China Association for Friendship and Counter-terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin Region


Bola Akinterinwa

The newly established Bolytag Centre for International Diplomacy and Strategic Studies (BOCIDASS) in Yaba, Lagos, played host to the first official visit of the delegation of China Association for Friendship (CAF) on Wednesday, 17th May, 2017. The delegation, comprising six people (four males and two females), was led by Mr. Sang Linyu, the Secretary General of CAF. Other members were Mr. Li Yubin, the Deputy Section Chief of Foreign Affairs of CAF; Lv Zhuo, the Deputy Section Chief of the Research Department of CAF; Gao Jiaze, Deputy Section Chief of Administration of CAF; Ms Guo Lihua, interpreter for the CAF delegation; and Ms Shao Weijie, attaché.

The CAF came on a three-day visit to Nigeria (15th-18th May) to seek contributions towards the international conference it is organising on counter-terrorism in the ‘Lake Chad Region.’ The international conference is scheduled to take place in Beijing in November 2017. The conference is a follow-up to the Beijing 2015 conference on the Boko Haram. It is within this context that the BOCIDASS, which is established as an international diplomatic laboratory for the diagnosis of international life, and particularly to make Nigeria the leading epicentre for training in diplomatic practice in Africa, organised a one-day brainstorming session on ‘Money Laundering and Counter-terrorism in West Africa,’ and the Lake Chad region.

There were two lead papers. High Chief (Dr) Ona Ekhomu, the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), presented the first paper on ‘Counter-terrorism in Nigeria: A Case Study of the Lake Chad Region.’ The second paper, which focused on ‘Challenges of Money Laundering and Counter-terrorism in the ECOWAS region,’ was presented by the Director General of GIABA (Intergovernmental Action Group Against Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in West Africa.’ The Head of the Nigerian office of the GIABA, Mr. Timothy Melaye, stood in for his Director General who was on official visit to Morocco.

The brainstorming session was interesting from many perspectives. First, it raises new questions about the main objectives of international politics. Second, it raises the new need for adoption and development of citizen diplomacy in Nigeria. Third, and perhaps more importantly, it raises the problem of global friendship deficit and global insecurity recidivism. Most importantly, the visit of the CAF delegation was specially marked by the response to the visit in two interesting ways. On the one hand, many participants – Ambassador Joe Keshi, Major General Adewunmi Ajibade (rtd), Ambassador Gboyega Ariyo, Ambassador Sola Onadipe, Professor Kunle Ade Wahab, Professor Victor Ariole, Professor Yomi Akinyeye, and Ambassador Wole Coker who was Nigeria’s former ambassador to China – raised the issue of good governance, collective responsibility and approach, and particularly, leadership, as major dynamics of an effective counter-terrorism strategy.

On the other hand, the CAF delegation was made to acknowledge Nigeria as the terra cognita of Africa’s hospitality. While, for instance, Chief Jacob Wood, a Member of the Federal Republic, gave a welcoming dinner à la chinoise on the day of the arrival of the delegation on Monday, 15th May, Ambassador Wole Coker and Navy Captain Folarin (rtd) and Mrs Oluwatoyin Jaiyeola treated the delegation with lunch and dinner party à la nigériane respectively. The delegation had a feel of the goodness of the Nigerian lifestyle. The ultimate objective is to lay new foundations for the development of friendship between the two peoples of Nigeria and China

However, one major objective of international politics is self-protection and survival. The means of self-protection and survival varies from adoption of principles, peace-building principles and compromises, treaties and militarisation to adoption of protectionist policies, disregard for international law, and even war-making. Most unfortunately, however, no country has been able to ensure self-protection and survival in spite of the various methods they have adopted. As a result, international politics has been largely characterised by mutual suspicions and political intrigues.

One rationale for this is the conflicting nature of national interests, which necessarily makes international politics a conflict system. In this regard, are conflicts preventable? How do we explain the existence of crises and conflicts? Von Clausewitz has it that if you want peace, prepare for war. This simply means that war is nothing more than an instrument and beginning of peace process. One French saying also has it that ‘ordre et contre ordre égalent désordre,’ that is, ‘order and counter order amount to disorder.’

