19th Century Hausa & Fulani Jihadi’s inspire Boko Haram

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim cleric and Wahhabi theologian who created a school promoting radical Islamic principles (United States Institute of Peace, 2012). The derivation of Boko Haram translated means “Western education is a sin” (Owolade, 2014). 

Under Yusuf’s leadership, Boko Haram furthered its radical agenda with a bloody campaign of violence against rural communities. (Ndege & Essa, 2013). After Yusuf died in police custody in 2009, Abubakar Shekau rose to power and continued to spread the sect’s extremist philosophies. (Dorrell, 2014).


Violence increased after the 2010 election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian (Owolade, 2014). The Boko Haram sect waged war against the presiding political leadership and sought to create a “pure Islamic state ruled by strict shari’a law” (United States Institute of Peace, 2012).

Pre-colonial Nigeria

In the early 1800s, a jihad, demanding Islamic principles and opposing political oppression by Hausa rulers, was joined by both Hausa Muslims and Fulani soldiers. Following the success of the jihad, the Fulani and Hausa replaced the ruling dynasty and the “emirate system” was created. The assimilation of culture and tradition proved to be influential in shaping the Islamic identity of Hausaland during the colonial period and continuing to present day in Northern Nigeria (Turaki, 1993).

Colonial Nigeria

During the late 19th century, both the British and the French sought to extend their empires to Hausaland. By the early 20th century, the British controlled Nigeria and divided the state into northern and southern Nigeria; a short while later, both protectorates were combined to form the Protectorate of Nigeria (Bah, 2005). The southern region was eventually occupied by Christian missionaries at the behest of the British and remains predominately Christian today (Chidi, 2003).

Post-Independence Nigeria

Since Nigerian independence in 1960, clashes between the northerners and southerners have persisted. The ongoing tension between the predominately Muslim North and the predominately Christian South has fostered a growth in extremist sects like Boko Haram that have adopted radical ideologies rejecting Western culture and education. Boko Haram’s attacks against Christian institutions and local Nigerian authorities has garnered international attention and the sect is acknowledged to be an international terrorist threat (BBC News, 2014) with alleged if tenuous links to IS.

Dismantling BH is an International Imperative

In the wake of the recent large scale kidnappings, the Nigerian government has been forced to take action against Boko Haram. It is unclear as to the progress, if any, the security forces have made in apprehending members of Boko Haram. Most independent communication sources have been disconnected but authorities report that they are succeeding in their fight against the extremist sect (Ndege & Essa, 2013).

Presently, securing the release or achieving the rescue of large numbers of innocent kidnapped children and reducing future extremist violence lies solely within the current Nigerian government’s remit as they have resisted external offers of help, save for sending (allegedly) 1500 military personnel abroad for counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist training. The need to dismantle Boko Haram and impose severe opposition to their terrorist agenda is an international imperative which is currently not being facilitated by the Nigerian incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

References

Bah, A. (2005) Breakdown and Reconstitution, Democracy, the Nation-State, and Ethnicity in Nigeria. Lanham: Lexington Books.

BBC News. (2014) Nigeria: Boko Haram now major threat says Wole Soyinka. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27264748 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

BBC News (2014) More Nigerian girls abducted by suspected militants. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27289924 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Chidi, I. (2003) Nigeria’s Religious and Cultural Conflict. [Online] Available from: http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297a/Nigeria’s%20Religious%20and%20Cultural%20Conflict.doc [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Ndege, Y. and Essa, A. (2013) The rise of Nigeria’s Boko Haram: An in-depth look at the shadowy group as violence continues to wrack the West African country’s northeast. [Online] Available from: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/09/201397155225146644.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Dorrell, O. (2014) Boko Haram: Facts, History, Leaders, And Origins Of The Terrorist Group. [Online] Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/boko-haram-facts-history_n_5295563.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Ochonu, M. (2008) Colonialism within Colonialism: The Hausa-Caliphate Imaginary and the British Colonial Administration of the Nigerian Middle Belt. [Online] Available from: http://asq.africa.ufl.edu/ochonu_fall08/ [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Owolade, F. (2014) Boko Haram: How a Militant Islamist Group Emerged in Nigeria. [Online] Available from: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4232/boko-haram-nigeria#_ftn14 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Tertsakian, C. (2004) Political Shari’a? Human Rights Watch 16(9A), 9.

Turaki, Y. (1993) The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical Analysis of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Nigeria. Nigeria: Challenge Press.

