Reconciliation Key to Regional Stability and Containment of Jihadist Scourge

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“God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their sins unto them. [And] He has given unto us [humanity] a ministry of reconciliation.”

Civilian and military dictatorships have been a bane, culminating not only of the lack of development of the West Africa sub-region, but also the insurgence in contemporary times of jihadists and other forms of political extremism that is ravaging the sub-region.

In that regard, neither our English or Francophone nations have been exempt from the lingering political instability, suspicion and the ‘hate’ politics that have afflicted nearly all of the sub-region except, perhaps, Benin and Senegal.

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From Nigeria and her power-hungry, grab-grab Generals that saw the military eating each other up in the mid-60s into the mid-80s before General Olusegun Obasanjo stabilised the heterogeneous society, Nigeria didn’t appear to have an abiding policy to handle conflict without military force. And that was manifest in lingering conflicts that have had, till date, herders and farmers fighting over land, with communities in oil-rich states breeding militants and nomadic groups, and adding to the political tension.

Unfortunately, Nigeria, with all its resources and Generals, has been unable to contain the situation in which even Governors and their top aides have been victims. It appears that while political power may have been in the hands of the politicians, a chunk of illegal power still floats in the space, with the politician clearly unable to stamp constitutional authority.

Of course, traditional and religious chiefs in Nigeria have a fair amount of traditional authority allowed them in their jurisdictions, except that they have minimum control of gangs that come in and strike and go, without local armies being able to fight back.

How tricky the Nigeria situation still is can be found in the controversy of a staggering 400 prisoners having managed to break jail in Abuja, with fears that they might cross borders through Benin and Togo, probably to peaceable and hospitable Ghana. But that is where, without our national security apparatus having caught one of them, would assure us that they are in a confident command of the situation.

Gambia and Sierra Leone as well as Liberia appear to have similar history with warlords coming into the space and exiting chaotic, without any legacy of stability.

Sahel jihadists

Then we have the typical Sahel communities embroiled in a different political dilemma in which the military believe it, and it alone, has the solution. If, like me, you have an understanding of the politics of Burkina Faso, you would appreciate that while the nation has been left a huge policy legacy by exited President Blaise Compaore, a section of the political class, who are moving Heaven and Earth to iconise slain President Thomas Sankara for political profit, has succeeded in dividing the country, without offering political alternatives in modern-day governance systems of political party organisation to live out the Sankara legacy.

They forget that, in a military junta environment, some fish eat other fish to survive in battles or situations or power games that are not made public to ordinary citizens.

Ghana didn’t kill Generals JA Ankrah or Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa for the death of Kotoka or spend decades mourning the February 1966 coup architect when turbulence was all over the place; nor did General Mensah Woode or Nunoo-Mensah plot tirelessly against Chairman Jerry Rawlings, when a disease called COVID-19 or nemesis was closer to anybody than these Generals bullet-proof shirts.

Honesty 

Without hallowing and knighting Compaore, I believe we must give him his due for political stability and his ability to contain jihadists during his tenure. Unfortunately, when we allowed this presidential voting thing in, he was to have successors who couldn’t tackle the jihadists and who, up till today, are struggling to stabilise the terrain so that the country can sustain its modest growth since Blaise’s tenure.

When his Chief of Defence Staff, who kept the gates, was caged over a coup attempt for which he decided not to fight in the interest of peace, the ghost of Thomas Sankara was exorcised to nail him, even if that culminates in space for the jihadists to overrun the country. And, so it was.

That is not to defend our military adventurers per se; it is to postulate that stability cannot entirely be the monopoly of the smooth-face politician.

Again, Blaise himself could have fought back or repressed the largely illiterate population, damn the consequences. He didn’t; indeed, he just flew into exile, putting the country and its peace first.

Agricultural mechanisation

And yet, who wouldn’t agree that Blaise put Burkina Faso on the map and attracted huge investments into the country, developing the gold sector after his remarkable tweaking of subsistence crop and livestock agriculture to fruit and vegetable export to Togo, Ghana and Benin, through massive irrigation systems that would make our 1Village1Dam initiatives look like puddles along the Abbosey-Okai-Agbogbloshie route.

Again, who doesn’t know that Burkina Faso in the Sahel has more water reserves than tropical Ghana with its massive forests, but polluted inefficient water production and supply systems. That is aside of his creation of a new city and a new industrial enclave from what used to be an Ashawo Line harbouring shameless immigrants from the sub-region into a prime area for big businesses and the diplomatic community.

Masterstroke

But the masterstroke effort in stabilising the sub-region is what we are finding in Burkina Faso reconciling its former Presidents and Cote- d’Ivoire replicating that gesture in his relatively peaceful backyard. In my village ‘opinion,’ the gesture is relevant, if not divine, in reducing conflict and tension today into tomorrow and the future – when these leaders are gone and our innocent kids take over.

I grew up to hear a story about some distant relative having relocated prematurely to the Palm Wine Junction end of La Town. It was over an incident in which a cousin living in his uncle’s compound threw a jibe at him about him not being a man enough to move into his own home. Yet, this was a cousin, whose only job was dress in flowing white garment, bathe women at beaches and junctions; and burn coloured candles in his room day and night in the name of religion. Besides, that property did not even belong to him.

It would turn out, however, that the greedy bastard’s kids were among the victim’s most cherished nephews and nieces till today. Reconciliation.

So, I was glad when I read of the peace and reconciliation initiative ‘thing’ in the media, and saw Blaise enter Ouagadougou and shake hands with the current, young wise President and former Prime Ministers, including the last ineffectual animal, who had all the opportunity to deliver, but just decided to speak big and dine with Turkey until he met his fate.

Ghana’s sorry picture

Thankfully, Ghana has crossed that bridge with former President Mahama even being bold enough, in the heat of the political waves of 2017, to demand plush state residences that he eventually had –because we were becoming more tolerant.

We didn’t kill Rawlings or Kojo T; or Boakye Gyan and Red Light. Before, Nkrumah had died in exile; Okatakyie Afrifa shot extra-judicially, with Prof KA Busia also dying in exile, like Nkrumah…

People’s National Party leader and President Hilla Limann died miserable, with Prof JEA Mills dying also dying like a poisoned rat. Only JA Ankrah lived full of age as Vice President Arkaah, Vice President Ammisah-Arthur and Limann’s Vice President all died ignominiously. Our only living political leader is greyed JA Kufuor. Yet, we are not learning our lessons.

That is why the example set by the young junta leader should inspire political heads in the sub-region to seek and develop more enduring strategies in reducing conflict at all levels of human and community relationship, so that we can have peace at the top across the tropical, Savannah and Sahel space. We need to do that, in effectively living out our cherished Africa Continental Free Trade Area dream and vision. The fugitive bandits who have escaped, their type who are partying at Kasoa and Mallam-Gbawe as well as their bandit ‘cousins’ in Benin and Togo will find it difficult operating when they have no political or religious paymasters pushing any buttons.

  1. My kids will not [Insha Allahu] play those games because they want to live like Asiedu Nketia’s kids tomorrow. But me Papavi and Asiedu Nketia can do better consciously creating an environment that demotivates young people from getting stuck to political nokofioo as their source of hope in our country and sub-region. That conscious effort at defusing the sub-region is what one young man is teaching us all. Thank you, Lt Col Sawadogo…Thank you, Alassane Ouattara; and Thank you, all ye idle, picketing Red Berets who will be touched by the message from Burkina Faso’s young Colonel.