Friday 31 July 2009

Nigeria: Boko Haram - The lessons lost

Shoot first strategy

Once again, this is one of the events in which I find myself differing from the official line of propaganda that emanates from the Nigerian Government through its once respected mouthpiece Professor Dora Akunyili.

The Islamic militancy [1] that engulfed a number of Northern States in the last few days was an interesting development because rather than the usual conflict between Christians and Muslims that wastes lives unnecessarily, the “Islamic” militants decided to take on the security forces.

Going from the way the security forces have tried to bulldoze a stalemate in the Niger Delta without any underlying strategy or focus apart from gun totting with limitless ammunition supplied by the State, I expected no particular strategy in dealing with this insurgency up North.

This is clear in the way that they were able to capture and imprison the leader of these religious brigands and then carelessly allow his killing in their custody. Basically, he should not have been imprisoned where his cohorts might have tried to extricate him if we are to go by the idea that he was killed whilst trying to escape [2].

Idle minds for the devil’s workshop

Unfortunately, the critical lesson to be learnt from this episode will not be taken to heart. In the words of the Information Minister, “What is important is that he [Yusuf] has been taken out of the way, to stop him using people to cause mayhem.” She also accused him of “brainwashing” youths to cause trouble.

The group going by the name Boko Haram which means “education is prohibited” according to the Economist was desirous of imposing a Muslim Caliphate through the whole of Nigeria.

The interesting point here is how anyone has the opportunity to brainwash people and youths if the youths had be fully engaged in otherwise worthwhile activities which start with having sufficiency in terms of shelter, food and opportunity with goals that represent a possible prosperous future.

The benefactor override

Furthermore, it begs the question how people can be persuaded to the suicide pact of taking on the security forces in Nigeria and expect to win, them being a hotchpotch of brigands under the influence and sway of a seeming benefactor who had to have supplanted the government and community in providing an engaging but deathly ambition to the youths.

The concept of education being prohibited must cause serious concern because fundamentally it is a necessary element of being Nigerian. Whilst we can all be taught at certain stages of life in our lingua franca of which there are three major branches of Hausa in the North, Yoruba in the South West and Igbo in the South East, our official language of Nigerian-ness is really English and it does need to be taught.

Somehow the leaders in these communities and societies need to become laudable role-models that indicate the needs and usefulness of education along with the fact that religion and education should be able to co-exist and complement each other.

Ignorance is bliss and death

It is obvious that the Boko Haram complex had not realised and most likely because they are education-averse that the Islamo-Arabic culture gave the West its number systems and algebra. During the Dark Ages in Europe it was the courts of Suleiman the Magnificent [3] amongst others that kept the light of knowledge going until things began to turn around in the European Renaissance [4].

One thing that needs to be uprooted in the North of Nigeria is the benevolence culture that promotes feudal existence and obsequiousness. The people are not challenged to self-sufficiency and independence, the spectre of poverty hangs over the majority and the trickle-down benevolence allows for the people to be lead by their stomachs to do the bidding of unscrupulous leaders with atrocious motives.

Clear the swamp

This would be a complex and almost intractable problem, just as the Niger Delta issue because just killing the leader of a dastardly sect does not automatically give the followers a new positive direction.

It is commendable that the President moved swiftly to quell this unrest anyhow, but its purposeless drift and inadequacies in addressing the root of problems of unrest in Nigeria have been appalling.

In the life cycle of death that starts with the swamp, the mosquitoes, the malaria and possible death, these matters of unrest require that the swamp be cleared and there would be no mosquitoes – dealing just with the symptoms is patently NOT “good for Nigeria.”

With the death of the leader of Boko Haram we would never know how he started, why he persuaded, what he really wanted to achieve and whether we could learn something from the situation as garnered from him to prevent another insurgency and wanton loss of life like this.


[1] BBC NEWS | Africa | Islamist death 'good for Nigeria'

[2] Islamist attacks in Nigeria: A taste of the Taliban | The Economist

[3] Suleiman the Magnificent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Renaissance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Thought Picnic: AFRICOM another swamp for lethal mosquitoes

AFRICOM is inevitable

I once surmised in a comment on some blog when people raised the issue about AFRICOM [1] not being properly addressed in Obama’s Ghanaian speech that the more American investments and assets flow into Africa the more the need to protect those assets with some presence which could be military.

We all know that China is getting its fingers into Africa, not only in trying to get resources but these invaders under the guise of doing business and offering growth are ring-fencing resources by buying stakes, buying land and cavorting with the powers that be.

The Chinese managers are already on the ground directing projects and probably reporting back in debriefs to the mothership as to how to get more entrenched in Africa, you can imagine other hegemonies competing for African resources will not sit back and watch the new Scramble for the Partition of Africa on their television screens.

Basically, AFRICOM is here to stay but not necessarily as we expect, it would not be tanks and bombs like in the annihilation of substance of Afghanistan or Iraq, but there are lessons to be learnt from those battles that would prove useful to the contagion that AFRICOM will represent to Africa.

Weaponising anthropology

The information required is all in the open domain but it requires someone to pull the bits together to see the coherent scheme that would follow the age-old exchange system that had Africans giving up their land for the Bible or giving up their lives for the Quran.

