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Don’t use sledgehammer politics on Niger crisis-use dialogue

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By Dr. David Matsanga

Now that I have proved that deposed President is still alive I can begin advising the ECOWAS on the Route towards resolution of the conflict. We can’t bake the cake and eat it all.

Nobody wants return of militarism in Africa. But what ECOWAS will be doing is also militarism. If you go in with troops to install a former is equivalent to escalating militarism in the region. So, condemning a coup by military and then use military is the same as a military coup.

It will be extremely perilous to employ the sledgehammer approach to solve the Niger impasse, for the annals of history have always dutifully taught us that such conflicts require only two things; in one hand restraint and diplomacy in the other. 

Unless we’re hellbent to create another Libya in Sahel, ECOWAS, Africa and other stakeholders need to move with uttermost caution, rationality and prudence on Niger.

It will be unwise to be quick on the draw about military intervention when the root cause of the coup has not been correctly diagnosed and cured.

If we proceed without the slightest regard to the problems that resulted into the coup as raised by the junta, the situation may crumble and mutate into more disaster.

Have we not seen coups happening immediately after another in Africa? In fact, that has been the fashion of their occurrence in West Africa. “Coups within Coups”.

With the wave of Jihadism already sweeping through the Sahel like bushfire, it will be foolhardy and heedless for ECOWAS to light any spark of amber whatsoever, as the security situation in Niger is already creaky and on fragile stilts.

One gentle thrust, could instantaneously plunge the country plunges into full blown anarchy.

We do not need atomic physics to grasp the cognizance that the crisis in Niger needs conversation, perhaps compromises, negotiations, diplomacy and not ultimatums, sanctions, threats of military force, or war. The ongoing hubris, chest thumping, fire and fury does not help in any way.

To borrow from the words of Benjamin Franklin, ” Whatever begins in anger, ends in shame.” I will not expound on this, but its crystal clear that ECOWAS is already eating a humble pie for declaring force in a knee jerk statement it made prior to seeking diplomacy.

Today, we have enough wars already ongoing in West Africa, we cannot manage the largesse to consciously incubate another one.

Who shall bear the brunt of it? Is Africa ready to deal with the consequential aftermath of another failed state in the Sahel? Probably not.

From my point of view, this crisis should be approached by ECOWAS and African nations with cool heads, what we need is a diplomatic structure of “Two Ears, One Mouth, and Two Hands”

This is where when one side speaks, the other one listens. Above all, African interests need to be the basis of the talks, not European or Russian sanctioned. That is the Nyerere in me.

It does not matter what support France, the UK, or US promises the West African interventionist forces being assembled by Nigeria through ECOWAS; any ensuing conflict will be fought on West African soil, and most precisely in Niger.  Not in USA or Europe.

With allies of Niger like Mali and Burkina Faso already marking the Rubicon, a fully-fledged war could be inevitable should ECOWAS bullishly go ahead with its rash plans to intervene in Niger.

To put it in context, it will be an All-West Africa war, with Nigeriens, Nigerians, Malians, Chadians, Bourkinabes, fighting against each other.

Confronted with such bizarre uncertainties, Africa should at least learn from its past and present proxy wars and avert this looming one before it’s too late?

A great war leader once said that, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left”, it becomes really gnarly when war is treated with levity and bankruptcy of thought. I agree with this.

Military interventions can be easy to start, to set a date and fire your first shots and take the glory home, could be one thing, but achieving the goals of the intervention and bringing the war to a peaceful end is another.

If we are to study the grotesque mess of interventions, the US provides us with such an extensive book on the matter. They started a war in Afghanistan and they left hurriedly and half naked in the morning.

The interests of the people who dwell in the countries where interventions want to be taken must be paramount, for they will bear the greatest brunt of any conflict on their soil.

America intervened in Somalia and left it worse than if found it. It did in Afghanistan, today the latter is a failed state. NATO intervened in Libya, today it remains a country at the edge of the abyss.

In short ECOWAS and Africa should learn from this and give diplomacy a chance. Constructive engagement and containment are the tools of resolving contagious issues like the Niger crisis

God bless Africa

20.08.2023

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