The state powers of North Africa and the Middle East overtly routed, the process of destabilization in Nigeria and some other Africa South of Sahara countries moved a little away from the radar screen. But the recent events taking place in the most populated country of Africa make themselves be viewed against the backdrop of the «Arab spring», or «Arab leprosy» to be more precise.
Let’s remember that the situation in Nigeria has started to worsen in recent months because of terror acts committed by Islamic organizations. The Boco Haram, that had been engaged in low intensity terror activities before, intensified its actions by the end of 2010 when the death toll was 700 in just one week. It’s the territorial scope that strikes imagination, the activities are spread in a number of states simultaneously (including big ones like Borno, Yobe, Kano etc). According to the government estimates the Boco Haram is 500 thousands members strong. The next surge of terror came on the eve of Christmas 2011, a number of Christian churches were exploded and few hundred people lost lives.
On January 2012 new explosions shook one of Kano’s big cities, leaving 200 thousand dead (1). A few churches were destroyed in blasts again. All this provoked mass protests of Christians, some of them lost lives then. The new Boco Haram’s terror wave was not limited by attacks on common people of Christian faith but on government agencies as well. On February 27 2012 government buildings were attacked, especially police stations (2). It’s worth to remember the mass strikes and protests caused by petrol prices hikes that lasted a few weeks at the beginning of 2012. Their very scale and the fact that (unlike in other strikes of the kind) oil industry workers took part – it all goes to show Nigeria is balancing on the razor’s edge. A look at statistics will help to understand the causes of the destabilization process in the country. The Federal Republic of Nigeria is one of the world’s most populous countries, its population is over 150 million people (the eighth place in the world). Back in 1963 the population was only 35 million. (3) That makes it the country boasting the most rapid population growth in the world. The working force is estimated to be 50 million. (4) Nigeria has more than 250 ethnic groups. . Its main mineral wealth includes oil, natural gas, tin, iron ore, coal, led, zinc, niobium. (5) The oil proven reserves exceed 37 billion barrels, gas – over 5 trillion cubic meters, that makes it the second oil producer in Africa after Libya (6) and the seventh largest gas producer in the world. The USA is the main consumer of the Nigerian exports. China is the major source of imports. The USA is the second importer significantly lagging behind (with only 8% of the Nigerian imports). Nigeria is a leading nation among Chinese investments receivers. The railroad construction from Nigeria’s inner areas to the Atlantic shore is the largest foreign project of China. (7) At present there are over a thousand of Chinese enterprises in Nigeria. (8) The bilateral trade between China and Nigeria has grown about ten times since 1998. (9) Totally Beijing has invested no less than $12 billion in the country. It’s important to note the Nigerian authorities refuse the «market reforms» that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) insists on.
Talking about the China’s African policy it should be noted that for the first time China became Africa’s number one partner in general terms in 2009 leaving the USA and Europe behind. The tendency is confirmed by imagination striking tempos: only the first half of 2011 the China’s trade with Africa grew by 65% up to $ 61,2 billion. (10) But the main thing is that China causes a change of relations between Africa and the International Monetary Fund. Why should African states deal with the IMF that puts forward such tough conditions, including (and first of all) political ones when China offers the same credits on much more advantageous terms? Without China Nigeria wouldn’t dare to say no to the IMF «economic reforms» demands.
The «Western democracy» behavior in Nigeria is illustrated by the special operation to fully change the government that was conducted on July 7 1998. It was done in a demonstrative way to leave no doubts who was the master of the house. That day was marked by an abrupt death of then acting president Sani Abacha and president elect Moshood Abiola. Abach died home while M. Abiola passed away behind bars. A little detail: he died meeting US ambassador T. Pickering who was paying «a friendly visit». (11)
The intensification of the Boco Haram, the very scale of the new wave of terrorist operations in Nigeria, the coordination of activities in different parts of the country – it all gives evidence to the fact that the organization has received new arms and funds. It’s not accidentally that the Russian UN Ambassador paid special attention at the just held UN Security Council’s session to the problem of weapons proliferation in the continent coming from Libya and its relation to terrorism. He noted that shoulder fired air defense missiles and grenade launchers posed a special threat for civil aviation. (12) The Russian envoy said there was a direct connection between Libyan arms leakages and the intensification of the Boco Haram’s activities.
No matter the formal China’s African policy is based on the principle of «sincerity, friendship and equality» (13), one cannot but see that in real life it’s the purposeful policy aimed at getting all sources of raw materials under the China’s control. (14) Sometimes it’s masterly played out by the West to instigate hatred towards the Chinese among the Africans. It’s worth to note that a new pirate scandal, that has just happened, is escalating – this time it took place in the Gulf of Guinea (that is near the Nigerian shore). It was not just a seizure of a ship, this time the Chinese ship’s captain was killed.