United States Institute of Peace (2012) “Special Report: What is Boko Haram?” United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available from http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR308.pdf [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Thailand’s coup – a serious threat to stability in Myanmar and Cambodia

In late May 2014 the Thai military seized power in a widely anticipated coup by the hawks who have been hinting at same for some time now. This is the twelfth coup in Thailand since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932 (BBC, 2014) and the army justified their intervention on this occasion for the need to stabilize the volatile political situation.

Thailand has been in turmoil during recent years and the already tense situation – where two sides kept rallying against or for the government – began to escalate in November 2013 when MPs approved a controversial bill which would help former Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra avoid prison on corruption charges. The situation worsened in May 2014 when the Constitutional Court removed PM Yingluck Shinawatra from power. (BBC, 2014)

Thaksin Shinawatra & Yingluck Shinawatra
Shortly afterwards, the army stepped in and started clamping down on intellectuals and opposition, limited the freedom of speech and imposed a curfew. Western leaders criticized the coup and are closely watching what impact the situation will have on the South-East Asian region. Of particular interest is the impact on the Kingdom of Cambodia which is struggling with an influx of its citizens from Thailand, and on Myanmar, itself a former military regime. Can these emerging democracies and key players in the “sphere of influence” stand-off between China and the USA in the region, withstand the Thai crisis?

Struggling Thailand

Leader of the Thai coup, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced in late June that Thailand will not have free elections until October 2015. The reason why was given as “We want to see an election that will take place under the new constitution… Today, if we go ahead and hold a general election, it will lead to a situation that will return to the old cycle of conflict, violence, corruption by influential groups in politics, terrorism and the use of war weapons.” (BBC, 2014)


General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Thailand is divided internally and its economy has been struggling with slowing growth and outflows of capital (The Irrawaddy, 2014). Prior to the current political unrest, there was a need for Thailand to take action to stay competitive in the Asian market, given the emergence of other countries such as Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines as attractive alternative places to invest. The country, once a symbol of democracy and prosperity in the region, is now in turmoil, its intellectual elite and media live in fear and the political upheavals are impacting Thailand´s neighbors.

Exodus to Cambodia

Cambodia was hit by a huge wave of returnees. Almost 200,000 Cambodian workers in Thailand started moving eastwards once the rumor spread that the Thai junta would clamp down on illegal migrants. This led to a row between the two countries as thousands of desperate Cambodians headed for the border.

Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng blamed the Thai army for the exodus and said it “must be held responsible”. (BBC, 2014) The generals defended themselves and issued a statement saying that only illegals would be targeted. The issue is not helping the already tense relations, given the legacy border issues over the area around the Preah Vihear temple in the Dangrek Mountains which led to riots and armed conflict in 2003.


Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng

The fragile Cambodian democracy and the country’s economic potential are at stake. The return of ex-pat Cambodians may harm the local economy and affect border security in the disputed region.

In addition, Thai intellectuals seeking exile in Cambodia – something unimaginable a few decades ago – and who may plan to organize resistance from there against the junta places Phnom Penh in an “awkward position” (New York Times, 2014).

Economic Windfall for Myanmar

In Myanmar the government is struggling to come to terms with events in Bangkok. Myanmar which only a few years ago was home to a ruthless regime is a delicate balance of democratic aspirations assisted by foreign direct investment by China and the USA in particular in an attempt to nurture and preserve the new political climate. Events in Thailand are familiar to the Burmese in particular dictat’s curtailing the freedom of speech and the regular announcements of names of detained citizens on Thai TV.

And there are fears in Myanmar that the Thai coup will threaten their emerging freedom and destabilize the region. These fears come, interalia, from the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party. “I am sad to learn about the coup, it could give the government an idea,” Win Htein, a MP for NLD said (Bangkok Post, 2014). “The lessons in all this for Myanmar are plain to see. … And for whatever reason, we must not let our guards down,“ Burmese Professor Aung Naing Oo teaching in Thailand warned (ibid).


Professor Aung Naing Oo

But others are not that fearful, government MPs are generally condemning the coup saying that Myanmar – as current ASEAN chairman – will “respond soon” and “see how soon the power goes back to people”. Historically, coups in Thailand and Myanmar / Burma are different, in Thailand the army always gave back the power, while in Burma the coup of 1962 meant decades of tyranny.

