Gilles Olakounlé Yabi
On 31 May, an attack in Kabul killed more than 150 people in “the green zone”, a very secure neighborhood of embassies and ministries. It was one of the deadliest and most spectacular attacks of recent years in Kabul. But Afghanistan has known hundreds of others in the context of internationalized civil war for decades. There were no Western casualties during this latest carnage, but dozens of weary Afghan families. As in all the Middle-Eastern countries where terrorist attacks have been trivialized for years or decades, the majority of the victims are local populations (and Muslims).
The media forgets these victims a little faster than those of the attacks in the Western metropolises. If the stigmas regarding the bodies and minds of victims and their families are the same everywhere, the national contexts in which these events take place are very different. Terrorist violence is inseparable from armed conflicts and the multiple identity and religious divisions in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The permanence of violence disfigures this entire part of the world and leaves no prospect of improvement in sight.
An uncertain future between “Africanistan” and “emergence”
Observing the world from West Africa, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq or Yemen can appear as distant lands that we might, at first sight, lose interest in. In fact, we should pay close attention to the current contours and the historical origins of insecurity, instability, violence and multiple divisions in this part of the world because we share one essential characteristic: the weakness and the vulnerability of our states and of our nations.
Africans should consider it an absolute goal not to commit serious mistakes while prioritizing and allocating their scarce human and material resources, potentially creating the conditions for the next generations of Africans to live a nightmare similar to that of the women, men and children of the bruised countries of the Middle East and Central Asia today.
we share one essential characteristic: the weakness and the vulnerability of our states and of our nations
Violence obviously did not wait for terrorism to emerge in Africa. It was already very much present. Its forms, scale and recurrence are tragic in places that we are all familiar with: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire have also experienced violent and protracted conflicts. Since 2011, Libya and then Mali have also shifted into permanent insecurity, regularly overflowing into other countries of the Sahel and West Africa.
French authors have evoked the specter of the Sahelistan (the journalist Samuel Laurent) and even that of the “Africanistan” (the economist Serge Michaïlof), drawing the parallel between the situation of vast African regions today and the dynamics which have led over time to permanent insecurity in a country like Afghanistan. We could simply denounce and vilify these doomsayers who speak of the decay of our countries even when our heads of state speak only of economic emergence.
We can also choose, more wisely, to look the current political and security realities in the face
We can also choose, more wisely, to look the current political and security realities in the face and take the time to reflect rather than invective those who debate the future of our countries without us. The latter know that African development will significantly affect the future of their own societies, especially in the neighboring European continent. And so they are right to worry about the future of Africa and explore ways to influence it in the direction that would best protect their own security as well as economic interests.
Additionally, lead the war against the lack of culture, corruption and organized cynicism
The choice of an attitude of wisdom and responsibility would have us remark that in the African countries already touched by serious or recurrent insecurity, new forms of violence have been added in recent years to the old conflicts and above all to an incredible fragility of states. It would make us admit that the situation could well be worse in the next few years if too large a part of the ruling elites continue to give priority to their personal prosperity, even if it means depriving more of the already poorly developed states or resigning themselves given the scale of the challenges.
What we must absolutely avoid as a priority in Africa is the widening of the areas of the continent where massive or recurrent violence has already taken place. That is to say, the widening of abandoned spaces to the ideologists of all forms of intolerance. What we must avoid is the creation of the conditions for an excessive militarization of our countries, including those that are still peaceful, because we feel we must associate ourselves, without any nuance, with the global war against terrorism.
What we must avoid is the creation of the conditions for an excessive militarization of our countries
Let us take a close look at the way in which today’s most tormented regions of our planet have been trained in the non-construction of states, poorly managed local low-level conflicts, irresponsible external military interventions, decomposition of states and the disintegration of societies gradually divided by various forms of intolerance and violence. Let us look at the situation of each regions of the world as it is today, question their history, and take time to reflect on the dynamics that have taken shape in all parts of our continent.
We in Africa must fight against the groups and individuals who resort to terrorism in all its forms. However, we should also put in at least the same amount of energy and show the same enthusiasm to wage war against ignorance, against organized corruption and against the cynicism of transnational networks that nurture the dissemination the means of mass violence throughout our continent. We should fight against all those who consciously work for the collapse of our states and nations. Whether they are Africans, Westerners, Asians or Latin Americans.