Actually there is nothing surprising about the fact that the «Arab spring» started to stream down to the South. For instance Sudan, the country that has suffered so much, also happens to be one of major China’s partners in Africa due to some «occasional circumstances». Today China buys over two thirds of oil produced in Sudan. It goes contrary to what the USA has been trying to achieve during the last twenty years making the country suffer because of sanctions, financial flows going to terrorists and insurgents (Darfur), international criminal investigations against the country’s top officials and direct armed intervention. It’s the sanctions that have allowed China to achieve a monopoly position in the Sudan’s oil market. Still Sudan was ruined when the southern part of the country was cut off and a new state appeared. The South was the richest in oil and other natural resources part of the country, that once was one.
The instability expanded to the territory of the Republic of Mali since the middle of January. The clashes between illegal armed formations of the separatist movement called the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azavada (NDOA) and government forces sparked in the North and North-East of the country. The interconnection between the NDOA and the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb is a matter of special concern. (15) The clashes started in the areas populated by the Tuaregs who came to help the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya forces in due time.
Today Nigeria entered the period of time when the Islamists start to conduct thoroughly planned and extremely complicated terrorist operations. The actions are coordinated with precision to the nearest minute. They have started to attack government bodies of power. The African continent has been subject to the permanent aggression on the part of the West during the last three hundred years. It’s only the ways to do it that change. Real internal contradictions on the one hand should be clearly differentiated from the use of these contradictions by outside forces in their interests on the other hand. Today Nigeria has entered the period of abruptly intensified efforts of outside forces to turn the country’s internal contradictions to their own advantage. The same thing threatens other countries, first of all Algiers, Niger and Mali.
Alexander Mezyaev, master of arts in law, associate professor, member of Russian Association of African Studies scholars
(1) Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia N82 dated January 23 2012., // http:// www.mid.ru /brp_4.nsf /newsline /8E65D265764334B84425798E00538595
(2) The events are regularly highlighted in the news section of the Strategic Culture Foundation website. In particular – http://www.fondsk.ru /news/2012/02/28 /boeviki-napali-na-policejskij-uchastok-v-nigerii.html
(3) Reference R.N. Ismagilova, The Peoples of Nigeria , the Institute of Africa, Soviet Academy of Sciences, 1963. p.3.
(4) Reference: The CIA 2009 World Factbook. //All countries and territories of the world// New geographic reference book, CIA, 2009, p.435
(5) Niobium is used for production of aircraft parts, coating of uranium and plutonium heat generating elements, containers for liquid metals, parts of electrolytic capacitors, «hot» accessories of electronic (for radars) and powerful generating lamps, corrosion resistant equipment used in chemical industry. It is also used in cryotrons – computer used superconductivity switches. Niobium is also known for its use in accelerating structures of big andron collider.
(6) At that Libya and Nigeria are far ahead of other Africa’s oil producers, Angola is number three with an output of just 1.8 billion tons; Algiers -1,5, Sudan – 0,9.
(7) Reference T. Deitch., Africa in China’s strategy, Institute of Africa, Russian Academy of Sciences., 2008, p.267
(8) Reference S. Arsanov, Specifics of the Chinese African Policy// Africa in the Changing World Development Paradigm// Documents of Russia’s Africa scholars XII conference (May 24-26 2011), 2011. p.23.
(9) Ref.,: http://www.fondsk.ru/news/2012/01/22/nigeriju-prodolzhajut-gromit-iz-za-ee-sotrudnichestva-s-kitaem.html
(10) More in detail. Chinafication of Africa: New Trends in Old Process by I.V. Andronova// African Studies Annual. 2011, p.72-85.
(11) Thomas Pickering was a US ambassador to Russia (1993-1996). The «friendly» delegation also included Susan Rice – US ambassador to the UN at present.
(12) Reference – verbatim record of UN Security Council’s session on February 21 2012// UN Document S/PV.6717. С.12.
(13) China’s African Policy, Chinese government document, January 12 2006 (refererence I.V Andropova, ibid, p.75).
(14) Reference T. Deitch., China’s companies on African oil markets// Africa in the Changing World Development Paradigm, Documents of Russia’s Africa scholars XII conference (May 24-26 2011), 2011. p.25.
(15) Reference Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia N390 dated February 28 2012// http://www.mid.ru /brp_4.nsf /newsline /9A2A7BED 84E4D0FE 442579B2004D94AE