Win Htein (right)

The Thai coup is likely to lead to Myanmar competing for foreign direct investments previously ear marked for Thailand before the uncertainty. Myanmar has potential in gas and oil development and investors will prefer projects there if Thailand remains unstable – the additional capital investment in addressing the infrastructural challenges in Myanmar may seem more palatable than an all or nothing bet on Thailand not descending into serious civil unrest.

International Response

Criticism of the coup by Western governments and Australia is not helping Bangkok. (The Irrawaddy, 2014). Elsewhere the response has been muted and benign, most Western governments are focused on events in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.  

In Myanmar politicians are not worried about regional instability. “I am more worried about people sabotaging the peace process (between the government and ethnic groups),” Burmese MP Ye Myint told Bangkok Post. (Bangkok Post, 2014)

In Cambodia, the government is taking as diplomatic a stance as it can, without seeming weak, and hoping that the more sinister predictions regarding the Thai military and their designs on the disputed border regions, are avoided

Sentiment in Thailand is mixed but most is negative “I think there will be problems in this country for a generation or two,” a business owner in Bangkok was quoted as saying “I would like to get out of the country safely,“ he added. (New York Times, 2014)

Is this the end game for Thai democracy, a potential spark to ignite a wider Thai / Cambodian conflict to allow the Thai military divert attention from internal issues or a motivator for similar minds in Myanmar to return that nation to a military administration? Or is it just another intermezzo in the decades of peculiar Thai democracy and South East Asian politics in general.
Sources

BBC NEWS. (2014) Thai army promises elections in October 2015. [Online] Available from:
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

BBC NEWS. (2014) Cambodia ramps up criticism of Thailand´s junta. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27898652
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

BBC NEWS. (2014) Why is Thailand under military rule? [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-25149484
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

BOOT, W. (2014) Thailand´s Coup May Affect Burma´s Oil and Gas Sector. The Irrawaddy [Online] 6th June. Available from: http://www.irrawaddy.org/business/thailands-coup-may-affect-burmas-oil-gas-sector.html [Accessed: 29th September 2014].

CNN (2014) Cambodian migrant workers flee Thailand [Online] Available from: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/18/world/cambodia-thailand-migrants-border/index.html
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

FULLER, T. (2014) In Thailand, growing intolerance for dissent drives many to more authoritarian nations. New York Times. [Online] 6th June. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/world/asia/in-thailand-a-growing-intolerance-for-dissent.html?_r=0 [Accessed: 29th September 2014].

VERBROGGEN, Y (2014) Myanmar stunned by coup, and they should know. Bangkok Post. [Online] 1st June. Available from: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/412921/myanmar-stunned-by-coup-and-they-should-know [Accessed: 29th September 2014].

Libya unchecked – haven & base for extremists to poison the region

In February 2011, English photographer Charlie Waite had just finished a month long assignment across Libya capturing some of the country’s most iconic sites in a peaceful tranquil atmosphere. Less than two days after his departure, civil war had erupted (Kingsley, 2014). Libya has been in a state of violent flux since then, long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi in power since 1969 was killed in October 2011, the National Transitional Council promptly declared Libya to be officially ‘’liberated’’ and on the road to ‘’democracy’’ (BBC, 2014).


June 25th 2014, marked a crucial date in determining the future of the “new” Libya with elections held across the nation. After the historic elections of 2012, which saw over 62% of registered voters electing a secular alliance, Libya has struggled to build upon that excitement and hope, particularly with instability and violence emanating throughout the region (Manfreda, 2012). The country has stagnated over the intervening years, with political uncertainty and rebel violence dominating the agenda.

The Specter of Al-Qaeda & IS

The divide between extreme Islamists and ordinary Libyans has steadily increased inline with the upheaval across the country. Violent clashes are a daily occurrence (Zirulnick, 2014). The situation is by no-means a simple struggle between shades of radical Islam. The specter of Al-Qaeda and IS hovers over the region with growing support for their extremist messages among the disaffected Islamists and others who feel they have been omitted from the ruling process since the fall of Gaddafi (Abiew, 2013).

The appetite for political change in Libya which was empowering in 2012 has failed completely as the 2014 electoral turnout indicated (Fetouri, 2014). In spite of the rhetoric of foreign politicians, chief among those President Obama who described the elections as a ‘’milestone’’, the situation within Libya is far from optimistic (Washington Post, 2014).

A Shift from Democratic Tendencies

The situation in present day Libya is complex on a number of different levels, the facts would appear to indicate a strong shift away from democratic tendencies, yet the reality is something different altogether. Disenchantment and regret at the current situation within Libya is shared by the majority of a population who anticipated an altogether different Libya in 2011. 

