Nigerian Troops And The Malian Crisis: Matters Arising By Theophilus Ilevbare

By Theophilus Ilevbare


The Nigerian Senate gave constitutional approval to the deployment of 1,200 troops for combat mission as part of the Africa International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) – an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) organized military mission sent to support the government of ECOWAS member nation Mali against Islamist rebels in the Northern Mali conflict. The mission was authorized with UN Security Council Resolution 2085, passed on 20 December 2012, which "authorizes the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) for an initial period of one year. Nigerian troops had already been deployed by President Goodluck Jonathan before a letter was transferred to the Senate for approval. This action in itself raises serious constitutional questions.


The swift dispatch of troops belie the security challenges at home. It is now habitual and priority for Nigerian government to solve crisis in neighbouring African countries faster than the insurgency at home. If the federal government had responded in similar manner to the Boko Haram menace during its formative years, their activities would have been nipped in the bud. Security challenges now seem insuperable, extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses are now the hallmark of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on duty in the troubled northern states of Nigeria.


The "brilliant record" of Nigeria's participation in peace mission in neighbouring African countries count for nothing when compared to the insurmountable security challenges at home. There is nothing ‘responsible’ about being proactive in regional conflicts when the Boko Haram menace has claimed over 3,000 lives and counting. The present security challenges at home does not warrant any form of peace-keeping outside the shores of the country.


The conflict in Mali birthed by the emergence of three Islamist groups now active in northern Mali – Ansar Dine, al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad all beefed up by an influx of mercenary fighters from Libya about a year ago. Defeats by Tuareg separatist aided by Islamist fighters coming back to Mali after the fall of Gaddafi triggered a military coup, in the confusion that ensued, the army were forced to retreat from the vast deserts of the north, with the secular Tuaregs swiftly pushed aside by their former allies, extremist militants took control of a vast area, big as France. For a country fettered with poverty, its citizens in perpetual pangs of hunger and most Malians practicing a temperate form of Islam, the insurgents in Mali were able to operate in shadow manner their presence undetected for years in the forests and deserts with strong ties and financial backing from al-Qaeda in the Middle East (AQIM). These Islamist rebels were also engendered by the subsequent destabilization of northern Africa after the war in Libya leading to the proliferation of arms and ammunition to groups masquerading as Libyan freedom fighters.


Nigerian government should take a cue from the reluctance of some European countries, particularly Britain whose Ministers were ordered to the Commons to stress that UK troops would not ‘undertake a combat role’ in the crisis in Africa, amid fears they could be sucked into a long, bloody conflict opting for logistical air assistance to France. The US played an active role in ousting Muammar Gaddafi during the Libyan uprising with air strikes without putting boots on the ground. Nigeria could have explored similar possibilities and should begin to think along such direction for future invitation to combat missions.                                                              The suggestion by some senators that it is high time Nigeria considered her economic interest in foreign policies like the world super powers, US in particular, was instructive. We need not go on foreign missions without reaping the maximum benefits of our sacrifices. “It is no longer uhuru for the country to continue to play Father Christmas in its foreign policies” quipped a Senator.            


The remark by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Azubuike Ihejirika, that Mali trained terrorists have crossed the border into Nigeria is rather preposterous as he gave no evidence of their presence. Actually, Nigeria does not share its border with Mali. In-between there is Burkina Faso, Niger republic and Togo. If all these nations did not report terrorist immigrants, then on what basis did the COAS raise alarm that Mali trained terrorist had landed Nigeria shores? A ruse it turned out to justify the deployment of troops to Mali.


There are real threats of retaliatory strikes of western targets across Africa and beyond, countries whose troops are part of the combined effort to flush out the terrorists. Mali may not play a significant role in world economy but it is surrounded, on far and near sides, by countries that do. Nigeria and Algeria with the largest and second largest gas reserves respectively in Africa, suppliers of petrochemical/minerals, make them potential targets of reprisals. Recently, al-Moulathamine, a group affiliated to AQIM has since claimed responsibility for the attack on a gas field in southern Algeria run by BP, Statoil and the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach.


The Algerian government said 38 workers and 29 militants died in an attack during a three-day military operation to end the hostage crisis. After a special forces operation crushed the last holdout of the fighters at the Amenas plant. Considering that Algeria have been co-operating with the French military operations by allowing the use of its airspace and committing about 900 troops to the UN mission in Mali, the Islamists fighters vowed to avenge what they called the country's support for French military action in neighbouring Mali. With Nigerian troops too in Mali, we may fear the worst.


