Sunday, 21 April, 2024


Azawad, Bandits and the Sheikh

By Victor C. Ariole

If God made the cheetah, he evidently put a lot of effort into designing a superb killer: fast, fierce, keen-eyed… with a brain dedicated to ruthlessly killing gazelles… He made both fast, so each could thwart the speed of each other. You can’t help wondering whose side is God on…

      – Richard Dawkins (2019, 168)

I am not, and never intend to be atheist. Africans in majority could never expect to be also. Partially Americans are not, even though some of them are getting pushed to it as tech experts make them see the need for it, though damningly. However, the above quote from Richard Dawkin, an atheist proclaiming, ruthless as against neo, Darwinism calls for Africans to wakeup. Albeit, the current pandemic had shown that it could be as well virus facing humans, not necessarily cheetah and gazelles type of fight, for the goodies of this planet earth. Little tyrants must not be used to eliminate Africans by the atheist nations of this world.

Sheikh Dicko led the negotiation that liberated the current self-imposed Head of State of Mali – Assimi Goita – from Azawad captors in Gao, north eastern Mali, just about 1,500km to Abuja crossing Niger, Benin, even ignoring its neighbour Burkina Faso, to Nigeria. Almost the same distance from Gao to Bamako, the capital of Mali, just to know how north of Mali could be another notorious space for the invasion of west Africa if in deed as stated by Sheikh Gumi, no fewer than 100,000 so called bandits are camped in north west of Nigeria.

The difference between Azawad and bandits are not far from the difference between land grabbers in Sudan which are known by their outlook and the Janjaweed they use to achieve their aims. Unfortunately Azawad found in Goita, their former prisoner, an ally in the rulership of Mali and they did not waste time in paying him a visit and assuring him of their support; of course, with a great foreign support shift; from France to Russia – fear of Mali turning to Syria as the so acclaimed Afri-com Nigeria’s President expect to relocate from Germany to Africa has a remnant base in Mali.

Mali is a home – base for most ethnic groups who share in the Manding/Mandingo/Mandika values found all over west Africa like Niger/Nigeria is for those who share in Hausa values. Assimi Goita, more of a Maure affiliate, does not understand the enormity of giving space to the Azawad in Mali unlike the lead negotiator, leading the coalition of Malian dissatisfied groups, Dicko. It is the same in Nigeria as Sheikh Gumi turns out to be another Sheikh Dicko in Nigeria. Quite perturbing but greatly manageable if Nigerian could use the experiences of Sudan, Mali and obviate the dangers lurking at its shores. Mali is still a nightmare for west Africa as Algeria sharing borders with it stands firm in associating with France and Russia at the same time, creating another no-man land in extreme Gao like Libya’s and Chad’s Aouzou strip which greatly overwhelmed both France and Chad forces in Chad with all the friendly support of France to Deby. Just that Italy that lay claim to Aouzou was no more a force to reckon with as both first and second world wars made it a looser.

Even at that, France as a beneficiary of First and Second World Wars, Allied Nations oblige, knows very well that Russia – co benefactor of those wars must be respected as Russia starts asserting great presence in France’s controlled countries like Mali – Nigeria remote north western border –, and Central African Republic – Nigeria’s remote north eastern border.

Whether Nigeria sees it or not, Russia’s arms sales and arms production in these two countries overtly or covertly, are aimed at making money in Nigeria. And who says that the 100,000 bandits as reported to be in northwest are not sourcing their arms and bullet supplies from Russia or Russian agents. It was not a mistake to intercept, once, Iranian arms heading to wherever in Nigeria from the port of Lagos, as it is known that Russia is now Iranian ally.

Recently it was reported that Russian soldiers are confronting Chadian Soldiers in RCA as well as Russian air operations were being carried out in Mali. Even France seems to be accusing Russia of fueling the jihadist insurgency in west Africa.

It is high time ECOWAS called all the big powers to order, as their presence could lead to another Afganistan or Syria in west Africa.

Great dialogue is needed now to save west Africa from conflagration; and reading Professor Akinyemi – the man of middle-power concept and former Foreign Affairs Minister – as he intervened in the first border wars between Mali and Burkina Faso and quickly arrested it, Nigeria was courted to liaise with France to strategise on sustainable peace in west Africa as it was evident that France could decide to withdraw from helping the Francophone West Africans as it has done now in Mali. And Russia has taken over like a return to Mali’s vomit when Modibo Keita was in love with Russia at independence.

The Russian connection to either bandits’ support or land grabbers’ support is a great scare that Nigeria’s leaders must address.

Arms’ embargo on a country seen as terrorists’ enabling country does not mean arms embargo on bandits or land grabbers – Azawad, Tuaregs, Rebels, insurgents, Djihadists or Bandits as seen in Nigeria.

Nigeria should not be seen as terrorists’ enabler while arms are released to bandits or land grabbers capable of invading Nigeria from the northwest with 100,000 bandits against almost same size Nigerian military, both air and ground for a 1,500km stretch as France leaves the flanks to avoid clashing with Russian supported assailants.

Note that France’s soldiers were also fighting without supporting side by side Malian soldiers when the Azawad captured and took Assimi Goita as a prisoner.

So, time to have an ECOWAS mid-power base supported by United Nations’ superpowers, like they did, overtly or covertly, in supporting Nigeria to overcome Biafra. Yes, it was known that for whatever reason, when France aligned weakly with Biafra other known superpowers supported Nigeria to overcome that secession bid from 1967 – 1970.

Same threat is hovering on the whole west African space and France, again, seems to be wavering. Nigeria, like Professor Akinyemi insinuated in his insight as interventionist in Mali – Burkina Faso war – both, France’s soldiers supported – should rise to the occasion of saving west Africa before it turns worse.

Ariole, Ph.D, is Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Lagos


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