Gone is the hope that encapsulated the Arab Spring and in its stead is a sense of betrayal and confusion over the dismal performance of those in power since 2012 (Stephen, 2014). To further outline the depth of disillusionment held by ordinary Libyans, Mustafa Fetouri contends that ‘’The unmistakable reality now is that the world helped us create the mess we live in, but it has long since turned its back on us and gotten busy with other crises elsewhere. In our hour of need, we find no friends to help us heal our country’’ (Fetouri, 2014).


The impact Libya’s allies have had on the situation within the country is one which divides opinion. Interestingly the removal of Gaddafi and the involvement of NATO in his ousting were universally welcomed, but crucially the failure of NATO to provide any lasting legacy or plan in their wake has altered the mind-set of ordinary Libyans. 

Apportioning The Blame

To apportion the blame of the current malaise within the country to outside factors is in itself short-sighted as the major issues within Libya today are dominated by internal factors (Pack, 2013). Analyzing and identifying the problem is just the start of the process, for Libya to emerge into a fully functional democratic nation its leadership must govern in a manner that integrates all sectors of a deeply divided society.

Clashes in Benghazi have dominated the country since 2012, with thousands killed and numerous groups fighting in the name of Libya (Morajea, 2014). The threat of bankruptcy looms increasingly likely as the clashes over oil continue to halt any previous progress made within the economy (Al Jazeera, 2014). 

Essentially Libya is in the midst of a fundamental struggle with its identity. The present situation cannot continue along its current trajectory without a complete failure of the Libyan state according to Mansour O El-Kikhia who opines that urgent action is required to establish a well-functioning government and a country that is both safe and secure (El-Kikhia, 2014).

In-Fighting & International Ambivalence

The future for Libya is deeply uncertain given the present climate that exists. The general public have grown increasingly disenchanted at the turbulence and chaos that has permeated across the nation since 2011. The primary issue that needs to be addressed is re-establishing law and order across the region and unifying the Libyan population behind a well-structured democratic process. 

In the midst of these enormous challenges is the backdrop of internal fighting, budgetary concerns and a lack of assistance from outside partners who promised much but delivered little after the fall of the previous regime. Hope still exists for Libya, but if the situation isn’t acted upon as a matter of urgency, we will soon be referring to Libya as a failed state and a haven for radical Islamists from where to poison the region.

Bibliography

Abiew, N. G.-O. &. F., 2013. Libya, Intervention, and Responsibility: The Dawn of a New Era?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Al Jazeera, 2014. Al Jazeera. [Online]
Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/countingthecost/2014/03/libya-heading-towards-bankruptcy-2014313173334276217.html


BBC, 2014. Libya profile. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13754897


El-Kikhia, M. O., 2014. Al Jazeera. [Online]
Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/libya-tale-two-regions-ship-201431651453444440.html


Fetouri, M., 2014. Almonitor. [Online]
Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/libya-militia-chaos-friends-tripoli-business-state.html#


Fetouri, M., 2014. AlMonitor. [Online]
Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/contents/authors/mustafa-fetouri.html


Kingsley, P., 2014. Libya: The calm before the storm that blew away Gaddafi. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/02/libya-gaddafi-calm-before-storm-photographs


Manfreda, P., 2012. Parliamentary Elections in Libya 2012. [Online]
Available at: http://middleeast.about.com/od/libya/a/Parliamentary-Elections-In-Libya-2012.htm


Morajea, H., 2014. Al Jazeera. [Online]
Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/05/benghazi-clashes-test-libya-new-government-201451865451626982.html


Pack, J., 2013. Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution by Ethan Chorin. The Middle East Journal , 67(2), pp. 319-322.
Reuters, 2013. More than 40 killed in explosion at Libyan arms depot. [Online]
Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/libya/10482490/More-than-40-killed-in-explosion-at-Libyan-arms-depot.html


Stephen, C., 2014. The Guardian. [Online]
Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/25/libya-revolution-democracy-confusion-voters


Washington Post, 2014. Obama: Elections mark ‘milestone’ for Libya. [Online]
Available at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-elections-mark-milestone-for-libya/2014/06/26/d1add3ea-fd43-11e3-beb6-9c0e896dbcd8_story.html


Zirulnick, A., 2014. Rogue Libyan general’s ‘coup’ against Islamists unleashes wave of violence. [Online]
Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/terrorism-security/2014/0605/Rogue-Libyan-general-s-coup-against-Islamists-unleashes-wave-of-violence

Lacking the hard edge – academics alone will always fail in asset recovery efforts

Using academics to locate missing or looted monies from current or post conflict zones makes sense – for part of the problem – namely forensic accounting, unravelling complex financial structures and corporate cloaking mechanisms like trusts and offshore havens. However giving the same academics the responsibility for actioning the recovery strategy informed by this analysis is flawed. They do not possess the dealmaking, “street smarts”, mediation, negotiation, fixer, logistical, operational or in-country savvy to succeed on the ground.

