Boko Haram and US interests in Nigeria


Boko Haram and US interests in Nigeria


The US, the UK, France and some NATO countries are strengthening their grip in Africa as they watch the ongoing violence. It would not be misleading to say that in twenty years time, these forces will hold great influence over Africa’s defence.


Ibrahim Tigli / Cape Town

There seems to be no stopping Boko Haram. This week alone we have heard the news of seven villages that have been raided by Boko Haram, leaving over 100 dead. These are not just Christian villages, but also Muslim villages who refuse to support Boko Haram.

However, due to the fact that almost 300 Chibok schoolgirls are still missing, these separate incidents have received little attention. Keeping in mind the fact that up to 5,000 people have already been killed, uniting upon humanity, the West has not withheld its help to the Nigerian army’s struggle against this primitive organization to find the missing girls.

Western nations playing the ‘saviour’ role

Inviting all the regional nations to participate in a summit – including Nigeria, Chad, Benin and Niger – France took an important step helping the neighbors agree to work together to defeat Boko Haram. Just as Nigeria wanted, the summit resulted in the UN Security Council, France, the UK, the US and all UN registered nations black-listing and sanctioning the group.

In reality this decision was quite surprising, because the UNSC only usually makes such decisions if a threat is considered regional or international. Boko Haram has up until today only carried out attacks in Nigeria, with only rumors that that have also carried out attacks in Niger and Cameroon.

The UNSC decision took Boko Haram from being a local threat to becoming a regional threat. It is possible that this decision was made to justify Western operations in the region. One may argue that if Boko Haram is able to conduct three separate attacks in Nigeria in one day, they can of course do the same in Niger and Cameroon. On the other hand, one may interpret the hunt for the innocent kidnapped schoolgirls not to be limited to Boko Haram’s location. Rather, it could be a bid to carry out a more widespread operation across the entire region with a hidden agenda.

The UK, which has sent a search plane to support the operations, is just one of the countries to promise its help. Israel has also promised intelligence help. However, the greatest help promised has been from the US. The US has spread the word through social media. President Obama and his wife have led a number of campaigns and protests across the US for the girls to be released. US-based Nigerian NGOs have started travelling the African continent to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by Boko Haram.

The US recently discussed sending 80 military experts to the Chad border to fight Boko Haram. Despite US officials opposing a wide-scale operation at the moment, the sending of this unit would be considered an expedition. The US has sent such units to Uganda in the past, but Uganda’s geo-political and strategic position is very different to Nigeria. As there is nothing threatening US interests in Uganda, that region is not in need of a huge army.

A race for Nigeria’s economy

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil exporter and has a mass of untouched natural gas reserves. It has a population of 170 million and is the continent’s biggest consumer market. Despite the political instability, the Nigerian economy is growing, passing the growth rate of South Africa. Although growth has also been noted in Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana, they cannot catch up to Nigeria. Thus, investors are set to turn their attention to Nigeria.

Setting aside an extra budget, the Nigerian government has increased spending on defence by 130 billion Naira. With 22% of the country’s budget assigned to the military, Nigeria is also set to sign arms deals with the US, Israel, the UK, France and China. France actually had no interest in making sales to Nigeria before, but after the events in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria became an economic partner. As for Israel, they have an important portion of the Nigerian defence market. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigador Lieberman in his visit to Nigeria signed 12 defence deals. The UK, not including the post independence years of 1960-1969, has been the main arms dealer to Nigeria.

Is the US playing Messiah?

If we look back on the military side of things, the US may still be yet to settle a unit in Chad, but their drone airbase in Niger is known to all. However, the US choosing Chad over Niger shows their plan to open up a new front. It is also known that 150 soldiers destined for Uganda are yet to be sent to fight Joseph Kony, as these soldiers are currently spread across Uganda, Rwanda, Congo, Central Africa and South Sudan to train native soldiers. This way, they are controlling an even wider region in Africa. On one hand it could be said that the US, the UK, France and some NATO countries are strengthening their grip in the region as they watch the ongoing violence. It would not be misleading to say that in twenty years time, these forces will hold great influence over Africa’s defence.

The US navy maintains soldiers in Guinea to fight the drug trade as well as piracy as part of an AFRICOM project, which also includes the coast of Cameroon, Nigeria and Benin. In 2010, the US wanted to set up a base in Lagos after Nigeria pull-out of an earlier agreement which was supposed to help stop illegal petrol exports from the Niger delta. After Nigeria agreed to forgive the Niger Delta Commission the plans for a US based were cancelled. However, now Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathon is turning back to the agreement, except now the critics of the establishment of a US base have been silenced, as the US soldiers are not coming for petrol, they are supposedly coming to support the country defend itself in the biggest struggle against terrorism in its history.

The US will now provide training for the Nigerian army near the Chad border so they can find the missing girls. However, it is clear that this training is not being given with good intentions. After all, is not the problems in Somalia caused by the US-back Ethiopian occupation? Was it not the US who trained Ethiopian troops to destroy the Union of Islamic Courts, which had adopted a moderate character? This occupation only led to instability in Somalia, which gave rise to radicalism.

In Nigeria, there is a huge Muslim population that the US is not taking into consideration. The US war on Boko Haram will affect this population the most. They are already suffering the most due to the Boko Haram attacks. With the radicalization of Ngeria’s majority 80 million Muslims, the possibility of in Franz Fanon’s words ‘the Wretched of the Earth’ headinf for a collision with the Western allies should not be forgotten.

Perhaps as was the case in Congo, Nigeria may be heading for a civil war. The US and France may be preparing to renew their lies about their intention to simply save people and bring peace the same way they lied regarding their interventions in the Uganda and Rwanda civil wars, which left a total of 5 million people dead.

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