By Ngagne Diouf
“Climate change makes military operations very difficult because the number of troops we need to deploy in terrorist-infested areas is massive including equipment,” the retired Brigadier General of the Nigerian Armed Forces Saleh Bala told APA on the sidelines of the 4th Africa Security Forum held in Rabat on 1-3 December.
The former Chief of Staff of the Nigerian Army Infantry reckoned that fighting terrorism in desert regions is very complex given that it’s difficult to deploy all the logistics required for combat readiness in such zones.
“It’s not like fighting in the forest where you have cover”, he said, stressing that environmental degradation is very detrimental to the subsistence of communities and conducive to triggering internal and transnational conflicts.
“The more resources are depleted, the more existential needs of human beings are aggravated and so is the competition for scarce resources,” Brigadier General Bala said, acknowledging the threats induced by climate change.
If no urgent action is taken to mitigate the impacts of climate change, “Africa will be immersed in inter-state and multi-state conflicts over water and land resources, population explosion and higher energy demand” he warned.
Among the actions, he mentioned the completion of The Great Green Wall Initiative with a $4 billion funding to regenerate vegetation as a barrier to desert encroachment and building resilient communities across the entire Sahel belt.
Another idea is the recharging of the decreasing Lake Chad Basin worth $50 billion as the regional countries and the beneficiaries of its tributaries and drainages are at present all mired in conflict, as well as suffering different types of environment degradation (DR Congo, Cameroon, South Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Libya).
However, the Nigerian who is also the President at White Ink Institute for Strategy Education and Research (WISER) advised that The Great Green Wall and Charging the Lake Chad cannot be successful if the terrorist threats are not defeated and destroyed, and the environment sanitized and stabilized.
Engaging the military to find the solution
As the Chief Executive Officer of White Ink Consult which is a private defense and security research, strategic communication and training consultancy firm, Brig Gen Bala said that although the military is an instrument of war, it is adaptable for peace and development.
“Counterinsurgency or counterterrorism operations must go hand-in-hand with post-conflict stabilization operations” he said.
The use of military forces for projects is cheaper, delivery effective and unimpeded by danger within project environment.
As successful African examples of using military engineering, the senior army officer mentioned the efforts of Senegalese troops in advancing the GGW and The Gambia’s prospect toward deploying its soldiers for agriculture.
However, policymakers must also always remember that the military instrument is a double-edged sword applicable to construction or destruction.
“Military must be deployed with much caution and due political control and diplomatic coordination least its evolves to protracting the situation, especially where pillaging or poaching of resources is involved,” he warned.
Illicit trade fuels terrorism
Poor national and regional border security governance regimes against the reality of extreme poverty, social and economic injustice, state violence and over-regulation has exacerbated rates of transnational crimes.
Facing such situation, insurgent groups either in the Sahel or in Central Africa take advantage of such border fragility, through criminal actions (oil theft, wildlife poaching, charcoal abuse).
Accordingly, Philip Morris International Vice-President for illicit trade prevention Alvise Giustiniani recommended better monitoring of transnational borders.
“Most terrorist groups fund their operations by illegal trade and smuggling to buy weapons and recruit youths,” he told APA on the margins of the 2019 Rabat Africa Security Forum,
The forum was themed on “The impact of climate change on security in Africa”.
He further stressed the need for better monitoring of monetary flows and counterfeit goods through close international collaboration and training.
According to him cybersecurity is a reality, particularly when terrorists use this instrument to hone their strategies for a larger transnational illicit trade.