What Alternative against Boko Haram, ISIS and Al Qaeda in WANWA?

Dr Suresh Kumar and Mr. Babaji Halilu

Afroasian Business Chronicle, Vol.5, Issue 2, 2014

Political tension and environmental scarcity in the West Asia, North and West Africa (WANWA) has given rise to the diffusion of arms and long-standing migratory patterns facilitate their transfer across borders (Figure-1). Lethal Weapons are used both by government forces (military and police) and by non-state actors (guerrillas, ethnic militias, self-defence units, violent criminals etc) engaged in conflicts against each other or against the state, or in violent criminal activities. The old doctrine of Divide & Rule seems more prevalent across Africa, resurging again in West Asia and extending towards broader South Asia particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The division of Sudan in the name of religion (Islam-Christian), Congo in the name of tribalism and an effort to divide Somalia, Nigeria and Morocco on the name of tribalism in Africa and Syria and Iraq through Shia-Sunni in West Asia comes under this old colonial doctrine. The cause of concern for Rule here is the natural resources mainly oil and precious minerals. The prime concern for researchers here is from where these sophisticated weapons are coming from despite touching the silver jubilee of the end of Cold War and raising the following points such as:

  1. International terrorism has no place in the lives of common man and it is always condemned and boycotted.
  2. Is it a conscious plan to fill the empty hands of unemployed educated youth with weapons and lure them to get easy money and destabilizing rule of law in the WANWA region underDivide & Rule doctrine?
  3. The international players seems supporting their dummy Head of State on the name of democracy in WANWA region and protecting their unaccounted billions of dollars as a part of commission by sanctioning oil field and mining areas to these players.
  4. Can the alternate mode of South-South development and self-reliant produce peace, security and development in WANWA region?

Combinations of political manipulation, extreme poverty, deteriorating livelihoods, and environmental degradation contribute to people’s willingness to take up arms not as a part of terrorism but for their own survival in the absence of employment opportunities. The presence of poorly-paid and poorly-trained security forces further ensure a steady supply of weapons to civilians. What explains this contradictory situation between economic underdevelopment on the one hand and gun proliferation and armed conflicts on the other hand is the strongest expression of the injustice in the paradox of wealth that characterises situations of conflicts in WANWA region. It is the fact that people who produce wealth are the poorest and are leading to Civil strife’s in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Syria and now Iraq. International players (Total, Philip, Shell, Shevron, Halliburton, Agip and others) who are wealthy take the wealth by forcible act under the Divide & Rule doctrine.

  1. It seems that it is a conscious plan as there are an estimated seven to ten million illicit small arms and light weapons in the West Africa, and one to three million in circulation in Nigeria. It is an estimate claim that 80 percent of the weapons in civilian possession had been obtained illegally and it plays a central role in fostering instability, weak governance, insecurity and poverty, armed robberies, intra-and inter communal feuds, local wars, insurrections, armed rebel activities and terrorism. Guinea-Bissau, with a long history of being a reservoir for leftover Soviet-supplied weapons, is a key source of illegal trafficking in to conflict zones in the Sub-region (Figure-1).

The assessment report identified the Guinea forest and the Parrot Beak regions as the most prominent routes for trafficking arms within the Mano River Basin. The borders between West Africa’s states are long and full of footpaths, which are poorly patrolled. More than 150 illegal crossing points were identified to and from Sierra Leone and Guinea to Liberia. Over 85% of crossing points were covered by fewer than 11% of the customs, immigration and security officials identified. The Sierra Leone border threat assessment report established that smuggling of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) can be a real threat to stability in both Mano River Basin and the entire region. These SALW being the part of conflicts in Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Sierra Leon among others, as well as licensed weapons being stolen or lost, have played a major role in exacerbating crimes and armed violence in West Africa.

  1. The sources of SALW in WANWA region are international, regional and sub-regional. After the conclusion of the Cold War, the deregulation of former state arms industries in eastern and central Europe and USA led to an aggressive search for new arms markets in the developing world through the activities of states, arms brokers and mercenaries. The dummy Head of State is another cause of concern as there is alleged alliance between this group and the key politicians in the country; a factor which many believe is responsible for the difficulties in resolving the problem. The entire link of the Boko Haram sect with national politics continues to attract controversies and concerns. Boko Haram is the key player in arranging all the transactions within the routine networks (Figure-1). The first is the confirmed link between the organisation and Al-Qaeda, especially through Mali and the Maghreb region. In fact some Boko Haram members were arrested with names and contact details of members of Al-Qaeda. In addition to it, Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the former Central Bank Governor of Nigeria had exposed a $20 billion case of fraud in the country’s notoriously opaque oil industry in February 2014 verifies the point made above about the role of international players protecting unaccounted billions of dollars. It further ratifies that the money is a part of commission by sanctioning oil field and mining areas to these international players. It has created financial uncertainty in Nigeria as the currency, bond and money markets stopped trading for the day and theNaira had briefly plummeted to a record low prior to the premature market close.

