Burundi & Rwanda: rivalry at the heart of Great Lakes crises

André Guichaoua, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

The end of two particularly bloody and dramatic civil wars saw a reversal of the political and ethnic dominance in Rwanda in 1994 and Burundi in 2004. This dominance had come into being at independence.

In Rwanda, the 1959 revolution overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and brought Hutu elites to power. Fifty-five years later, Tutsi refugees who had settled in Uganda led a rebellion and seized power in Kigali. In Burundi, 40 years of “Tutsi military regimes” ended when free multiparty elections resulted in the victory of the most important pro-Hutu movement in the armed rebellion.

Two radically different personalities emerged. Paul Kagame, former chief of intelligence services of the Ugandan rebel National Resistance Army, has become Rwanda’s only master. He managed this by pushing aside or eliminating all his fellow fighters of the 1990s.

Pierre Nkurunziza, on the other hand, never featured among the small circle of “generals” who waged Burundi’s war of liberation. But in the background of the political system of the party he led, the CNDD-FDD, he played a decisive role in keeping military chiefs’ rivalries and ambitions during the civil war under control. He then deftly developed his position of weakness within the CNDD-FDD into an asset. He cultivated the various contenders for leadership.

The rise to power of these two men is having a profound effect on the region, including efforts to end conflicts in the Great Lakes region. Rwanda and Burundi are tiny countries, but have managed to establish themselves as bulwarks to the region’s progress. That they are both run by “strong men” is highly relevant to these developments.

Rwanda’s helping hand

In 2005 Nkurunziza was presented as the presidential candidate by default. He was regarded by the population as approachable and simple. Leaders of neighbouring countries and foreign powers were reassured by his “civilian” profile.

At the same time the authorities in Rwanda were not in favour of former Burundian leader Pierre Buyoya and, by extension, the Burundian Armed Forces. This is primarily because they had refused to support the Rwanda Patriotic Front during the guerrilla war. Rwanda, with the RPF now in power, therefore financed Nkurunziza’s party’s electoral campaign. There were also regular consultations between the two countries’ “generals” on regional security issues such as the Interahamwe and respective opponents.

Rwandan investments in Burundi, already substantive, steadily increased.

For Rwanda, coexistence with a CNDD-FDD majority and a “democratic” Burundi made sense because:

  • the other pro-Hutu guerrilla components were marginalised
  • the new “integrated” army maintained a strict balance between the ex-Burundian armed forces, that had been predominantly Tutsi, and the combatants of the ex-Hutu rebellions, and
  • the economic dependency of a badly managed country impoverished by ten years of war tilted regional trade in Rwanda’s favour and left a clear field for foreign capital and businessmen.

But this marriage of convenience was rocked in October 2013. Relations between the two countries changed profoundly. The fallout was triggered by the defeat of the M23 rebellion, a pro-Rwandan armed group active in eastern Congo. The defeat came at the hands of the South African and Tanzanian contingents of the United Nations stabilisation force. But Rwanda lashed out at Burundi. It accused its neighbour of being a safe haven for combatants whose presence in the Congo had justified Rwanda’s intervention until then.

This accusation weighed heavily on Burundi. It gave rise to sharp tensions that are at the origin of the current political hardening and repression against the opposition.

As friends quickly became foes, a very busy schedule of presidential elections was approaching in the region. Burundi was first followed by Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and DRC. Like several of its neighbours, Burundi was confronted with the constitutional question of renewing an outgoing president’s mandate.

The regional crisis generated by Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term soon began to play out. The immediate crisis appeared at first to justify Rwanda’s decision to keep its distance from a regime that was discrediting itself. Various Burundian opponents were openly received in Rwanda.

But the situation changed dramatically when an attempt by some of the Burundian military high command to oust the president failed. It soon became clear that Nkurunziza would pursue his objective to the very end, whatever the cost.

Rwanda then committed a double mistake – as did a number of western embassies – by assuming that the Burundian crisis could be put down to purely personal ambitions and overestimating opponents’ operational capacities.

The assassination of a general close to Nkurunziza and a failed attempt to kill the army’s chief of staff marked the end of commando operations targeted at the regime’s senior dignitaries. This was followed by a massive and brutal mobilisation of the security forces and the ruling party’s youth organisations.