In other words, there is no way an order and counter order will not amount to disorder: when one person issues an order and the response to it is counter order, an encounter necessarily follows. The encounter cannot but create a friction. When the management of the encounter fails or creates a problematic, disorderliness cannot but also be the outcome. This is why it has been quite difficult to have peace and security in the world as at today.

In the same vein, if in the quest for self-peace and protection of the national interest, one has to prepare for war, then there is no need pretending that peace as an objective can ever be achieved. At best, crises and conflicts can only be managed and controlled but cannot be avoided. This is where, in managing and controlling conflicts, the factor of people appears to be the most critical.

It has been acquiesced to, that peace and war begins from the mind of the individual and for peace to be sustained and war to be brought to an end, it is still the same mind that has to be managed and controlled. When the United Nations Organisation was set up in 1945, the cardinal objective is to prevent humanity from a new scourge of war.  In the eyes of many people, the organisation has succeeded in its objective because there has not been a new world war. There have been no inter-state wars since 1945.

Most erroneously, however, polemologists and strategic analysts have refused to consider intra-state conflicts as elements of a new world war in a different setting. In other words, a world war does not necessarily mean it has to be inter-state in character. When an intra-state confusion or crisis or conflict has implications for many countries and regions of the world, plurilaterally and multilaterally, it can be argued that a world war is already in the making. War should be seen as a continuum of violence the crescendo of which is hot war. War is made by people. And to a great extent, if crises are promptly prevented from degenerating to conflicts, the potential for peace to reign cannot but be high. This is particularly where the role and place of friendship in international relations is located.

Regarding friendship in contemporary international relations, there is paucity of sincere friendship geared towards international peace making. The threats to international peace and security are decreasingly state actors and increasingly non-state actors. It is no longer the exclusive preserve of states to have weapons of destruction. The non-state actors also acquire them illegally or with the connivance of states. In fact, the world is currently under nuclear threats. The main principles of peaceful existence as espoused in the 1955 Bandung Conference are also gradually being thrown into the garbage of history. Multilateralism is also gradually giving way to nationalism, with much influence of the consideration that terrorism can be more effectively contained if international migration remains in the hands of national authorities.

And without gainsaying, international migration has also been capitalised upon by terrorists and terrorism has been a critical problem since 2001, following the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of New York. How best can terrorism be contained? What role should be played by the people and particularly by friendship associations?

It is the contention of the BOCIDASS that the development of friendship at the level of people has the great potential to drastically reduce the thirst for violence. Friendship in this regard cannot but involve the exchange of ideas, approaches and joint research on issues of peace and security. This is why the visit of the CAF to Nigeria is significant. The visit marks the beginning of conscious pursuit of citizen diplomacy by the BOCIDASS, not only to assist official diplomacy, but to also provide new foundations for peace-making devoid of violence. For a world of peace and security to exist as well as endure, the nature of terrorism must first be well understood before seeking to counter it.

Nature of Terrorism and Counter-terrorism

Terrorism is an act of cruelty, an act of using terror to intimidate and protest, as well as to make political demands. It is internationally outlawed. And perhaps most disturbingly, it is generally an act of non-state actors, and therefore generally asymmetrical. It can be national in preparation and international and transnational in execution. The target of terrorism is the political leadership. Terrorism is an illegal method of political negotiation. As a method of negotiation, it is very destructive. For an act to be terroristic, it must be cruel and the purpose must also be political. Individuals and groups, as well as organisations engage in terrorism in their individual or group capacity.

Even though states also do engage in acts of terrorism, the bottom line is that terrorism, right from its beginnings with the use of letter bombs, parcel bombs, kidnapping, hijacking, skyjacking to the modern day use of more sophisticated weapons and engagement in a sort of guerrilla warfare, is not acceptable as an instrument of correct relationship both interpersonally, governmentally and non-governmentally.