Preserving our precious human resources from international distractions
By giving the impression of considerably reducing the importance of time and space, by focusing our attention on misinterpreted facts, by providing the pretext for presenting all of our national problems as “global” threats requiring international responses, globalization blurs the perception that each country has of the phase in which it finds itself in its own historical trajectory. It also especially blurs the ability of every region of the world to remain focused on what its priorities should be at every moment of its history.
We have a duty to make our youth populations aware of the simple, simplistic and unproductive discourses on the imperativeness of the immediate liberation of Africa from all external domination. No region of the world can be economically, militarily, technologically and politically weak and yet simultaneously claim to be “independent” on the world stage.
The first condition for reducing external dependence is stop feeding, through our own errors, the process of weakening our states and the cultural alienation of our societies
The first condition for reducing external dependence in the mid and long term is to stop feeding, through our own errors, the process of weakening our states and the cultural alienation of our societies. It is for this reason that it is imperative to maximize the mobilization of the most competent existing human resources in each country and in each African economic community, and to create the conditions for rapid expansion of this human capital by a massive and sustained investment in education in all its forms.
The present drama is that the precious time of the women and men most equipped to transform our present and our future is constantly distracted by a multitude of solicitations and “international” initiatives. West Africa and the Sahel, which is a perfect example of this, is now widely invaded by an international armada of military personnel, consultants, private security contractors, development experts, humanitarian workers … for the most part animated with praiseworthy intentions but which contribute to the further weakening of states by disempowering them and preventing the necessary internal political and social transformations.
In Mali, as in all the countries of the region, there will be no significant improvement in the prospects for security and peace without radical changes in the political, administrative and economic functioning of the state
In a country such as Mali for example, the new economy generated by the crisis and insecurity provides comfortable jobs and benefits for international civil servants and experts of all kinds, but also opportunities and incomes significantly above local standards for a good part of the best-trained and dynamic Malian men and women. Recruits from international non-governmental organizations, donor-funded autonomous projects, the UN peacekeeping mission and all other international structures that are supposed to help Mali out of the crisis, are men and women who are part of the local human resources that will not regenerate the sclerotic public administrations of their countries.
Cultivate the collective intelligence of our societies
In Mali, as in all the countries of the region, there will be no significant improvement in the prospects for security and peace without radical changes in the political, administrative and economic functioning of the state and without massive and sustained reinforcement of human resources within the ministries and all the branches of the public institutions. All serious studies on Mali show how the multiplication of tension points and the disintegration of social cohesion, particularly in the northern and central regions, are directly linked to the absence of an organized, just, benevolent and capable state. The results would not be very different in the other countries of the Sahel, West and Central Africa.
The objective should be to make West African societies intelligent societies, in the sense of societies that invest in understanding their realities, those of their neighborhood and those of the world in order to protect their vital interests. It should be building human societies that value moderation in the pursuit of particular interests; the diversity of cultures, beliefs and opinions; sensitivity to the general interest of current populations and future generations. Our countries should aim at maintaining a minimum capacity to influence their future. This is the most promising and realistic goal to be pursued today in Africa.
We see daily evidence that the material and technical development of societies does not make them more intelligent or more serene
We have the advantage, because we are poor and weak, to see what the ambition of power and domination gives. We see daily evidence that the material and technical development of societies does not make them more intelligent or more serene. In rich and powerful countries, fear of insecurity, unemployment, decommissioning, and the loss of long-term social and economic privileges are fueling frustration, racism, xenophobia, depression and the most advanced forms of human stupidity. The kind of stupidity we are all capable of when we refuse to think before forming a definitive opinion on an issue or, worse, conduct an action.
Our priority in West Africa and in other parts of the African continent, regardless of the many obsessions, pressures, injunctions, and distractions of the world today, should remain the construction of structured and efficient states and cultivated civil societies. The ambition of collective intelligence must be translated concretely into an absolute priority given to influencing people’s minds through education and culture. There is nothing more important. It is not because we are poor, weak and dependent that we must renounce the value, cultivation and development of the collective intelligence of our societies.
Photo from : (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul) : attentat à Kaboul, 31 may 2017
Joe Penney / REUTERS : A Malien soldier fighting Djihadist in Gao (Mali), 21 february 2013