Competition between two authoritarian regimes

Burundi’s policy of strengthening its repressive apparatus has been increasingly evident. For the chiefs of intelligence and police this has been undertaken with the explicit objective of catching up in the shortest possible time with “Rwandan standards”. The ultimate aim is to ensure the symbiosis of intelligence services, police forces and local militia forces.

But the catching up does not stop there. It also extends to the denial of public freedoms and closure of almost all independent media. It also involves the dissolution of major civil society organisations, proscription of opposition parties and pervasive surveillance of the population.

Kagame now looks certain to remain in power until at least 2034. It also seems inconceivable that the regime in Burundi will be prepared to loosen its hold. It is certainly unlikely to tolerate full expression for its internal opposition, which it denounces as being supported by Rwanda.

The competition between the two authoritarian regimes has become a fact that, given the regional context, is here to last. It justifies the security policies and postpones the expression of democratic forces.

Crisis of authoritarianism

Burundian authorities used force to reinstate the Nkurunziza regime beyond its term, to change the constitution and secure a firm grip on the de facto single party CNDD-FDD. Regressive as it was, this only really aligned Burundi with the common political standards of most countries in the region.

Burundi’s obstinate refusal of any political openness reflects its view that the international community should accord it the same “understanding” extended to other countries in the region. In its view any other approach would amount to interference, intimidation or aggression.

The Great Lakes region has become the theatre of a number of large-scale crises. These range from politico-ethnic conflicts to secessionist movements, civil wars and genocide. There has also been external aggression and interference, foreign occupation and pillaging of mineral resources.

Funding the intervention and peacekeeping forces in the region constitutes one of the UN system’s most costly budget items.

The current turmoil is directly correlated to the system of governance specific to the region’s authoritarian regimes. It includes personalised power, de facto monopoly of representation and refusal of democratic change. Repressive apparatuses are on the rise. These include violent party militia groups and assassination squads, as well as restrictions on personal and political freedoms.

Stalemate

The strategy of increasing tension that both countries pursue today is based on radically uneven strengths. Rwanda has an obvious superiority in the military, diplomatic, political, economic and ideological domains.

The only thing the two heads of state are equal in is their determination to defeat their opponents.

President Kagame looks forward to Burundi’s economic and political collapse. This would enable him to consolidate his ambition of regional hegemony. It would also justify his hold on power as the archetype of a modernising political leader in a military-authoritarian state.

Across the way President Nkurunziza is stalling for time to tighten his control.

In a sense both protagonists have won a double victory. The first is that each has, apparently, succeeded in crushing political resistance and opposition.

The second is that they have imposed their own rivalry as a regional stake by obliging all neighbouring countries (and South Africa) to support – openly or implicitly – the cause of the one or the other. By doing this they have demonstrated that, although they are small countries, they are able to block resolutions to major conflicts in the Great Lakes region.

The Conversation

André Guichaoua, Professeur des universités, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

NOTE: This material is distributed by Scribe Strategies and Advisors on behalf of the Government of Burundi. Additional information is available at the U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.

Tanzania’s refusal to sign EU trade deal gives E. Africa think time

Sekou Toure Otondi, University of Nairobi

Tanzania’s refusal to sign a new trade deal between the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union (EU) has generated anxious reactions. If news reports are to be believed, plans had been made for a signing ceremony to take place during the just-concluded United Nations international conference on trade in Nairobi. In the event, the Kenyan foreign minister said more time would be required to rally all the countries around the trade deal.

While opting out of the joint EU-EAC Economic Partnership Agreement, Tanzania cited the economic and constitutional uncertainties arising from British voters’ decision to leave the EU. Tanzania argued that, with the exit of its core market from the EU, it had little to gain from the partnership agreement negotiations, and that signing up would harm its “national interest”.

As much as Kenya may feel short-changed by Tanzania’s last-minute decision, it is probably an opportunity to get things right. It is important that the EAC member states take time to reflect afresh on the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations so as to come out with a better deal.

The Economic Partnership Agreements are trade pacts between the EU and other regional economic blocs across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). These negotiations are viewed as a build-up from the Cotonou agreement, signed in 2000 as a comprehensive engagement between the EU and the ACP. The aim was mainly to facilitate the integration of the least developed countries across these regions into the global economic network. It was also aimed at promoting regional integration, economic cooperation and good governance.

