Monday, April 22, 2024

South Africa’s military forays must only be undertaken under SADC consensus

In my last installment last week, I highlighted the importance and urgency that the SADC bloc must attach to border security. I also touched on the need for the bloc to do away with individualistic approaches when it comes to regional matters. This is because the strength of a few joint entities surpasses that of many disjointed entities.

Such important issues, if ever at all they are addressed, will be beneficial in that, if properly addressed, they will result in a more potent and secure bloc.

Some people thought I sounded crazy to talk about the possibility of a Boko Haram attack in Southern Africa.
But it is not far-fetched seeing that, last week, it was reported that South Africa might join the fight against Boko Haram.

Although South African soldiers aren’t involved in the battle yet, the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) is ready to deploy its troops if called upon to assist Nigeria in fighting Boko Haram insurgents, whose presence is causing panic not only in Nigeria but in other countries as well.

Such an act of camaraderie between South Africa and Nigeria should be highly praised although I am of the belief that this is supposed to be the responsibility of countries in the ECOWAS bloc to assist a wounded and ailing member state and not South Africa. For South Africa to specially deploy its soldiers to go on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in the West African country is objectionable as well as dangerous.

Whilst I understand the humanitarian duty to protect each other and the presence of justifiable imperative to support Nigeria in strategies to uphold its own internal security, I am rather concerned with the timing.

We need to be aware that any nation that squares up against terrorists or, in this case, Boko Haram, should expect terror as an end result.

Considering the magnitude of this odd decision by South Africa, it makes me wonder if SADC defense and security ministers have met to discuss and deliberate on the ramifications of South Africa’s planned involvement in this war.

Is the SADC bloc in consensus with South Africa’s planned involvement? Once again, the “every man for himself God for us all” approach that I highlighted last week is at play.

Why does South Africa have to make a decision, which might be fatal to the bloc, without getting the nod from other SADC members? This seemingly good move by South Africa today will definitely be tomorrow’s problem because in its efforts to help, South Africa is also opening up possibilities of retaliatory forays on the bloc.

It should be a carefully made decision and one which requires consensus and not undertaken as a one country military safari expedition especially when we consider South Africa’s history and also that country’s questionable history of military interference in the affairs of other countries.

Whilst I oppose the decision, South Africa is not entirely to blame for this dicey proposal. Nigerian President’s yawning approach toward addressing this menace has resulted in him suffering a moral deficit due to recurring errors. To make matters worse, President Goodluck Jonathan’s lack of prudence in addressing the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, who allegedly were married off by Abubakar Shekau, worsens the image of the Nigeria government which is now drowning in negatives.

No president can just sit still after more than two thousand of his citizens have been massacred as Jonathan did last month.
Welcome to Africa.

South Africa’s plan to fight against Boko Haram is a hazardous suggestion. On the one hand, here is an evil opponent that provides South Africa with an opportunity to prove itself as a responsible international contributor. On the other hand, South Africa, and by extension SADC, could find itself in a dilemma due to the consequences that may result.

However, what is important to note is the fact that such a move by South Africa might cause a reciprocal move on the bloc.

If we are to rewind time a bit, we would discover that the reason Kenya was attacked by Al-Shabaab is because they sent troops to assist Somalia to fight them. And unfortunately, the Kenyans paid a heavy price as the militants attacked civilians at the Westgate Shopping Mall resulting in at least 67 deaths and over 175 people wounded.

Obviously, South Africa is very much aware that by sending troops to Nigeria, it will also be making not only its citizens vulnerable, but also the SADC bloc which has enjoyed relative peace from outlaws and uncivilised barbarians such as Boko Haram. This is why I emphasise the need not only for serious investing in border security but also the importance of the SADC bloc to adopt a unified binding response to terrorism.

The risk of Boko Haram bandits destabilising the SADC bloc is very high if South Africa gets involved on its own.
But above all else, South Africa must pose and allow West African leaders to come up with a solid tactical plan to fight Boko Haram whose bizarre activities in the name of Islam is not acceptable to many of their faith.
South Africa must understand that starting a war is very easy but ending it is a totally different matter.


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