La Tribune: Vth Summit AU / EU, Abidjan, 2017 PDF Print E-mail
Written by (Interview by ) Ibrahima Bayo Jr.   
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 23:01

Security will be a big part of the partnership that the AU and the EU are about to update. What security challenges are common to both organizations?






Two observations. First, the convening of this Summit is welcome. Second, facing a serious common threat, Africans and Europeans should focus on the present and the future, without wasting time on past related recriminations.


Today priority is to confront and reduce prevailing security threats. One of the most pernicious security challenges, lucrative and difficult to fight and overcome, is traffic and trafficking. Both Africa and Europe should and are concerned. These traffics fuel and, at the same time, expand the impact of corruption on governmental administrations activities. They also distort the efforts in transparency as well as attempts to political democratization.


Among these traffics, there is in the first place and especially that of drugs originating from Latin America and passing through the Sahel, a transit zone, towards the vast and rich European market. There is also the rarely mentioned traffic in cigarettes and its huge turnover that constitutes a devastating trading competitor to the Sahelian countries light industries. The organized crime operators who recruit and operate irregular migrations from Africa to Europe are the third component of these illicit businesses.


Organized, financed and supported by a solid alliance of mafias - Latin America, Africa and Europe - a tripartite cooperation of another kind - these traffics finance, without bureaucratic hurdles, the tracks between Africa and Europe. Their trade weakens national administrations while oiling the illegal activities of powerful networks and circuits that political leaders cannot ignore.


All these various forms of trafficking nurture the soil on which radical movements and other terrorist groups flourish. Groups, that are certainly international, but with solid local support and sustained or tolerated by some governmental administrations.


The latter are often the political heirs of those presidents who, during the cold war era, were already playing on the world fear of that time – communism – to get, from uncomfortable mature democracies, economic assistance, politic support, or embarrassed silence. This authoritarianism, which has become a form of governance, is undoubtedly one of the main causes of current security threats which are not all solely religion motivated.

Throughout the Sahel, the terrorist threat is now deeply rooted, multiform and especially widespread. All this means that the threat is well anchored in the Sahel space. The presence in the field of UN, French and American forces and those of the G 5 Sahel and Liptako Gourma as well as of the Lake Chad Basin’s cannot be explained otherwise.


Without exception, all countries in the region are affected, concerned or expecting assaults as the radicals groups are able to choose and reach their targets where and when they want. Agreements with a particular radical group are binding only on those governments that have put their trust in them.


Following the Vth summit, the new African / EU cooperation, should draw lessons from the cumulative governance deficits since the Yaoundé and Cotonou Conventions of the 1960s and 1970s. More innovative, the future bilateral agreements should be more credible in the eyes of African and European citizens and therefore better internalized by their populations. If participants to this fifth summit want to reduce security challenges, civil societies’ component should no longer be put between brackets.


That is why the challenge of bad governance cannot continue to be surrendered in the name of national sovereignty. Those who think that they can bet on China, to ignore the demands of their people, are mistakenly wrong. In fact, China has proven its capacity to adapt to historical developments as it has been able to reform its economy and to pay attention to the desire of its public opinion.

Indeed the bet is that China will be more and more respectful of the universal values ​​and to the calls of other countries citizen for transparency.



What measures can the two continents put in place for sound security cooperation?


Here, too, one observation. As people are not born terrorists, the question is how to prevent violence from becoming a motivation or an objective to youth?


Hence, the need for Africans and Europeans to have a common understanding of the terrorist threat that could help them to agree on an equally common or shared response.


They should agree that terrorism is a phenomenon complex enough to be easily detected and fought successfully in the short term. Preventing the radicalization of individuals is even more difficult. The question, very often not clearly asked, as it is very sensitive, is who radicalized the radicals? And who radicalized the radicalizers? And so on.


Both Africans and Europeans also know that preventing terrorism is essentially a security issue. That kind of prevention can rely on the use of various social and other channels. However, in the long run, to be effective, the response should integrate intelligence, military police and diplomacy tools.


Today, the question on the agenda is how to marginalize terrorism in the Sahel? Since 2014, in addition to the concerned national armies, the United Nations, France and the United States have about 15,000 men (Minusma, Barkhane and Special Forces US) on the ground, trained and well equipped.

These troops have saved and maintained Mali integrity and managed to contain and deter the terrorist groups that occupied the northern part of the country in 2012. However, as the crisis continues, and the national troops, not yet sufficient enough to secure the region, the withdrawal of international troops could aggravate further the security situation.


