Nigeria is withdrawing its peace-keeping troops from Mali and leaving behind only members of its signal corps. The country has a 1,200 man strong representation on the ground and the strategic withdrawal is seen in some quarters as the result of a multi-lateral diplomacy review.
This would also affect the country’s participation in peace-keeping efforts in Darfur, Sudan. It is expected that similar steps are being contemplated in response to any such need arising to ensure that actions that have to do with co-operation with other nations or/and international organisations are agree with Nigeria’s excellent peace-keeping and politically-correct records in the West African and African region.
While it would appear, as reports say, that diplomatic sources at the United Nations may have indicated why Nigeria and the UN’s secretariat are at loggerheads over the running of the UN peace-keeping operations inspite of the country’s contributions in key appointments in those operations.
It was reported that a diplomat in the United States alleged that the current Under Secretary-General in the UN Peace-keeping Department recently stopped a Nigerian Army General from commanding the international troops in Mali on the ground that he does not speak French. The interview was personally conducted by the Head of the UN Peace-keeping Department, Mr. Herve Ladsous, himself a French man.
The Africa-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) includes a significant number of Nigerian soldiers, as well as other UN international troops. Nigeria has been ranking fourth or fifth in UN Troops Contributing Countries (TCC) over the years.
Though the Federal Government had before now explained that the troops’ withdrawal was predicated on pressing “security issues at home,” it was gathered that Abuja was now keen on seizing the Malian opportunity to re-order its engagement patterns and chart a new peace-keeping trajectory to make it impossible for observers to continue the affirmation that “for all her efforts in peace-keeping and the liberation of parts of Africa, Nigeria has been paid in bad coin.”
Besides the raised eyebrows over the appointment of the 50-year old Rwandan, Gen. Jean-Bosco Kazura, as commander of the Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the deputies of both the military and political heads of the operation in Mali are as well non-Nigerians.
This means that in Mali, Albert Gerard Koenders (Netherlands) is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MINUSMA while Abdoulaye Bathily (Senegal) is Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
It is reported that opinions from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over politicking on the Mali issue indicates that things Mali “took a worse dimension with events in the last couple of weeks…to signal the beginning of the implementation of our grand strategy that we have always spoken about.”
While it is reported that Nigeria’s participation in external military missions since 1960, and beginning with her participation in the Congo, has cost the country a staggering $13billion on peace-keeping.
Statistics from the UN department indicate that Nigeria’s contributions in manpower have on;ly been surpassed by those of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh while over 250,000 members of the Nigerian Armed Forces have participated in UN-sponsored missions worldwide, translating to 73 per cent involvement, having participated in 40 of the 55 UN peace-keeping missions.
Noting that France has withdrawn its troops, it is isn’t too far-fetched that Nigeria’s withdrawal will further impact on possible security challenges that may portend soon after Mali’s elections. Moreso as Nigeria’s decision also affects funds and logistics.
Consequently, the head of the UN Peace-keeping Field Support Department in Mali, Ameerah Haqrt, noted: “We are unable to deploy our mobile communications system to Kidal because its sensitive components will melt. This operation would be one of the most logistically- challenging missions the UN has ever launched.”
We gather that a ‘source at the UN explained that the head of the UN Peace-keeping Department, Ladsous, personally took charge of the interview because he was determined to oust the Nigerian in favour of a Chadian General, who is French-speaking’.
According to report, Ladsous refused to grant Aso Rock’s request that a Nigerian General heads the UN mission since the country’s leadership of some of the UN missions have expired. A University of California professor of international politics, Dr. Wale Adebanwi, “this is unacceptable and another demonstration of a long-standing policy of France regarding Nigeria… since the earliest years of independence in Africa, France has always attempted to play the principal préfet (senior prefect), especially in the West African sub-region”
“And because generations of policy-makers in Paris have always considered Nigeria’s size, population, resources, power and potentials as constituting a threat to their country’s influence in the sub-region, they have always shown their readiness to subvert Nigeria’s influence and interests.
“Even though the past successes of France could be seen as a reflection of the limitations of the fumbling leadership that Nigeria has reproduced over the years, this one must not be allowed to stand. It is an insult to Nigeria, a slap in the face despite our contributions to peace in the sub-region.”
UN sources said it was reasonable to have another national head of the UN troops in Darfur while a Nigerian leads the political wing. However, the USG for Peace-keeping is said to have insisted that a non-Nigerian takes charge both at the political and military departments, despite Nigeria having the largest number of UN soldiers in Darfur.
It is instructive to note that there is no Nigerian in a senior appointment at the UN except Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, a former Director-General of NACA, who is the Executive Director of UNFPA.
However, sources at the UN Secretariat explained that part of the problem is a perceived notion that some of Nigerian troops have been performing below par and also that Nigeria’s standing in the UN has been declining in significance over the years.
This notion was clear when the UN Peace-keeping Operations Department simply acceded to Nigeria’s request to withdraw troops from Darfur without any offer of negotiation, because the country has been “loosing its respect at the world body over the years.”