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African and Regional Issues

Nigeria has been a leading spokesman on African security issues, such as internal and interstate conflicts, foreign intervention, colonialism, and regional defense arrangements. It supported the strengthening of the OAU and the use of diplomacy to resolve intra-African conflicts, and it played an active role in continental security issues. The Nigerian head of state, Lieutenant General Olusegun Obasanjo, and Mali's president, Colonel Moussa Traoré, undertook a mission in 1980 on behalf of the OAU's "committee of wise men" to mediate the Western Sahara dispute. Complaining of Moroccan inflexibility, Nigeria withdrew from the OAU Implementation Committee on Western Sahara and recognized the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 1984. Obasanjo also accused Tanzania of setting "a dangerous precedent of unimaginable consequences" by overturning Idi Amin's regime in Uganda and by starting the conflict between the two countries. Although Nigeria steadfastly opposed foreign interference in Africa, it acknowledged Zaire's right to call on French and Belgian paratroopers during the 1978 crisis in Shaba Province, Zaire. Obasanjo gave qualified endorsement to Soviet and Cuban intervention on Angola because they had been invited "to assist in the liberation struggle and the consolidation of national independence," but he warned that "they should not overstay their welcome."

Nigeria actively participated in OAU discussions on the formation of a pan-African defense force, to be either a peacekeeping force on the UN model for African interstate conflicts or an African high command to defend African states against outside powers and South African aggression. In 1972 Nigeria proposed formation of a joint African military task force to which all OAU members would contribute. It would be stationed in independent states bordering the Portuguese colonies to defend sanctuaries and rear areas of the liberation movements, and defend independent host states from colonialist attacks. In 1981 Nigeria hosted an emergency summit of the southern Africa frontline states that called on all OAU members to extend urgent assistance, especially military aid, to Angola to repel South African forces. The concept of an African high command has not gained widespread support, however. Some African states advocated a mission limited to defense against racist and imperialist threats, but not intra-African conflicts or insurgencies within independent African states. Others argued for a continental military command to deter external attacks, to intervene in domestic disorders to prevent or suppress military coups, and to counter South African forces.

Although Africa lacked a continent-wide collective security system, both informal and formal regional mutual defense arrangements have developed. Nigeria participated in the defense pact of the sixteen-nation ECOWAS, the only regional economic organization with such a collective security arrangement.

ECOWAS was established by a treaty ratified by fifteen states in May 1975--Cape Verde joined in 1977--to promote trade, economic development, and cooperation in West Africa. In 1978 ECOWAS adopted a nonaggression protocol, and in 1981 thirteen of its members signed a mutual defense pact providing for collective military response against attack from non-ECOWAS countries, mediation and peacekeeping missions in the event of armed conflict between member states, and defense against external states that initiate or support insurgencies within member states. It also provided for a Defence Council, a Defence Commission, and joint exercises, but no standing regional force or command structure. ECOWAS has been successful in mediating disputes between member states, particularly in attempting to resolve the civil war in Liberia. An ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) comprising about 8,000 troops led by Nigeria was dispatched to Liberia in August 1990. It succeeded in implementing a cease-fire agreement between the main rival factions and in appointing an interim president.

In this loosely structured defense system, only Nigeria's armed forces had the size, experience, equipment, and logistical resources to provide or serve as the core of an ECOWAS rapid deployment force. On the other hand, ECOWAS members were wary of Nigeria's aspirations to regional dominance. Many francophone states had long-standing military aid and security agreements with France, and seven of them were already parties to the nonaggression and mutual defense pact of the francophone West African Economic Community (Communauté Économique de l'Afrique de l'Ouest--CEAO). Moreover, many ECOWAS members, including Nigeria, had found bilateral and less formal means to pursue their regional security objectives, sometimes under the auspices of ECOWAS. For example, Nigeria and Guinea were mandated in 1986 to mediate between Liberia and Sierra Leone after Liberia closed its border in the wake of a coup attempt allegedly launched from Sierra Leone. In mid-1990 Babangida also offered to mediate Liberia's civil war within the ECOWAS framework, but at the same time Nigeria was reportedly arming the armed forces of Liberia that supported President Samuel K. Doe (killed in September 1990) against the rebels. Although Nigeria's creation of a rapid deployment force during 1988-89 suggested its intent to rely on unilateral means to intervene in regional crises, it did not rule out participation in multilateral deployments (see Army , this ch.). Indeed, the history of Nigeria's participation in international peacekeeping missions was second to none among African states.

