THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPERS
10 August, 2014
IN a rather surprising fallout of the US-Africa Summit with over 40 presidents and heads of state from Africa, including President Jonathan Goodluck, in attendance, US President Barack Obama has decided to leave Nigeria out of its multi-million-dollar effort to support peacekeepers from Africa.
Although Nigeria still has considerable promises and offers of support coming out of the week-long summit, the significance of the isolation of the country in an area (peacekeeping) it has been adjudged to be critically visible is revealing.
According to President Obama, who announced a series of American support and initiatives generated from the summit, the US government would be creating what it called “the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership (APRRP, “A-Prep” for short), with “a new investment of $110 million per year for three to five years to build the capacity of African militaries to rapidly deploy peacekeepers in response to emerging conflict, a concept that holds powerful life-saving potential.”
Observers, including those at the UN consider Nigeria among the topmost contributors of international peacekeepers in the world and especially in Africa based on its record in the last few decades. Indeed the US has been very active in supporting Nigerian peacekeepers, who are deployed either on the platform of the United Nations or those of the African Union in the past. What is not clear is whether the non-inclusion of Nigeria from this new effort is a new indicator of what is to come generally or merely an isolated incident.
Specifically, President Obama said the nations the US would initiate the programme with are Senegal, Ghana,Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
The statement by the US said it will “develop a rapid response capability programme by building improved capacity in areas such as military training, equipment maintenance and repair, institutional support and interoperability with other Africa-based peacekeeping forces.”
According to the US government, it “strongly supports the work of more than 67,000 African peacekeepers serving with the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) in Africa. These men and women are working to protect civilians, prevent violence, and promote security and stability in many of Africa’s most complex conflicts.”
But US sources explain that the non-inclusion of Nigeria from this (APRRP, “A-Prep is likely as a result of the allegations against the Nigerian military and security agencies regarding human rights abuses and violations in their operations especially in the ongoing insurgency in the Northeastern part of Nigeria.
In fact, the US Congress under what is known as the Leahy amendment, is outlawed from supporting any military that is known to be involved in gross acts of human rights violations and abuses.
Notably during the just concluded US-Africa Summit, the Amnesty International (AI) released a very damning footage that alleged serious human rights abuses and violations against the Nigerian military. But often times the Nigerian military has denied such allegations.
However, there are still several offers, including in the areas of terrorism that the Nigerian security agencies like the military would still be supported. For instance, during the summit, the US President announced that “the United States is building strong partnerships with countries to address critical terrorist threats on the front lines in order to confront the threat at its roots.” In that regard, the US specifically mentioned “confronting Boko Haram.”
According to the statement, the US said “we are deeply concerned by Boko Haram’s ongoing attacks against Nigeria’s citizens, civil institutions, and infrastructure, including the group’s April 2014 kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls. To support the Nigerian-led efforts to combat Boko Haram, we are providing an array of military, law enforcement, and intelligence support, such as counter-Improvised Explosive Device training and forensics training.
The statement added that the US will also be “supporting the efforts of Nigeria and its neighbors to increase regional cooperation to combat Boko Haram. Because the specter of terrorism requires more than just a security response, we have also worked to encourage and support the Nigerian government’s efforts to promote development in northern Nigeria, including boosting health, education, and social service delivery.
Our security cooperation also supports the professionalisation of key military units and underscores that effective counterterrorism policies and practices are those that respect human rights and are underpinned by the rule of law.”