collective decision of all member states of ECOWAS assisted by the AU and UN. If this report is adopted, what it means essentially is that Nigeria may be Sending Troops to Mali at a time our soldiers are not only stretched at home on internal security duties but also financially stretched. Nigeria cannot afford again to single-handedly undertake the responsibility of saving our neighbours from themselves, even if in defence of democracy. The cost has to be shared.
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