Similarly, the story of West Asia (at present Syria and Iraq) is not so different from West and North Africa with the only distinction that youth is involved in killings in the name of Shia-Sunni division. The aggressive search for new arms markets in Syria and Iraq has established their strong footings through the activities of states, arms brokers and mercenaries. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an affiliate in Iraq and Syria has hidden understanding with the Al Qaeda’s central leadership even in the name of Shia-Sunni conflicts. The easy availability of arms weapons to ISIS through Al-Qaeda and their circulation within and across borders facilitates the formation of new armed Sunni groups and the use of untrained civilians militias, ill disciplined fighters, and unaccountable mercenaries. ISIS has captured Tikrit, Mosul and possibly Tal Afar and is not far from Baghdad (Figure-2). This crisis has displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and assault on the Baiji oil refinery made havoc in the international oil markets as it currently exports around 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. Earlier, the United Nations press release of June 2014 stated that one family flees Syria every 60 seconds because of the violence in the bloodiest civil wars. The crux is that the religion is not the cause of religious conflict; rather for many… it frequently supplies the fault line along which intergroup identity and resource competition occurs and international players use Divide & Rule to serve their purposes.

  1. Can the alternate mode of South-South development and self-reliantce produce peace, security and development in WANWA region? Presently, the WANWA region is a major trans-shipment point for the international trade, as well as a major producer of local arms. This phenomenon threatens the consolidation of democracy and security in the region, which is necessary for sustainable development. Arms trafficking and the conflict divert scarce resources away from social services, disrupt trade, discourage tourism, and contribute to the breakdown of family structure. The pervasiveness and persistence of the conflict also have grave psychological consequences as children are traumatized or become accustomed to cultural violence.

Socio-economic underdevelopment presents both a breeding ground for and a consequence of the proliferation and misuse of SALW. The long-term impacts and costs of SALW in terms of human and economic development affect societies as a whole, and the adverse effects of armed violence on poverty, social spending and economic development perpetuate human suffering. SALW can have a negative and destructive impact on human development, including health and mortality, knowledge and education, income and standard of living, and community participation. SALW also play a key role in criminal activities and damage to property and can become an integral part of day-to-day business and commerce, which have a negative impact on employment, investment and growth of post-conflict countries. Widespread use of small arms in business and commerce frequently has a detrimental effect on business activity and employment which in turn fuels poverty. As a result, there may be less opportunity to work and earn an income as investment declines – not only large-scale Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but also by local or regional entrepreneurs who may not want to take the risk.

Summing up, India has a great deal of complementarities between WANWA countries and provides the alternate mode of South-South development and self-reliance produce peace, security and development through:

  1. Most of WANWA states do not provide strong budgetary support to different sectoral development. These governments should be committed to raise the budgetary allocation to different sector to shape economic growth positively. It is suggested that WANWA leaders should take commitments from all the Indian investors for the adequate training of HRD including skilled labour in different sector on the one hand and work for transfer of technology on the other hand.
  2. WANWAis the only region in the world where agricultural productivity has not grown noticeably. In fact, the Green Revolution, which enhanced agricultural growth in India, is yet to take place in this region. The WANWA agro-industry as a sector has substantial potential to improve the economies and hence the livelihood of its large populace. India produces a variety of agricultural equipment that will enhance the production in this region.
  3. Indiais willing to develop the WANWA region self-reliant development in agriculture sector and initiates an alternative to this region government’s either to go for the existing pattern or build indigenous techniques in the partnership with India and achieve the real reliant development and get rid of any sort of colonial past.
  4. The MSME and SME sector of India has been already introduced to WANWA countries. It needs proper power support and land to set up their industrial units. The land is available in rural areas but this region does not have power potential. These countries should focus on the power generation to reach to the villages, wherever the MSME and SME sector is set up that will help to generate the employment for local people.
  5. India’s experiences of scientific education system should be practiced to promote the WANWA youthto join scientific education and other polytechnic programmes. Moreover, scientific education should be an important component of different universities to strengthen the education pattern here.
  6. The WANWA rural economic empowerment is another challenge. WANWA governments should initiate the process ofRural Cooperative Banks. These banks may provide different loan schemes for SME sector and provide modern mechanical support like tractors and other implements, credit to local people and subsidized technical guidance and other financial assistance to rural society. These banks should strengthen micro-finance and Self Help Groups in the rural society.

Conclusively, the widespread availability of arms weapons is a threat to human security that can be resolved only through peaceful ways. Confidence building measures on the one hand and providing employment opportunities for the youth as an alternate mode of living life on the other hand is the only way forward.