In 2007 we learnt, the US military engaged anthropologists and sociologists [2] in a programme called the Human Terrain System [3] (HTS) for Iraq and Afghanistan in the two preceding years; this studies the complexities of human beings and their societies trying to appreciate how these communities work, how they make decisions, how they thrive and from a cynical if not sinister perspective how to infiltrate those communities in what is neatly called the battle of hearts and minds.

The battle of hearts and minds sits comfortably with everyone and for the military the dividends can be great to reducing conflict and engaging these communities in ways that help them work against the insurgents in their midst. Invariably, knowledge is power and powerful if you understand how societies work and need to engage in those societies for partnership or profit.

Defence contractor running academic research

What makes this HTS curiously interesting is the Pentagon partly outsourced this activity to BAe Systems [4], the defence contractor and it really makes one wonder why engaging anthropologists and sociologists for a field study is not handled by some renowned academic faculty from the many world standard universities in the United States.

One would think the core expertise of BAe Systems as one would find on their homepage is defence, security and aerospace technologies, the study of social groups and cultures can hardly make weapons work except where we are being opened up into a new area of overwhelming the defences of the enemy by understand what makes the enemy tick – I see no profit centres in this venture for BAe Systems – maybe I am being myopic.

Mapping out Africa

So, back at AFRICOM, they are building a social science research centre to recruit academics “help map the complicated human terrain on the African continent.”

The head of this facility is Colonel Dean Bland who says “We have no combat mission in Africa.” So we have nothing to fear only that people who have studied and understood what makes Africans tick and are privy to the secrets of our culture, our traditions, our languages and our communities can lay bare all this information to AFRICOM who can use the surge and embed lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan to infiltrate and assimilate without firing a gun shot.

Maybe I am being hysterical here, but I doubt this endeavour would be managed directly by AFRICOM but it would outsourced to experts with experience in the field and I suppose that would be BAe Systems.

It would be too obvious if a search for BAe Systems on the AFRICOM homepage would yield a result but the logical connection is almost indisputable.

A new swamp for lethal mosquitoes

The whole thought of a defence contractor running an anthropological study in Africa should make anyone feel a chill down their spines. However, this recruiting exercise would and can be the opportunity of a lifetime to many and just like our fellow Africans of old who brought the slaves to the coast from the bushes, I would suppose there are descendants ready to sell principle for the exposition for deep Africa to foreign emasculation.

We have enough swamps breeding mosquitoes in Africa, but this is one engineered swamp that looks like any other swamp and would attract no interest albeit you can expect the mosquitoes breeding here to be 2-headed, 10-legged and carriers of lethal malaria.

With AFRICOM, it is possible Africans have already lost the battle long before it started, we are not playing the same game of partnership and cooperation.


[1] U.S. Africa Command Home

[2] The Toronto Times - US learning and adjusting to realty on the ground and makes good progress

[3] Human Terrain System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] BAe Systems


This write-up is hardly exhaustive, but a gathering of thoughts about how Africa is being shaped for engagement from outside Africa.

Sunday 26 July 2009

Thought Picnic: Preserving childhood sexual innocence

A childhood unlike many

I had to give myself time for my anger to percolate and evaporate before writing this piece because it goes to the heart of what rankles me most about our humanity.

Invariably, I can understand why I would never be a parent, my concern for child welfare is almost too Utopian to be possible, but it really is not, the rearing of a child, a stage of development I also went through has its memorable and blissful moments where the pursuit of happiness and realisation of childish dreams effortlessly happened because my parents and the community I was in provided for such.

I have written a lot about my childhood and I know for some readers, it would be unimaginable that such childhood experiences could be in Nigeria – my childhood memories are living fossils of wealth that stand in good stead for my present and future.

The loss of sexual innocence

The dark moments of this childhood only became evident with enlightenment after growing up, when at 7, my sexual innocence was tampered with, I was none the wiser about what was going on as to tell my parents that I had been interfered with.

When until I was 10 the male servants had their sweet desserts on my account, I felt I was just as culpable that it was not something I could report to my parents either. The situation was set up in such as way as to make me appear willing, encouraged, pliant, and available. I could have been as close to a catamite as you could get but it is all now clear that it was all wrong.

No child should have its sexual innocence violated and defiled by adults whose despicable and repressed sexual desires find an outlet in children in their care.

It is wrong, it is criminal and it must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Giving children a voice

It means we must make our children aware of those dangers and foster an environment where at the initial stage of grooming the intended act is nipped in the bud and perpetrators quickly curtailed.

Indeed, there are societies that cannot handle child sexual abuse with understanding, maturity and the resolution to manage the trauma whilst punishing the offenders, however, there is no excuse to ignore the victim to spare our blushes – that would be the greatest crime of all.

Child twice raped by boys and parental abandonment

A girl raped by boys

In fact, this is the blog I planned to write but the last blog [1] had become too long an introduction to remain as one blog.

In Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States, an 8-year-old girl is lured with sweets into a scheme that must have been contemplated, analysed, planned, hatched and then executed by four boys aged between 9 and 14.

