Niger Republic: A vote for Diplomacy over War

Abraham Ariyo, M.D.

Mark my words; there will be no major war in the Niger Republic. Diplomacy should prevail.

Given the recent spade of young military leaders voraciously and mindlessly ceasing power in several West African countries, many of them as young as 35 years old, it stands to reason that Africa has the unfortunate anomaly of being ruled by uneducated, selfish, ignorant, and uninformed military officers who primarily by accident find themselves in the corridor of power with no sense or understanding of history.

The Niger Republic occupies a strategic location in Africa – by directly sharing boundaries with seven countries; Algeria, Libya, Chad, Nigeria, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, and Mali. Therefore, the world’s superpower, the USA, with an established military in Niger, is not going anywhere, considering its military base is a comprehensive military center capable of handling any human fight on earth. In addition, France, another mighty Nation on its own, also is going nowhere. It may temporarily retrieve its civilian citizen as its doing right now. It has a significant military base in the Niger Republic too. Remember, just because of its location, from these military bases, they could have efficacious and quick access to mobilize rapid military actions in many countries with any of their forces from this location.

So, comparing Niger’s military to USA or France’s military might be equivalent to comparing a complete U.S. Marine or sniper loaded with heavy rifles coming to a one-on-one battleground to find out his opponent, a Nigerien, is a one-legged, half-blind fighter with a homemade pocket knife. It’s not even close.

Further, the military intelligence gap between the Niger and USA teams is like the difference between night and day. I am sure the USA has more intelligence on Niger and Niger’s Presidential Palace, where the coup leader is staying now, than the local intelligence available to the coup leader. However, he may brag that he knows a lot. Knowledge is power. Modern warfare is no longer about how stubborn or determined a military Junta is but how much of his erratic behaviors the superpowers are willing to tolerate and for how long.

Case in point: Manual Noriega. This military man attended the Military School of the Americas and worked closely with the USA. He served in highly classified covert operations as an army conduit to move pieces of equipment, cash, and illicit weapons supplies for American-backed forces all over South America. He was an informant and close confidant of the United States. He had served as one of the most valued officers for the CIA starting from the 50s until he became the Military Leader of Panama in 1983.

Somehow, in 1988, Noriega, a military General and a sitting President of Panama, was indicted by Federal grand juries for money laundering, drug trafficking, and racketeering in Florida, USA.

The following year (1989), U.S. diplomatic efforts to have him resign as President of Panama and be extradited to the USA failed. Noriega beefed up his security and surrounded himself with his best military combatants and elite brigades that provided around-the-clock protection for him at his well-fortified Panama palace.

In 1990, tired of him and unwilling to continue to tolerate his unacceptable behavior, the U.S. decided to go into Panama, NO WAR, but go and arrest Noriega in his Palace with no single shot fired and no single loss of life. To my knowledge, General Noriega is far more knowledgeable and more entrenched in military operations and was surrounded by a more capable military force than the little-known junta in the Niger Republic.

On January 3, 1990, the U.S. carpeted and covered the entire Panama airspace. Nothing moves. The late General Collin Powell, the then Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff of the U.S. military, a decorated Gulf-war hero, paid a last visit to President Manuel Noriega in Panama. General Powell was there to negotiate Noriega’s last chance and to provide a potential escape route for the Panamanian Military Leader.

Once General Powell entered the Palace, the U.S. military forces, the best in the world, for his safety, took charge and quickly surrounded the premises of the Palace with overmatched forces that overwhelmed the Panama counterparts beyond belief. As a Panamanian army officer, it will be apparent to you as a prudent person when you see superior combatants in front of you.

Shortly after the commencement of the dialogue, U.S. warplanes and combat aircraft attackers like F-16 Falcon, Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, F-15 Eagles, F-18 Hornets, and F-22 Raptors moved into the sky. These are the world’s most dangerous and scariest attack combat planes. They were followed by the world’s deadliest bombers, B-52 bombers, notoriously called the Devil’s Angels. They filled the airspace, parading the skies around the Palace like Vultures patiently waiting for their prey.

Mid-way into the discussion, General Powell wanted to let General Noriega know that the ball was in his court and that this was his last chance to surrender to safety. He requested they open the windows so General Noriega could see his surroundings. As the windows opened, Noriega saw the sky filled with military warplanes, amphibious helicopters, and jet fighters. There was nowhere to hide and nowhere to run. He was staring out the windows, watching aerial firepower he had never seen and could not comprehend existed, even as a military General.

He quickly agreed, resigned, signed the agreement, and surrendered. The U.S. immediately handcuffed him before his so-called elite brigade, military Chiefs, and security. They extradited him to Florida, sentenced him to 40 years but served 17 years in the U.S. Federal prison.

In 2010, France tried him in absentia, convicted him of money laundering, and sentenced him to seven years in prison. Thus in 2011, General Noriega was extradited from the USA to France to serve his prison term in France.

The Government of Panama had requested the extradition of President Noriega back to Panama to start serving a 1995 murder conviction in Panama. Although the French authorities initially denied the request and wanted the case against him in court to run its course, the French government later changed its mind. In December 2011, President Noriega was extradited to Panama to begin incarceration for a 60-year prison sentence that had accumulated from charges and multiple convictions in absentia.

He remained incarcerated until 2012, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at Hospital Santo Tomas, but they returned him to his prison cell after the diagnosis. He remained in prison in Panama, where he was once the ruler.

In 2017, they transferred him from his prison cell to the same Hospital for brain tumor surgery. During the surgery, he suffered a brain bleed, and they moved him to the Intensive Care Unit in the postoperative period.

On May 29, 2017, the former President of Panama, General Manuel Noriega, died at age 83.

Abraham Ariyo, M.D.
Dallas, Texas, USA.

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