That is where the dilemma lies. While remaining vital, external military action, in order to being successful, requires conditions that are often very difficult to put together: political support, at troupes contributing countries and also in the countries where intervention is taking place. However, very often, after a certain time, through exhaustion, inexperience, demagoguery and lack of financial resources, the political support weakens or evaporates.


For an expeditionary military force, remaining for a long time carries many risks, including a stalemate and its subsequent disastrous financial, military and diplomatic consequences. To leave without success can generate a political discredit and, to remain, with the risks of financial deficits and loss of life, undermines the intervention forces and weakens their future deterrent effects. One way to minimize these risks is to support national and regional military responses.


That is one of the objectives of the G 5 Sahel also an issue that the summit in Abidjan should address. The establishments of G 5 Sahel in 2014, and the strengthening of its operationalization, that started last July, are moving in the right direction. The grouping should be reinforced internationally and supported by field operations in its Liptako - Gourma sub - region.


The diplomatic efficiency of the G 5 Sahel would be enhanced if a formal, or otherwise association, is established with its northern and southern neighbors namely Algeria, Morocco and Senegal respectively. In addition, to ensure greater coherence between external partners, the United States should revive its former Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Project (TSCTP) to help the G 5 Sahel priorities.


However, the originality and coherence of the G 5 Sahel should not be diluted in a much larger political ensemble.


Africa and Europe should work together to strengthen their political backing to the Sahel national governments. In addition, significant support should be given to the national armies and security forces through continuous training, more frequent preparations and drills, professionalization and democratization in recruitments and transparency in the procurements of equipment, etc.


Finally, a significant financial support, delivered in a reasonable time span, should be provided to the G5 Sahel forces. The forthcoming fundraising conference, scheduled for this December, should mobilize resources matching the stated priorities. In other words, the commitments made should materialized quickly.


Economic crisis in Europe, Brexit, questions of identity, will Africa be spared from the consequences of the risks weighing on the old continent?



This issue is important and cannot be ignored either by Africans or their European development partners. In a large number of African countries, Catalan and Scottish irredentism are examples to follow.


Obviously, the identity question in Europe, such as the Brexit and the Catalonia crisis as well as the rise of populism, impact first of all on the future of Europe. A continent where the very modern idea of the nation state was born and has developed.


The media coverage of the European separatists has been successful enough that it is likely to encourage, and even to legitimize and reinforce the aspirations of those Africans who feel marginalized by their central governments’ policies. The calls for better sharing of revenues from the exploitation of natural resources is a growing demand by ethnic and regionalist groups exhausted from central governments predation.


However, and this may be a surprise to many, already, and for a long time, the ‘’ identity problem’’ has been a hot issue on the political agenda in several African countries. Both, the crisis in the Sahel and terrorism, are often only thin disguises behind which the identity issue progresses throughout the continent.


If, the world over, the consequences of contagion and imitations on identity are rapidly rolling, in Africa, nationalism and irredentism crisis has unfortunately been sweeping for many decades. It has resulted from the political leaders’ carelessness as, they often themselves, either by conviction or for political survival, believe in the tribal system!


Crises - identity, tribal, regionalist or religious - have already had huge devastating effects as civil wars are raging in Libya (and its provinces – Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan - practically semi-autonomous), in Sudan as well as in South Sudan and in Somalia. The latter is the archetypal example of the deconstruction of a central state.


As a matter of fact, one may wonder whether, behind the current insecurity in the Sahel, identity problems have not become more significant to the populations than any other security or religious consideration.


Everywhere, observers are witnessing the inexorable deconstruction of the postcolonial states.


The threat to Africa security is that, calls for specific identities and separatist attempts are not meant to be peaceful, through elections, as are the cases in Europe. Violence, in Libya, South Sudan or Somalia, is probably the solution sought by irredentists groups.


Meeting to discuss the persistence of terrorist threats and how to confront them, the Vth AU / EU Summit should also think about how, in the first place, to prevent them.


Governance that ensures citizens, beyond their various ethnic or religious and regional affiliations and seeks to strengthen public institutions remains the best ingredient for stability and prosperity.

In addition, it offers a guarantee against the regression of the states into mini entities and offers the needed space necessary to their security.

Last Updated ( Saturday, 16 December 2017 11:57 )

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