|West Africa's al-Qaida clones are neither religious nor political. The world is facing viral mutations of the human psyche – Wole Soyinka|
My mind, frankly, was on anything but peace as I entered the United Nations conference hall to participate in a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence event. On that same day – 21 September 2012 – yet another UN resolution had been released on the crisis in Mali. I felt overwhelmed by the ponderousness of the UN machine. That the UN, in association with African political leaders, recognised the danger posed by fundamentalist aggression to the Sahel and west Africa was not in doubt. The sense of urgency, however, lagged so far behind my own that it was a marvel I did not invade the conference hall with a banner, screaming: TAKE BACK MALI – YESTERDAY!
The security council had already set out a "roadmap" for a west African force of intervention in the Sahel – it required the secretary general to report back on "progress" a few months later. This, it struck me, was an instruction not to the secretary general, but to the fundamentalist invaders to report to the world on the progress they would have made in destroying the ancient libraries of Timbuktu; amputating the arms of a few more Malians; and stoning to death deviationists from their "moral code".
It was an invitation to Ansar Dine's allies Boko Haram to nudge a few more terminators into Nigeria; demolish a few more educational, cultural and religious institutions; eliminate what was left of the UN presence after its bomb attack on the UN HQ in Abuja; and continue its project of unleashing death and destruction in southern Nigeria.
Before the conference, I had button-holed senior Nigerian officials at every opportunity. None needed any persuasion about the danger to west Africa if the fundamentalist menace were not contained, rapidly. President Jonathan himself, I was assured, was sensitive to the ramifications of Mali's northern takeover. So were a number of African heads of state. What was lacking was the practical preparedness for action. To any student of the fundamentalist temperament, this imperative of urgent response should be second nature. Africa's political leadership should be in a state of permanent consciousness – and responsiveness. We are not novices, after all, to the ruthless nature of fundamentalist insurgency, its territorial desperation and, above all, its contempt for humanity.