In Pursuit of a Borderless Africa

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Chiemelie Ezeobi who was at the recently held 16th edition of Security Watch Africa Initiatives Conference in Dubai writes that the thrust of the discussion was the quest for a truly borderless Africa enhanced by collaboration and information sharing in border security management, all geared towards countering violent extremism

With the aim of identifying security problems affecting Africa and her people, discussing these problems and proffering actionable solutions, the Security Watch Africa Initiatives (SWAI) annual conference was borne about 16 years ago. Each year, the body draws from the wealth of experience of security decision makers and professionals, both within and outside the continent to facilitate the lectures. This year was no different- if anything, it gets better each year.

The lecture series which was introduced in 2005 has taken the body almost round the globe in its quest to propagate African security and its complexities.

This year, the lecture series which was themed “Global Security Outlook: Challenges, Impediments and Prospects for a Secured Africa”, held from November 6 to 7, 2019 at Swissotel, Al-Ghurair Centre, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and had in attendance military and police chiefs, renowned academia and political leaders from West, Central, South and East African regions.

Why the choice of Dubai? For President/ Chief Executive Officer, Africa Security Watch Initiatives, Mr Patrick Agbambu, the choice for this year’s event in Dubai, was “for us to see what is on ground here and see how we can replicate same in our country”.

Noting that the theme couldn’t have come at a better time that now, owing to the the threat of insecurity, both within the continent and other parts of the world, he explained that the initiative was borne out of the need to ensure security in the Africa continent and by extension, ensure its developmental process. “The future for SWAI is that we aspire that the whole of Africa will be covered and our security consciousness and awareness will improve”, he added.

During the conference, there were opening remarks, keynote addresses and presentation of five papers that dwelled on African safety and security issues. The conference had two sessions which were chaired respectively, by Brigadier General Joseph Nunoo-Mensah (rtd), Chairman, Board of Trustees of Security Watch Africa Initiatives and Brigadier General Hussain Ahmed, Acting Provost Marshal, Nigerian Army, while Brigadier General Sani Kukasheka Usman (rtd), served as rappoteur.

Paper Presentations

The lead paper titled “Historic Perspective to Leadership and Security in Africa” was presented by Professor Wilhelmus Josephus Breytenbach, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, while the second paper, “Combating Terrorism and Insurgency Through Non-Kinetic Approach, was delivered by Major General Usman Shehu Mohammed, Chief of Civil-Military Affairs of the Nigerian Army.

The third paper, “Combating Security at Sea: The African Experience” was presented by Professor Henri Fouche, an Associate Professor at Stellenbosch University, South Africa and Chair of the Security Watch Africa Initiatives, while the fourth paper, titled, “The Effects of Irregular Migrants on National Security: The Gambian Experience” was delivered by Mr. Buba Sagnia, a former Director General, Gambian Immigration Services and member of Security Watch Africa Initiatives’ Board of Trustees.

The fifth paper, “Combating Transnational Crimes Through Counter Extremism Approach”, was delivered by Doctor Barend Prinsloo, a Senior Researcher, Security and Management Studies, North-West University, South Africa.

On the award night, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State treated “Crime prevention, control and fighting in an emerging economy”. This was delivered by his Special Adviser on Creative Security, Air Vice Marshall Ben Chiobi (rtd). Also, Professor Samuel Tshehla, Executive Dean, Faculty of Military Sciences, Stellenbosch University, delivered a keynote address.

Similarly, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Nigerian Army, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans of the Nigerian Army, Lieutenant General Lami Adeosun, delivered a keynote address at the award dinner held at Radisson Blu Deira Creek, the next day, where 68 deserving individuals from security and safety agencies, media outfits, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and academia across the continent were honoured for exceptional and exemplary performances in their various fields.

Despite the difference in the paper presentations, it was the general consensus that for African nations to contain the increasing insecurity plaguing the continent, member states must work together in joint border security management, as well as address issues such as religious extremism/ intolerance, bad governance, illiteracy, unemployment and poverty, which was identified as the root causes of insecurity in Africa.

Also advocating for home-grown lasting solutions to tackle its problems in the continent, participants

agreed that concerted efforts must be made
towards the actualisation of a borderless United States of Africa by 2063, with calls for the rejection of unilateral “intervention packages” by foreign countries that were not cleared by the United Nations (UN) because such donors were self-serving and indirectly aiding criminals.

Countering Insurgency: The Nigerian Example

Using Nigeria as an example of how they have been countering insurgency and extremism, the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai said there is a wider circle of convergence between internal security and external aggression as they now increasingly overlap. Speaking on the “role of the Nigerian Army in combating internal insecurity and external aggression: Global lessons and way forward,” Buratai said fourth generation security threats transcended borders and must be tackled with multifaceted approaches.