There is a school of thought who believe the Malian crisis can be resolved with a bit of political persuasion rather than military intervention. Aside this, there lies a serious fear of Islamist fundamentalist taking over Mali and the country’s northern desert already held by insurgents and could become a breeding haven for terrorists to plan and launch international strikes. Already the fighters have taken control of major towns in the north. In the Taliban-Afghan style, they flog women for not covering up and amputate in public squares. The turban fighters have taken advantage of the political instability to capture territories hitherto used to stockpile weapons and train forces.                                                                                                                                   


Few weeks ago, rebels seized control of a town called Konna, and gained entrance to Mopti, Mali's second city which by extension means there capture of the whole south in addition to the already controlled northern part of Mali. Their aim is to topple the government in the capital, Bamako. French troops have provided effective shield for the capital. Reports say French and Malian forces reclaimed the key towns of Konna and Diabaly from militants after days of intense fighting.


Now here is the big question; what is the strategy of the Nigerian troops nay the AFISMA in Mali? Is it to crush the terrorist or chase them out? Whichever of the tactics they deploy, reprisals from splinter and allied terrorist networks in Nigeria, like the Kogi state attack, are a cinch. But if their strategy is to push them out which is the obvious tactics from days of fighting in Mali, border countries should be prepare against the influx of fleeing Islamist rebels.                                                                                                     

To stay ahead of the game in the fight against terrorism, Nigeria needs to be proactive on the home front. Have we deployed troops to protect or fortify, if any form of security already existed, Nigeria’s porous borders? Did we count the cost of an economic spill over of a full blown war in Mali, or of a military impasse or casualty?


From the foregoing, the deployment of Nigerian troops to Mali has raised more questions than answers.


Twitter: @tilevbare


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters



12 comment(s)
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Enough of foregn missions

Why not solve crisis at home first?


Let me make it very clear here, I support Nigerian Government sending our troops to Mali. A lot of our problems with Boko haram can be traced to that region. Only a fool or someone with an agenda will refuse to accept that fact, and this writer will have to tell us which one is he. You can't effectively fight terrorism without going to the source, and that source for Nigeria is Mali and the neighboring regions. I have news for this writer, terrorists are already in Nigeria, killing innocent people. What is new bro? As the say, cowards died a thounsand times before their death. The terrorists, Boko haram, are here, we aren't scare. I have no doubt they will be defeated because our cause is noble and theirs is evil. There you have it.


The west is always the last place left for clueless conspiracy theorists to dump their blames and frustrations on,often without fact or reason.The proponents of this new terrorist state in northern Mali are a mix of Islamic terrorists from the Sahel and Maghreb north Africa,most are not even from Mali.This mixture of bandits and Islamic terrorists, some veterans of the Afghan-Soviet war took advantage of the weak government and military in Mali through the support of local secessionists to take over vast expanse of Mali territory and imposed a brutal form of Sharia where public amputations and executions are common place.
We are talking of a sovereign state,a member of ECOWAS.The excess weapons from Lybia coupled with the expansionist agenda of this terror regime whose ambition is to spread their tentacles over West Africa deserves a military adventure,they are already here through their BH proxy.How is the west responsible?We should be thankful to France.


Sir, my teacher once told me that when the tap is turned on, water comes running. As long as the source is not dried up, you can fetch as many buckets as you want. If you don't fetch the water with anything, it keeps running until your entire compound is water-logged. But! But, WHEN YOU TURN THE TAP OFF, THE WATER STOPS RUNNING.If you deploy troops all over Nigeria to fight Boko Haram, and do not attack their source, they'll keep coming back. If you do not deploy troops, their activities will spread the more. But! But, if you'll identify their source and fight it, terrorism will die. On friday, I read in Daily Trust NewsPaper that Boko Haram has something to do with Mali. So, it's only natural for the commander-in-chief to beam his searchlight on Mali. He's been using buckets to fetch the water of terrorism in Nigeria but now has an opportunity (or at least what seems like an opportunity) to dry up the source.Chike Oguoma(08170453243)

Word of advice to the writer - Be analytical !

