The turn of the new millennium has seen a change in global conflict. Terrorism has come to strongly influence foreign relations in two different ways. The first and most obvious is its effect of fear seeking to illicit actions through intimidation and guerrilla insurrection. The latter effect is more interesting. Despite its effect of stripping investor interest from a country and creating a sense of lawlessness within a nation, it can, in some cases, indirectly bring developmental assistance. However, this latter effect only comes when the threat of terrorism proves to be a threat to the western world. As this threat looms, developed nations that feel threatened look more closely at the countries that are able to facilitate terrorist operations due to their weak rule of law. As a result, actions are taken by governments of developed nations to enhance cooperation and help create stronger governments in the developing world. Terrorism has directly affected the relationship between the United States and various countries in Africa. While Al Qaeda was once known as a terrorist organization operating in the middle east. It has gained footing in northern, western, and eastern Africa by exploiting the weak rule of law or the compliance of governments unable or unwilling to stop them.
As training has continued, terrorist plots have become more frequent resulting not only in loss of life, but the periodic loss of American life thereby placing the issue of African development at a higher priority for the American government. Terrorism is no new phenomenon to Africa or the rest of the world. In fact, terrorism can run hand in hand with insurrection and result from poor governance. It can also be said to be the rallying cry of groups pushed to the fringes of society. But whatever the cause it has been given more attention. On September 20, 2001, former president George Bush declared a war on terror, the vague concept which elicits fear and hatred throughout societies. This action seems to evoke a sense of global solidarity for all those under the duress of terrorist aggression, but in reality this declaration of war was pointed solely at those who wish to harm the United States. From a realist perspective, a country should focus on its own burdens and not shoulder the burdens of others.
However, America has taken the role of playing the world’s savior numerous times, most recently with its actions and dialogue in Syria. It also plays a key role in all of the world’s international organizations devoted to peace and economic stability. Therefore it can be said that when this responsibility is possessed yet pushed aside there is a sense of complacency. However, military aid has come to supplement direct military intervention. Africa has become synonymous with rebels in the minds of many in the world, insurrection has been type cast as an African problem affecting Africans, and it is therefore the government’s duty to quell such violence. And while there has been some NGO action in resolving conflicts, Africa had largely been left to its own vices. But once Al Qaeda, an organization responsible for attacks in America and Europe had begun to take root throughout Africa, American officials began to take it upon itself to work on a more bilateral scale with African nations to strengthen police and military to combat terrorism. While some countries linked to terrorism have faced military action (i.e Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Mali).
Military aggression usually faces criticism from the rest of the world, making the aggressor appear to be a war monger to many citizens in their respective countries and abroad. Therefore bilateral action and military cooperation have had a more practical effect because it takes into consideration the wishes and means of a government, has more intensive training, and is more feasible than a war. Africa Command, an institution designed by the American Department of Defense is largely responsible for this type of bilateral cooperation. However, due to a history of manipulation by America and the former colonial powers, Many African governments have held reservations on allowing this type of cooperation. They worry that despite America’s willingness to cooperate, it will eventually domineer. Nevertheless these types of relations contribute towards the growth of a country’s governmental power.
It mimics Cold War strategy. During the Cold War, America had developed an us vs. them policy where friends would be rewarded and neutrals and enemies would be damned. On face value it seemed as though America was simply propping up regimes devoted to the idea of capitalism, but in reality America was supporting governments who were willing to safeguard their economic and political interests in the region. In Africa, American intelligence would work closely with national intelligence of the former colonial powers to ensure that new rulers of Africa would not only be democratic, but also subordinates in the global economy. Perhaps one of the biggest examples is the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and the installation of the corrupt tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko in the Democatic Republic of the Congo. The parallels between America’s war on terror and the Cold War in Africa are uncanny. As a result of Somali pirates interrupting trade in the gulf of Aden and Al Shabab threatening embassies in east Africa, America had armed the Ethiopian government, and used them as a proxy to invade Somalia. Since late 2002 Ethiopia had been the recipient of $20 million of U.S military aid. The invasion and occupation of Somalia by Ethiopia was fully condoned by the United States despite the fact that Meles Zenawi is no real supporter of democracy. His government has limited the opposition of parliament and arrested thousands of people in addition to 193 who were killed or beaten in an election fraud protest in 2005. Somalia had been closely watched by American intelligence ever since the declaration of war on terror. This threat of terror had brought training and development to the Ethiopian military despite it’s corrupt government. And recently the Nigerian military has seen the same type of military aid to combat a two front war on the Al Qaeda linked Boko Haram in the north, and the guerilla forces of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in the south east. Although Boko Haram has been responsible for roughly 3,500 deaths in Nigeria, its numbers are small and they are unable to make direct assaults on America or corporate interests. Many of their targets of been Nigerian schools and Nigerian police stations. Most funding and training of the Nigerian military by foreign forces has been to address the threat of MEND. This insurgent organization has repeatedly interfered with corporate oil affairs in the Niger delta for years. Their actions were the result of oil corporations polluting the environment and ruining living conditions for many Nigerians in the area, and while the region has an abundance of oil, there has been little development in the Niger Delta and many people live on two dollars a day.
Northern Nigeria’s Boko Haram and it’s leader Abubakar Shekau
Despite their justification, MEND has incurred the wrath of the west by interrupting business in the region and as a result, the African Winds program was set into motion. African Winds is a three week joint military training program between Nigeria, the U.K, the U.S, Spain, the Netherlands, and Italy. It is also being spear headed by the Nigerian navy. According to Brigadier General Chris Olukolade, the purpose of this training is for protection in the maritime environment (http://allafrica.com/stories/201310030162.html), the same environment used by MEND. So despite the fact that Boko Haram has killed scores more than MEND and has been linked to Al Qaeda, developed countries feel that it’s more important to stop the organization that interferes with oil business. Nevertheless, the insurrection in Nigeria has caught the attention of many high income countries who have sought to provide military aid and training to Nigerian forces for the sake of creating stronger rule of law within the country and enable them to stop insurgencies against corporate interests.
MEND in the Niger delta
Funding African forces instead of direct intervention has recently been the primary method in which America battles its enemies in Africa. After the Cold War had ended, the world had turned a blind eye to the continent in the following years as it no longer held priority as a battlefield for ideology. It could be said that the threat of terrorism helped bring the spotlight back to Africa, and raise the importance of African relations to the rest of the world. Africa is becoming a battlefield of ideologies again, and the west seeks to fortify governments like Nigeria’s in order to protect their interests in the region. But unlike the post colonial period of the cold war, Africa will not fall prey to neocolonial manipulation again, and therefore outside nations must practice bilateral action, and see Africa as a partner and no longer a subordinate. The threat of terrorism is forcing African governments to strengthen their rule of law and prompting their funding from other developed nations. The indirect effect of terrorism lays down the foundation for a more sound nation that can produce its own well being and make strides in development.