Represented by the Chief of Army Policy and Plans (CPPLANS) Lieutenant General Lami Adeosun, Buratai noted that in reality, “terrorism, insurgency, religious fundamentalism, militancy and other extreme criminalities have become a global phenomenon that transcends boundaries and are easily imported and exported by their perpetrators. Military solution is still very much part of the panacea, but is no longer the dominant solution to these myriad of challenges towards maintaining the territorial sovereignty of the state and the enforcement of law and order within the polity”.

Citing Boko Haram Terrorism as an example, Buratai said estimates from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) indicated that the sect has “killed between 30,000 to 100,000 people, caused the internal displacement of over two million people being accommodated in about 35 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and generated a refugee population of about 200,000 persons.”

However, he said current statistics showed that while “tens of thousands of the terrorists were killed, 5,475 of them were arrested and 32 bomb-making facilities/ factories have been destroyed. In addition, the number of Boko Haram fighters has been reduced significantly to less than 5,000 from the initial estimate of over 35,000 persons.

“It is equally acknowledged that the army has lost officers and soldiers in the course of containing this internal security threat to the state. Clearly, through the efforts of the Nigerian Army, we are winning the war against Boko Haram. There is therefore a need for the army as well as the civil populace to realise the long-drawn nature of the engagement and the need to be persistent in the engagement of terrorists and insurgents.

“There must be a determined political will by the ruling elite to fight terrorism and insurgency, which is to be based on ‘all government approach’, involving the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. This was demonstrated by the USA in her over a decade’s pursuit and eventual hunting down of Osama bin laden. It took determination and a clear focus on the goal.

“Furthermore, we must recognise that there is now a very wide area of convergence between internal security and external aggression. Modern warfare engagements are not conventional in nature. The parties are also not necessarily state actors. A lot of dynamism accompany these conflicts requiring flexibility and adaptability, by conventional troops involved.

“The asymmetric nature of these engagements by non-state actors makes efforts at combating their menace very complex. In spite of these complexities, these terrorists and criminal elements have to be curtailed and their activities eliminated, by a wide range of activities with the citizenry or innocent civilians the focus of all considerations or simply people-centric operations.

“We must intensify inter-state and international cooperation in the fight against terrorism particularly in the Sahel Region of Africa. Apart from intelligence sharing on the movements and activities of insurgents and terrorists, there has to be an increase in the number of troops for joint deployments by the countries of the sub-region.”

Consensus Agreement

At the end of the expository lecture series, it was all agreed that Africa is indeed being confronted with myriads of safety and security challenges that need to be addressed. Succinctly put by the communique, to enhance security and economic development, African countries should make concerted efforts to actualise a borderless United States of Africa by 2063.

The communique reads in part; ”There is urgent need for more collaboration and information sharing in border security management; African countries need to take care of their respective border communities to enable them to be more security conscious.

“The need to review international laws governing border security management among African countries; African countries should emphasise on the importance of non-kinetic efforts in counter terrorism and counter-insurgency operations;

Need to address the root causes of insecurity on the African continent such as religious extremism and intolerance, bad governance, illiteracy, unemployment and poverty.

“There should be a better regional and international cooperation, coordination especially training and intelligence; African countries should have better and integrated border security management; The tracking of illicit financial flows should be intensified; African states should curb unilateral “intervention packages” by other countries, where not sanctioned by the United Nations.

“To enhance security, African countries should improve on good governance, strengthen states and institutions, not weaken, corrupt or disrupt them; African countries should see terrorism and extremism as criminal issues that should be clearly defined, track and prosecute all those involved.

“African states and organisations should understand the political, social, national “push” factors and regional geographical dynamics in fashioning out responses to security issues; and

There should be continuous training programmes for stakeholders and security personnel such as the one organised by Security Watch Africa Initiatives.”

About Security Watch Africa

With a mission to bridge the gap of information that exists between security providers and security users, and between government and the governed, Agbambu said this provides an avenue for meaningful cross-fertilisation of ideas by security stakeholders.

In the same vein, he noted that their vision is to see a security conscious African society, governments at all levels and in Africa’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), with the end game being to see well motivated and informed security operatives in Africa.

Thus, he stressed that SWAI strives to bridge the security information gap in the continent and ensure that Africans are on the cutting edge in comtemporary issues and solutions, as security and safety are everybody’s business.

According to Agbambu, firstly, they seek to create security awareness and consciousness through their flagship television programme, which is being beamed to the world on Africa Independent Television (AIT) since 1997, where they extensively discuss and report security related information, issues and events against contemporary realities and experts in the industry present personal and professional opinions on the programme.

Secondly, the SWAI Awards which was initiated and inaugurated in 2004, with the aim to recognise, appreciate, encourage and celebrate individuals, governments, agencies, brands and companies who have excelled in security administration, practice and governance in Africa.

Thirdly, the SWAI lecture series which was introduced in 2005 and aims at identifying security problems affecting Africa and her people, discussing these problems and proffering actionable solutions. This they do by drawing from the wealth of experience of security decision makers and professionals, both within and outside the continent to facilitate the lectures.