Africa is emerging from the margins of the global security agenda. At least, this is the sense one got attending the 5th Tana High-Level Forum on “Africa in the Global Security Agenda” held at the Ethiopian lakeside resort of Bahir Dar on April 16-17, 2016.
A brainchild of the late visionary Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the Tana Forum, now in its fifth year, is evolving into Africa’s “Munich Security Conference” (MSC) where the state of global security is discussed.
Tellingly, on April 14-15, ahead of the 5th Tana Forum, Ethiopia hosted the first-ever MSC Core Group Meeting on the African continent focusing on the fight against violent extremism among other topics.
However, Africa is the Cinderella of the global security order, despite the hype around the mantra of “African solutions to African problems”.
Western powers - mainly America, Britain and France - continue to drive UN policy and ride roughshod over Africa’s security solutions.
“Why does Kenya insist on staying in Somalia”, a senior French official asked a Kenyan delegate attending the MSC Core Group Meeting.
“The same reason why France is in Mali,” the Kenyan answered.
"HUBRIS OF EMPIRE"
This brief “diplomatic tiff” reveals what Chalmers Johnson called the “hubris of empire” – the imperialistic misbehaviour by Western powers in the UN Security Council – which has left, in its path, a trail of deaths, destruction and chaos in countries like Libya.
When the Libyan conflict started in early 2011, African leaders, fearing that the contest between Col Muammar Gaddafi and his rivals could easily get worse and spill across borders, warned against forcible regime change.
They crafted a blueprint for an “inclusive transition” to democracy leading to Gaddafi stepping aside.
Celebrating the Libyan uprising as a turbulent version of Tunisia’s democratic uprising, Western powers unfairly derided and dismissed the African roadmap.
The US, France and Britain, who were driving UN policy, were hell-bent on regime change.
In March 2011, the UN Security Council authorised a no-fly zone over Libya and air strikes to protect civilians. The rest is now history.
In March 2016, President Barack Obama told the Atlantic Magazine that Libya is now “a mess”.
On April 11, 2016, he told Fox News that failure to prepare for the aftermath of the ousting of Gaddafi as “the worst mistake” of his presidency.
In a rare rebuke of allies, Obama blamed the mess in Libya on the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and French former President, Nicholas Sarkozy, saying they got “distracted” after the intervention.
Even as Libya burns, Western powers particularly are seemingly undermining states spearheading the fight against violent extremism in Eastern Africa.
Here, Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia want Kenya (and the African Union peacekeepers) to pull out of Somalia.
On October 14, 2011, Kenya, which successfully mediated the conflict in Somalia that led to the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government in 2005, deployed its forces in Somalia.
It was responding to Al-Shabaab’s incursions into its territory where it carried out cross-border raids on police stations, abducted and killed civil servants, nuns, aid workers and tourists.
Kenya integrated its forces into the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) in December 2011 following requests from IGAD and the AU.
First, although the entry of the Kenyan forces into Amisom was the game-changer that contributed to relative peace in Somalia after 2012, in the ensuing frenzy of “Somali conferences” in European cities, key regional players like Kenya were seen more as competitors in regional geo-politics than allies.
However, tension with the West hit a fever-pitch after the March 4, 2013 election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy William Ruto who were facing trial at the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.
The push for Kenya to exit Somalia has taken two forms. First is a robust media campaign spearheaded by British citizens.
On June 6, 2014, the British journalist, Michela Wrong, published a highly spiteful article in the Foreign Policy Website/Magazine, which sensationally accused KDF soldiers of “devoting much of the four-day siege (of the Westgate Mall) to shooting open safes, emptying fridges of beer and looting designer outlets.”
Wrong’s article failed to win over Washington’s powerful policy crowd. In November 2015, another British citizen, Ben Rawlence, parachuted into Kenya to undertake research under the cover of the little-known NGO, Journalists for Justice (JFJ) one of the NGOs purposely created in 2011 to champion the West’s International Criminal Court agenda in Kenya and to drive a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign aimed at forcing its exit from Somalia.
Rawlence wrote the run-of-the-mill report luridly titled Black and White, which accused Kenya of running a criminal racket based on charcoal trade in Somalia.
But it is the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, in a series of reports to the UN Security Council and widely reviewed in the media, that has provided the sharpest tool for forcing Kenya out of Somalia.
In a July 27, 2013 report, the Monitoring Group accused Kenya of refusing to integrate into Amisom even as the Kenyan authorities and the African Union clarified that “all Kenyan troops in Somalia are under Amisom.”
In its October 2014 report, the Monitoring Group upped the ante, introducing a criminal angle to its allegations against Kenya.
It alleged that Al-Shabaab was exporting charcoal from the KDF-held port (Kismayu). At the time, Kenyan soldiers were under the command and control of Amisom.
Its subsequent reports have sought to link KDF with illicit trade, corruption, human rights abuses and undermine its legitimacy in Somalia.
This is the thrust of the latest Monitoring Group’s Mid-term Briefing Note of April 22, 2016.
The note is badly flawed in terms of mandate, methodology and professionalism. It delves into operational matters of the African mission, deviating from the Monitoring Group’s mandate as provided for by the UNSC resolutions.
Prof Kagwanja teaches at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi; [email protected]