In the late 1980s, ECOWAS became the focus of regional efforts to deal with emerging environmental and security threats posed by toxic waste, international smuggling, and narcotics trafficking. Two incidents affecting Nigeria attracted international attention. In May 1988, after an Italian ship dumped toxic industrial waste at the port of Koko in Bendel State, Nigerian authorities evacuated the local population and seized the ship until the waste was removed by the Italian government. In October 1989, Nigeria ordered out of its territorial waters a Greek ship allegedly carrying frozen meat contaminated by nuclear fallout from Chernobyl, Soviet Union. At the eleventh ECOWAS summit in June 1988, chaired by Babangida, members agreed to make the dumping of toxic and nuclear waste in the region a criminal offense and approved a Nigerian plan to set up a "dump watch" alert and information-sharing system. Babangida also urged ECOWAS members to set up mechanisms to counter smuggling.

Nigeria's most significant regional deployments were its intercession in the complex Chadian and Liberian civil wars, experiences fraught with lessons for future African peacekeeping missions. In 1979 it mediated between rival Chadian factions and Libya at two conferences in Kano and sent an 850-member peacekeeping force to N'Djamena to police the cease-fire. However, within three months Nigeria was asked to evacuate after a dispute about compliance with Chadian government orders. Nigeria hosted a summit in August 1980 at which all eleven rival Chadian groups entered into the Lagos Accord on National Reconciliation in Chad. Conditions continued to deteriorate, however, as Libyan intervention persisted and as French troops pulled out. A summit of four African presidents in May 1981 failed to find a formula for Libyan withdrawal and for introduction of an African peacekeeping force. France urged Nigeria and friendly francophone states to constitute an OAU- sponsored joint force having logistical support from France.

In November 1981, six African states--Nigeria, Senegal, Zaire, Benin, Togo, and Guinea--pledged to form a joint 6,000- member force under a Nigerian commander. Financial constraints prevented half of them from meeting their commitments, and only Senegal, Zaire, and Nigeria provided troops for this second Chadian operation. Lagos had to bear most of the burden, including provision of three of the five army units, and the airlift and logistical units the others failed to provide. Worse still, the mission itself failed. The OAU's inability to affect internal Chadian politics, the delayed deployment of the ill- equipped force, and its limited, uncertain mandate left Nigeria dangerously exposed on a US$100 million mission in deteriorating military conditions. Habré's forces entered the capital victoriously in June 1982. This episode undermined military and popular confidence in the government of Shagari, contributing to its downfall. Although stung by this experience, Nigeria continued to pursue its security interests in Chad by active diplomacy, including mediation between Chad and Libya.

In the case of Liberia, when the seven-nation ECOWAS mediation committee failed to end the three-way civil war, ECOWAS decided to send a peacekeeping force in August 1990. Five nations contributed to the 7,000-member force, dubbed the ECOWAS Cease- fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). Nigeria's 5,000 troops, logistical support, and naval and air force units provided the bulk of this multinational effort. Thousands of Nigerians were evacuated from the war-torn country, but ECOMOG's mission as a neutral peacekeeping force was soon compromised. Nigerian units became embroiled in the conflict, which spilled over into Sierra Leone, staging point for the ECOMOG operation. At least 500 fresh Nigerian troops were then deployed to Sierra Leone to defend the supply lines and assist the Sierra Leone army in fending off Liberian rebel incursions.

Nigeria has been in the vanguard of African support for the liberation of southern Africa and defense of the frontline states. It was one of the most consistent and generous providers of political, financial, and material assistance to the Namibian liberation movement, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), including substantial support to help organize pre- independence elections. Nigeria donated several million dollars' worth of military and financial aid to the African National Congress in its struggle against South Africa's apartheid regime. Nigeria also sent military equipment to Mozambique, which was attempting to suppress South African-backed Resistência Nacional Moçambicana (Renamo) guerrillas.

Data as of June 1991

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