Consequently, in countering terrorism, its understanding as a problematic must first be put in context because of the complex and multidimensional nature of terrorism. In this regard, it is important to note that terrorism is a resultant of the mindset, and therefore, no one can control the use of terror unless one is able to also control the mindset of the individual from who the quest for use of terror is coming. In other words, whether or not there will be use of terror in human interactions, the human factor or attitudinal disposition of the individual cannot be ruled out.

Secondly, terrorism is not only about language problem and communication, it is also about philosophy, psychology of human differences and disorderliness, and therefore, a resultant from order and counter-order as noted above, and particularly from how the resultant encounter from order and counter-order is managed.

Thus, when talking about how to engage in counter-terrorism, the approach should not be simply limited to containment of physical assaults and engagement in battles. There will be need to address terrorism from all dimensions, especially from the perspective of use of language, belief-system, psychology of human differences and application of law. For instance, how do we address the challenge from non-belief in law or in a national constitution, when the same law or constitution is precisely aimed at ensuring peace and orderliness?

In talking about counter-terrorism in the Lake Chad region,  that is, about the efforts of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon in not only containing boko haramism but also preventing other international terrorists from infiltrating Nigeria and its immediate neighbourhood, how best should the problem of terrorism be addressed nationally and internationally, especially that the Boko Haram does not only disregard Nigeria’s constitution, does not recognise Nigeria as it is, but does not also accept the sanctity of human life? What role can the Nigeria-China Friendship Association (NICAF), especially as wanted by Chief Jacob Wood, the Chairman of the Chinese Community in Nigeria and current Chairman of NICAF?

Without iota of doubt, Nigeria and her neighbours appear to have won the battle against the use of terror but is yet to win the war on it. Winning the war cannot be easy without the involvement of the people in all ramifications. Terrorists are part of the people. Consequently, counter-terrorism must begin from the level of every given stratum of society. It must be addressed from a bottom-up approach. Greater emphasis must be placed on the development and use of citizen diplomacy. This is where the importance of the visit of the China Association for Friendship (CAF) should be appreciated and further underscored. This is also why the Nigeria-China Friendship  Association (NICAF), founded by Ambassador Victor Chibundu has a major role to play and why the BOCIDASS has involved the NICAF, being the pioneer association promoting friendship between Nigeria and China at the level of business and culture.

The CAF and the NICAF should come closer to assist in the development of a better entente between our two governments and peoples for many reasons. China has the biggest population in the world. Nigeria’s population is the biggest in Africa. China is a great power to reckon with in global politics, especially as a member of the UNSC P-5. Nigeria is the power house of Africa and one of Africa’s Big-5. Territorially, Nigeria is not the biggest but it is in terms of arable land. In fact, the many shared values make it a desideratum for the CAF and the NICAF to articulate a new framework for the development of Nigeria-China relations at the level of peoples.

 In this regard, the BOCIDASS is introducing a research and intellectual dimension to the friendship by bringing together seasoned specialists, experts, diplomatists, and public servants to brainstorm on containment of the use of terror in international life, and particularly by non-state actors.

China is on record to be promoting the policy of good neighbourliness and peaceful coexistence. However, the increasing use of terror in global life and relations, and particularly with the fear that terrorists may soon have access to the use of nuclear weapons, has become a major threat to the maintenance of international peace and security, counter-terrorism has become a major responsibility of everyone as rightly pointed out by the Chinese Consul  General, Mr. Chao Xiaoliang at the brainstorming session, and especially in light of what John K. Kennedy once said: if the poor cannot sleep because they are hungry, the rich cannot also sleep because the poor are awake, disturbing them.

In the same vein, if the terrorists are bent on destabilising the peaceful coexistence order on which the United Nations main objective of international peace and security is predicated, the ideal thing to do in response is also to make life very difficult for the terrorists through a well-coordinated collective response of the whole people of the world. Let us begin this collective response to international terrorism today by sharing ideas and experiences, in the strong belief that terrorism is the climax of anti modern political civilisation, which must be completely dismantled in all its ramifications.