She was entranced by their entreaties, took the bait and got held down for 10 to 15 minutes as she was sexually assaulted [2] by seemingly innocuous and innocent kids. Basically, she was raped by what some parents would call their little angels.

It was her screams that saved her from a more unspeakable ordeal, but whatever had happened was unspeakable already.

Innocence, resistance and consequence

The girl was only 8 years old, it is possible that she would have been none the wiser that she should not take sweets from strangers, but the strangers we are taught to refuse sweets from are grown-ups not our peers.

It is not said if the boys were known to the girl such that she would have had nothing to fear, but once lured and then kidnapped, it is impossible to see how an 8-year-old girl would have fared in resisting and overpowering 4 boys, two of whom were 13 and 14 to prevent her defilement.

This is sad enough, that boys can scheme to have an entitlement to sex and force it on an unsuspecting girl without any thought of the consequences of such an outrageously despicable act.

Sex and kids

When sex enters the picture, it is difficult to look at the situation as a boy and girl thing, sex is primarily the domain of adults, experimentation as kids can be seriously life-changing and the sexual abuse of children is just too dastardly for words.

The 14-year-old boy will be tried as an adult, which makes one wonder about the age of innocence and the consequence of actions that one takes as a kid only to be visited with force of the law as an adult. Many lives would be destroyed by the evil acts that lasted 10 short minutes.

The bane of fossilised Diaspora

However, back to the girl, the trauma of being raped, defiled, dishonoured, dis-virgined and violated under duress cannot be fathomed, this is a time when a child should be able to run into the waiting empathetic arms of their parents and find succour, support, care, concern, love, understanding and strength to begin to put the tragic event into distant memory.

In what I can only call fossilised Diaspora – I’ll explain – the tendency for those in Diaspora to take their root cultures to new lands and then find themselves left behind by both their original culture and their host societies – the parents have disowned the 8-year-old girl citing she had shamed them and did not want her back.

Making the victim a perpetrator

I think, this is an outrageous burden to place on a child for all sorts of reasons but one that stands out unforgivably is the implicit view that anyone raped is partly responsible for being a victim.

By saying the 8-year-old girl, and remember, this girl is 8 years old, has shamed them, they have placed a greater responsibility than can or should have be expected on a girl who could never have been aware of the trap that was being set for her. An innocent defiled is made guilty by intemperate belief systems.

Twice raped by violation and rejection

The concept of fossilised Diaspora is evident because the people involved are Liberian immigrants living in America, the President of Liberia added her voice to the disquiet when she said the parents were doing “something that is no longer acceptable in our society here.”

By implication, certain societies stigmatise and castigate the rape victim, making the victim just as culpable for being raped. Where the milk of human kindness and compassion should provide succour the family takes on a pall of shame and disowns the victim who becomes an unfortunate victim, twice raped by the act and the rejection.

Thankfully, this horrible act did not happen in Liberia where it probably would have gone unpunished but in the United States. It appears these Liberian immigrants need to be dragged like slaves of old kicking, screaming and so reluctantly into the modern age now.

Parental responsibility

The girl is now under the care of the Arizona Child Protection Services (ACPS) and would probably have to be adopted and raised by some more understanding and loving family.

More so, it speaks volumes about an aspect of African child-rearing that rarely gets talked about where providing shelter, food and education is automatically equated with love when those elements are just matters of fundamental responsibility.

Because if there was real parental love, it is unlikely that the girl would have been disowned in the moment of her greatest need. In fact, one would have expected the parents to treat this as an affliction as serious as a very ill child, but they had been schooled in despicable old cultural norms which had been superseded by modernity.

This is abandonment, simple

In what smacks of deplorable political correctness, the police have suggested of the parents, “They didn’t abandon the child, they committed no crime. They just didn’t support the child, which led to CPS coming over there.”

I see things differently, if you do not support your 8-year-old child because of something that happened to the child apart from death, you have abandoned that child and it should attract the heaviest sanctions possible. This is in the realm of basic parental responsibility in which whatever happened to that child cannot be entirely divorced from the kind of upbringing the parents have given the child.

Withdrawing support is too fanciful for words, just imagine if life support were withdrawn from the parents, what fanciful twist of words would be offered to explain the consequence of that?

The parents need evaluation

In the least, those parents should in the circumstances be deprived of custody of this child, if there are other siblings, the circumstances in that home should be evaluated to ensure that parental support does not get withdrawn on the whim of some other old cultural norm – they should be under the threat of losing the custody of any siblings and future siblings.

Furthermore, as the President of Liberia suggested, they are in need of radical counselling, first to understand parental responsibility in the modern age, then to appreciate the vagaries of child-rearing and also be educated about the trauma of child sexual abuse which should be more about how it affects the child and not about their standing in society. Shame on those shameless parents.

No society or community, indigenous or in Diaspora should be able to stand and be counted when keeping face trumps dealing compassionately and tenderly with the sexual abuse of a child and most especially when it is rape.


[1] Thought Picnic: Preserving childhood sexual innocence

[2] BBC NEWS | Americas | Outcry over disowned US rape girl