It would almost be funny were it not so sad.
I come across many people on an almost-daily basis that have travelled from beyond the continent to Africa to witness “first-hand” the problems the continent has. Some are businessmen, some are academics, some are members of NGOs and some are from foreign government PMCs.
Almost to a man (or woman), they become “specialists” in African politics and security-related matters only a few days after having set foot on the continent. They firmly believe that they understand our problems better than we do, they have all the solutions and know exactly how our future will look if only we would listen to them. They question but then immediately disregard the answers they get as it does not match with their perceived reality – which is often totally removed from our reality. It is not uncommon to get a response to an answer to the effect that “No, you are wrong. I read on … (chose your search engine) what your problems are”
Many of these newly-born specialists may be well-meaning in their intentions but their actions often result in fuelling already volatile situations or they grossly miscalculate the diverse and complex environment they have entered. But being specialists, they believe they can solve the problem they themselves created and then make it even worse.
Apart from the many tourists that visit Africa, everyone else has one goal tied to their visit: to make money. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that as we all work to make a profit. However, when they intend to make their money by manipulation, bad advice, acting with little or no integrity, promoting suspicion and even by blatantly lying, my hackles begin to rise. Sadly, some of these charlatans get appointed to serve as “specialist government advisors”. They develop hypothetical solutions to overcome imaginary problems and then implement their “solutions” regardless of reality.
These problems are very prevalent in the intelligence, military and law enforcement areas. Of course they are found in the other sectors as well but as we work in the listed fields, this is where I know I am treading on familiar ground.
As we have numerous ears on the ground as well as many friends across the continent, we regard ourselves as fairly well informed. It is, therefore, not unusual for us to be given advance warning of a potential conflict or problem brewing in or close to a certain country. If we can confirm the information we are given, we warn the targeted government that problems are marching towards their horizon. At times, this intelligence is acted on. On other occasions, this intelligence is discussed with foreign governments who then refute our warnings and claim that we are conducting a disinformation campaign in order to get a contract.
The recent situation in Mali is a good example of intelligence being disregarded and bad advice from “specialists” heeded. Most everyone knows how that panned out. Were it not for the intervention of the French forces, the situation would be vastly different to what it currently is. But that conflict is not over yet.
We have been trying to warn another government of a pending coup but they have been advised by their “advisors” and “specialists” not to talk to us. Numerous other examples exist but I shall refrain from listing them in case the governments we warned are actually seriously considering our warnings.
Many will claim that we warn governments simply to get a contract. I know of several people and/or organisations that have made it their mission to make these claims and try to influence governments not to listen to what we have to say or to discredit us. These individuals and /or organisations are likewise “specialists” on both me and our company. They know more about me than I know about myself. But, truth be told, there is no way we could accept that many contracts from so many governments.
Back to reality: Much of the so-called specialist advice given to African governments is aimed at ensuring conflicts either start or escalate. Peace does not enter the equation although it is bandied about as a buzzword - yet it remains ever elusive. Attention is often diverted from existing problems by creating new problems. Conflict and war implies large profits – and the longer these conflicts continue, the longer the profits roll in. Sometimes these specialists even support both sides engaged in the conflict just to make sure they are covered, regardless the winner.
Many African governments are not masters of their own destiny. Through bad advice, manipulation, economic blackmail and the like, they have become the puppets that jump to their puppet masters’ strings. When they don’t jump at the appropriate time, they are branded as rogue governments. So, to maintain their positions, when asked to jump they then simply ask “How high?”
It can be argued that many African governments are to blame for the situations they find themselves in. Whereas that holds true in some instances, much of what we witness in Africa, especially in the security forces, has come about as a result of bad advice, poor training, incorrect structures, inadequate weapons, irrelevant doctrines and so forth. Co-join this situation to poor statecraft advice and we see what we see…To rectify this, new statecraft and defence approaches are planned and implemented – and fail.
Many of these so-called specialists that visit our shores may come with good intentions. However, given their “vast knowledge” of the continent and their deep “research” on Africa, it is no wonder that such a mess is created. Promises are easily made and then just as easily broken. But then, perhaps this is the aim all along – erode the Pillars of State and create chaos. Out of the chaos will come anger, civil disobedience, racial hatred and tensions, strikes, rebellions, religious intolerance, an increase in transnational crime, a collapse of law and order, distrust towards government agencies, armed conflict and insurgencies – and ultimately, a dysfunctional government or a government teetering on collapse. This creates numerous problems on the security front but also abundant lucrative opportunities on the economic front.
The ultimate result of their “specialist advice” in terms of human suffering boggles the mind.
As I mentioned earlier, it would almost be funny were it were not so sad.