Abdalla Kablan is a case in point. He was chosen to head Libya’s billion-dollar hunt for sovereign wealth hidden around the world by Gaddafi. Kablan is a 30 year old computational finance expert with a PhD degree in Computational Finance from University of Essex, an MSc in Financial Engineering and Knowledge Management from the University of Bradford, UK, and a BSc in Computer Systems Engineering from the University of Malta, based in Malta. He was asked by Ali Zeidan (Libyan PM 2012-2014) to lead an official, government campaign to track down and recover billions in cash stashed away through vehicles like the Libyan Investment Authority.


He decided that a central, government-mandated authority had to deal with government authorities and financial institutions. Kablan gave a presentation of how a central authority could employ computer science and quantitative mathematics to track down financial investments and the life cycle of capital. In Kablan, the Libyans had a desk based expert who could handle the computational forensics, data mining, and asset identification. 

He became part of the newly formed Tracing & Asset-Recovery Support Bureau (TARSB). His plan was to establish links with international organisations, Interpol, and the UN-World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). StAR’s most important role is fostering ties between countries seeking looted money and those sitting on it. There were similar models that could be examined, Great Britain had formed task forces to work with Egypt and the United States’ Department of Justice had the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section already provided legal and policy assistance to foreign governments. 

Kablan also proposed to link up with Libya’s own institutions, Private Banks, the Central Bank, and the Libyan investment entities, to be able to check data, transfers and investments. TARSB started data mining online resources, using artificial intelligence and heuristics to profile unstructured data for clues.


Progress was glacial. Kablan says he was frustrated by the inability to actually turn the TARSB into a central authority. Malta was ready to transfer €100 million in Libyan funds but they had concerns about the source of the request to re-patriate the monies. According to Kablan, Malta was keeping the Libyan people’s interests at heart by not just “dishing it out to anyone.” Bloomberg then alleged that Malta was being reticent in giving the money back in an “exposé” on Libya’s asset recovery efforts that made serious allegations about Kablan and Malta.

In ‘How Libya Blew Billions and Its Best Chance at Democracy’, Bloomberg claimed Gaddafi’s son Mutassim had €100 million in Maltese accounts, and suggested that the country was being difficult in letting the cash go. It then alleged that Kablan was only picked by Zeidan for being the son-in-law of foreign minister Mohammed Abdelaziz – but Kablan is not even married, nor is he dating Abdelaziz’s daughter. The article also alleged that he had worked for Exante, a finance firm in Malta that also acts as a broker for Bitcoin, “the virtual currency favored by drug dealers and money launderers.” 


Zeidan wanted to appoint an independent person of integrity with proven technical competence to help Libya recover its money. When Zeidan set up the TARSB in August 2013 to hunt down the assets held by Libya’s sovereign funds, such as the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and LAFICO, cooperation was already underway with Interpol, the World Bank, France and Britain, and the United States’ attorney general. Eventually the TARSB was besieged by internal politics: the LIA was intent on recovering the hidden assets itself, while another unit called the Asset Recovery Committee (ARC) appointed by former prime minister Abdul Rahim Al Keeb, sought the sole mandate to recover assets.


Eventually, Kablan was the victim of an abduction attempt in Tripoli. He received threats, was unable to move freely, was poorly equipped to deal with the hostile realities of the “street” as he took the desk based research out into the world to initiate the recovery plan informed by the academic research. He resigned his post, left Libya and will not return. 


Kablan was unable to take the academic theory and put it into practice. He and his team lacked the core skills to action their plan and manage personal and organizational risk while doing so. He was a soft target and those that did not want his work to continue did not need to exert much pressure, relatively speaking, to prompt him to abandon his mission. 

In Kablan and the TARSB, Libya possessed one part of a two part solution – the toothless part. Firms like TMG Corporate Services who can probe the clues and implement the strategy developed by academics like Kablan and his team are the hard edge that Libya did not possess in this spectacularly unsuccessful effort to identify and repatriate stolen assets.