Posted September 6, 2012 by Michael Stapleton in Africa

Emmy Irobi Discusses Peace and War in Africa

Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith in English, militants in Mali.

Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith in English, militants in Mali.

Emmy Irobi (Ph.D.) is a university lecturer and mediator residing in Poland. He was born in Nigeria, where he was entangled in the Nigerian-Biafran War as a child. He is proponent of alternative peace resolution, conflict resolution, and peace building on the African continent. Michael Stapleton interviewed him for Global Policy Analysis


Global Policy Analysis: On the 7th July 2012, Libyans voted in their first elections since the demise of Colonel Gaddafi. Almost 2 months have passed, rebel factions are still present in areas of the country. How do you create a viable system to counter the power vacuum once a totalitarian leader has been deposed?

IROBI: The Libyan case is unique in the Maghreb region. Democracy is yet to take hold as it will take time for the situation to stabilize. Society first needs to ask itself, are we one Libya, or are we Benghazians or Tripolitans? If these questions are not asked and answered, then warlords and gangs will remain. This situation creates an environment where society is not aware of their position and civil responsibilities, therefore the system is in a state of chaos. The bureaucratic system is not functioning, corruption is rife and identity is being instrumentalized. This breeds ethnic divisions, hatred and revenge attacks. All of these points show that any form of democracy is yet to find its place in Libya. Though the steps they have taken so far are commendable. The litmus test will be how they ameliorate poverty. They have to show that they can perform better than Gadaffi. Stronger institutions have to be built, weapons have to be collected, and society has to be aware of their civil responsibilities. Until this is achieved, there will be no stable democracy in Libya.


Global Policy Analysis: On the 6th of April 2012, members of the National Movement for the Liberation Azawad (MNLA) unilaterally seceded from The Republic of Mali. There are unconfirmed reports that Tuareg rebels who fought both for the Libyan army and The National Transitional Council (NTC) are affiliated with the MNLA. To what degree did the civil war in Libya affect the stability of the region and how is Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb be propagated?

IROBI: It shows how volatile the Maghreb region is and the spillover into the Sahel region. The arms we see were bought or stolen from the Gaddafi regime. Al Qaeda now seems to be successfully franchising in west Africa. As a result of what happened in Libya, radical groups are spreading to Mali, Niger and some parts of Algeria. I would like to make note of the proliferation of small arms, which makes the situation increasingly dangerous for civilians as well as security forces. The Economic Community of West African States is not big enough to play the role of regional policeman and the Maghreb Union is non-existent. Al Qaeda franchises are competing with each other by promoting anti-western and anti-American rhetoric. This is the only element that sustains them. They tap into the inadequacies of the social and political structures of failed states. They recruit vulnerable youth in the region. Governments are being challenged to tackle the basic needs of society namely; employment, education, health care, and infrastructure.

Global Policy Analysis: The United States Department of State is currently assessing whether the “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” (Boko Haram) should be placed on its Foreign Terror Organization list. The Nigerian government is in opposition to this. What would the implications be if Boko Haram is placed on the list?

IROBI: The Nigerian position should be to do away with Boko Haram. They are a terrorist threat not only for Nigeria, but for Cameroon as well. The State Department is correct in their actions; now, we can pinpoint the leaders. The Nigerian government is trying to show a human face in their policy. In terrorism you must be steadfast in your policy and liquidate the cells, otherwise they will grow and multiply. You can only approach those who are open to dialogue and you cannot have a policy that is open to terrorism.


Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith in English, militants in Mali.

Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith in English, militants in Mali.

Global Policy Analysis: From the 26th of March – 28th of May 2012 the Sudan – South Sudan border conflict erupted. The conflict is centered on the Greater Nile Oil Pipeline and the disputed area of Abyei. Taking into consideration two bloody civil wars and decades of conflict, with African Union (AU) brokered peace talks scheduled for September 4th. What do you see as a feasible outcome and how can lasting stability be established in the region?

IROBI: We can solve this problem by awareness, united consciousness and an educated polity that do not fear and accept other ethnic groups. Tribal elements are very delicate issues and they are being instrumentalized, until this is taken away it will continue to be used by radical politicians. The public should be made aware of the allocation of resources. Problems arise where governments are corrupt, ineptitude is rife and ethnic particularism is present in the distribution of jobs. The back and forth blame will continue until common ground is found. Tribal and religious leaders should be acknowledged and incorporated in the peace process. We must remember Bashir is still indicted and will use this opportunity to show his human side. The South will not see the economic and financial benefits of the wells until peace is sought. It is not until countries get to balance vulnerability that they see sensibility. The international community should seize this opportunity to help mediate and China should increase its efforts. China has dabbled in the past but it will benefit from seeing a prosperous and stable region. It comes down to a lack of political will. Where you have the political will, you don’t have the commitment.


Global Policy Analysis: Mohamed Osman Jawari, a former labor minister for the Somali government, was recently voted as the speaker of parliament. This is seen as an initial step towards Somalia establishing a government and a state. In real terms, the government controls six (6) districts of Mogadishu (roughly 38%) and is protected by 7,000 African Union peacekeepers from two competing rebel factions. In the context of Africa, Somalia is an extreme case. Do you think these elections will initiate change and propel Somalia towards the establishment of a government, which could potentially stabilize the horn of Africa?

IROBI: It’s worth noting that the deputies were selected by tribal leaders and not democratically elected. There is no semblance of peace in the country. One positive aspect is that the United Nations and the African Union have provided security inside Mogadishu for small businesses to operate. The deputies must discuss the future of Somalia. What will Somalia look like in 10 years? Can Somalia eradicate Al-Shabab? Will the Somali government only control Mogadishu? These questions are vital to the future of the country. We must not forget that Al-Shabab has their interests. Until we see moderate Al-Shabab representatives open to discussion there will be no peace. We must also question whether Somaliland has been incorporated as it is vital that all stakeholders are round the table. If not, security will not be enforced and the diaspora will not return. Tribes need to share resources, denounce terrorism, respect human rights and the rule of law. Only through addressing these areas will Somalia head towards democratic development.

Michael Stapleton