Britain’s fight against terrorism in the Sahel
The U.K. Ministry of Defence has confirmed the participation of three Royal Airforce Chinook helicopter in providing additional support to French and American forces fighting extremist Islamic radical terrorist groups in the Sahel region of Africa.
Harriett Baldwin, Minister for Africa, said “the UK is committed to fighting poverty and bringing stability to the Sahel region, working closely with our partners to tackle threats to European security. This helicopter deployment demonstrates the UK’s commitment to do more in the Sahel, alongside £50m of UK Aid providing lifesaving humanitarian support, and a bigger diplomatic network.”
The French and American governments already have drones operational in the region monitoring and engaging Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists groups. This is to prevent “extremists from using the ungoverned space in the Sahel to plan and launch attacks on Europe, as well as countering the illegal trade in people, drugs, weapons and wildlife.” Baldwin said,
Britain’s worries of the terrorism posed by Al Qaeda and ISIS’s coalitions in Niger and Mali, is not the only concern. The massacre of hundreds of thousands of people, predominantly women and children by jihadi Fulani herdsmen in the predominantly Christian villages in Nigeria, a former colony and member of the commonwealth has also been debated in the House of Lords.
“Fulani militia have murdered more men, women and children in 2015, 2016 and 2017 than even Boko Haram, destroying, overrunning and seizing property and land, and displacing tens of thousands of people” Lord Alton said and wanted to know “what practical steps the UK Government are taking to work with the Government of Nigeria in developing effective solutions to bring an end to this escalating violence.”
The potential of the killings and destruction of villages within Nigeria, if allowed to linger, can degenerate into the proliferation of armed vigilantes or militias groups for self defence, as is the case in Central African Republic, and can trigger a flow of refugees to other African countries forcing people to take the hazardous journeys to European cities.
It still behoves Britain, which still has a lot of influence in the country, especially on the political leadership, to demand the end to the killings and bring perpetrators to justice.
“The problem here is while the world watches and makes excuses and attributes the killing of thousands of people in northeastern and middle regions of Nigeria, predominantly women and children, to issues like Fulani and ethnic farmers clashes, poverty and desertification, the terrorist groups are achieving their goals of destabilising and taking over communities to promote and institute their forms of Islam.” Ven Mark Mukan, Church Missions Operational Director in northeastern Nigeria said.
Many public analysts have opined that if other countries do not understand the religious undertone that has been flaming the crisis, it is expected that Britain should. The British colonial masters used the same Islamic administrative structures, especially in northern Nigeria through its indirect rule, to govern the country it amalgamated in 1914. It can not pretend now not to see the religious power play it left behind in 1960. Corruption has been the DNA of Nigeria since independence and Britain cannot now pretend that only the politics or the military can stop the killings because the political structure is rigged on religious affiliation and bias. Islamic religious leaders must be engaged in addressing radical Islamic ideologies in northern Nigeria.
“The targeting and killing of Christians have gone on since the 1980s and Britain still believes despite the corruption and biased the Nigerian army and politicians can still solve the problems. There will always be excuses and explanation for all the British tax payers money spent in Nigeria.” A senior public officer in Yola, Adamawa State, who does not want to be named, said. “For all the support the international community is sending, let me stress that Nigerians simply want one major thing, justice. When Buhari leaves office how much money would have been stolen?… No the poor farmers loosing their families and homes simply want justice.” He added.
“There is real fear that these developments are part of a strategy by Islamist fundamentalists to drive Christians out of their traditional homelands in northern and central-belt regions of Nigeria. I urge Her Majesty’s Government to respond appropriately to the very real possibility of religious cleansing.” Baroness Cox said at the debate in the House of Lords.
Hassan John is West Africa editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.