Another one of those 'articles' or write-up that view things from only one prism or perspective. A strategic or in-depth analysis, and thought process, would accept the strategy of nipping terrorism from its base, in Mali, is a right strategy. It is the right strategy to nip terrorism at its incubation stage, and not when it is hatched or executed. Even France, the UK and the 'civilised world community' recognise this, hence they support the mission in one way or the other.

The other day it was reported that the Boko haram leader was wounded and 'found' in Mali (although I am surprised that he wasn't arrested or reported by those that 'found' him).

Some people just take delight in criticising the President, irrespective!


The hasty deployment of Nigerian troops to Mali while taking a long time deploy forces in Nigeria to protect and defend our citizens shows we care more about our "image" than our people. It more 10 hours Boko Haram attacks in a Nigerian town without response from security forces. It does not make sense to ignore citizens for so long but to rush abroad to help others.there is nothing wrong with been part of a global effort but Nigeria must deeply analyze events before jumping into them. Along with political and security goals, the Western action in Mali has an economic angle (see Roger Annis article on this at

@ Osita

You are so bias. How will Nigeria benefit from this war? Is our boaders tight and secure? How will support rout be block? Mind u, more influx of such terorist into the the country will be the end result. By then it will not affect only the north, u will answer the call also. BIG LIER AND SENTIMENTAL.

Thank you for enlightening me

Thank you for enlightening me on the reason!! You really is extremely vast and smart.

Deploying Nigerian Military in Mali: Whose Interests?

A fair and realistic opinion. Unfortunately, it seems that in all probabbility, the executive is sold on the foreign based experts' advice especially where the West is involved. Like you rightly pointed out, the claim by the COAS that Malian rebels are in Nigeria is unfortunate as he offered no rational explation nor any evidence other then the prepesterous claim.
The Malian rebels are really opportunists who took a chance when the in-house fued escalated to a cuop. The Touregs armed from the Ghaddafi fiasco, easily 'asserted' their claims to thier own nation against a divided militry and thats where the opportunists claiming Islam moved in. That our elites are all to willing to participate in this fiasco says alot about their attitude to their political thugs that are now making Nigeria insecure for everyone: they are all too willing to believe the nonsense about the omnipresence of al-Qaeda globally!

Nigeria is being usedbythe West

Open your eyes and listen, Research and read, don't be a fool.the Americans and their allies needed to invade Mali and control her resources, the French are the attack dog just like they invaded Libya. Africoms Mission is to locateand capture Africa's Resources. Uranium in Mali is their main target.The West knows GEJ is a stupid man he will do anything they say like increasing price of petrol on New Years day. Sit down and watch, Mali would be occupied and the West will organise a sham election, the stooge will win the election and the West will move in to loot its resources just likethey did in Iraq, Libya. Mali is the new Iraq. Nigeria is just a pawn. I am a soldier. That is not my real name. I know what is going on.

govt was right to have deployed troops to Mali

Where in the name of Holy Allah has Theophilus Ilebare, been residing all these while? In Siberia or the Tibetan mountains close to the red China sea may be. Sad though that some of the syndicated writers we have in 9ja often pen articles that make the average (omalanke) truck pusher look more intellectual than them. Its really shocking to have a man who claims to be an egg-head on national issues from the camp of Buhari, tell us he does not know that Boko Haram has close links with the Tuareg's killing and destroying historical sites in Mali. Fulanis are found all over West African and Central Africa! They share close affinity with their brothers and sisters in 9ja such as Hannatu, Sanusi, El Rufai, Tambuwal, Buhari and Ribadu. Members of boko haram are Tuaregs who sneak into 9ja from Mali, Chad and Niger Republic to plant explosives in churches then move back into the desert as soon as they complete their assignment here!


Nigeria is an integral and essential part of the international community,we just cannot afford to exist in isolation and in complete aloofness of the circumstances surrounding our geo-political presence in West Africa.The Boko-Haram insurgence may be naively interpreted to be a local issue but the reality is far from that,the weaponry used by the terrorists have serial numbers,most are from Lybia and were supplied via Mali,The leader of Boko-haram is reliably in Northern Mali.
Nigeria's struggle with terror is by no means a war of choice,the demands of the BH are so unreasonable that when those rooting for appeasement are asked for answers,they don't have any.The Islamisation of Nigeria,refusal of our secular nature as a nation is a non-starter,killing women and children in churches is ruthless,where does the negotiation start?
The Mali deployment is a way of cutting the terrorist supply route,it will benefit Nigeria directly,it is also our regional responsibility to maintain peace.