Once signed and ratified, the Economic Partnership Agreement on goods will provide the EU with free access to the EAC market for its goods in exchange for lowering tariffs on EAC exports to the EU market.

Tanzania’s move was no surprise

Tanzania’s last-minute pull-out did not come as a surprise. It appears it has been a dead weight all along in the negotiation process, which started in 2007. Brexit was merely a scapegoat to quit the negotiations, which its past regimes have approached halfheartedly.

Tanzania historically has been more inclined towards the need to protect its economy, a trend that incumbent President John Magufuli seems unwilling to break away from. The most outspoken opponent of the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations has been Benjamin Mkapa, Tanzania’s former president. Mkapa views the negotiations as potential measures of killing Tanzania’s – and by extension the EAC’s – infant industries.

However, Tanzania’s concerns are legitimate and should be taken into consideration. It’s important to note that the EU-EAC deal is basically primed on trade in goods and not services. EAC exports are mostly primary, unprocessed agricultural products and minerals. The EU, on the other hand, exports highly manufactured products and machinery into the EAC market.

Massive trade imbalance

The disadvantage of this relationship is that EAC exports to the EU are generally of low value. The foreign exchange earned is unlikely to improve the trade imbalance between the two regions, which is currently overwhelmingly in favour of the EU. In the long run the EU exports have the potential to not only undermine the manufacturing industries across the EAC region, but may also lead to the dumping of EU agricultural products in the region.

EAC agricultural products are unlikely to compete favourably given the heavy European government subsidies, coupled with highly modernised European agricultural technology. This could result in untold harm for EAC farmers and the agricultural sector, which is the backbone of EAC member states’ economies. It could also derail the manufacturing industries across the region, which depend on agricultural produce.

The Economic Partnership Agreement sounds like a raw deal for Tanzania and the EAC compared with a China-led industrialisation programme that seeks to establish and nurture agro-processing and mineral industries. In contrast with the Economic Partnership Agreement, the China-brokered industrialisation programme could lead to value addition on EAC exports, making them more competitive.

Nevertheless, the EU remains an important trade partner with EAC member states. This is illustrated by the fact that in the past three years, in spite of the existing trade imbalance still in favour of the EU, the EAC export volume to the EU market has steadily been on the rise. The export trade in goods from the EAC to the EU increased from €2.2 billion in 2013 to €2.3 billion in 2014 and €2.6 billion in 2015.

Impact on future integration efforts

In the short run, Kenya will be the biggest loser if Tanzania makes good its threat not to sign the partnership agreement by October 1, 2016. Unlike its partners in the EAC, Kenya is considered a lower-middle-income country. Without the agreement, Kenyan exports would therefore be subject to at least 25% taxation across the EU market. But exports from other EAC member states would continue enjoying the “Everything But Arms” trade arrangement with the EU.

But in the long run the major detriment due to Tanzania’s action is likely to be the very viability of the EAC integration process. The distrust and inconsistency in the general application of agreed trade rules, norms and other agreements by member states is likely to subvert and derail efforts towards integration. As a single customs union, the EAC should require that all member states negotiate multilateral trade deals as a single bloc.

Tanzania, expected to attain middle-income status by 2025, could also lose in the long run once its nascent manufacturing industries have picked up. As a middle-income nation, it would be required to negotiate new trade deals for its exports to the EU market, just like Kenya.

Tanzania should therefore find a way to balance its current protectionist policies with the interests of its partners. This fosters continued integration and erases the notion that it is overly hell bent on undercutting Kenya’s economic dominance in the region, as some pundits in the region suggest.

Kenya may yet escape punishing tariffs in trade with the EU. A member of the EU delegation to the 14th United Nations Trade and Development Conference in Nairobi suggested new measures to offer Nairobi temporary relief. That gives the EAC member states time to negotiate and agree to a deal as a bloc.

The Conversation

Sekou Toure Otondi, PhD Candidate, Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Q&A: Young African talent will set science agenda

By Onche Odeh

Leszek Borysiewicz, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, has served as chief executive of the UK’s Medical Research Council and deputy director at Imperial College London. In this interview, the biomedical researcher tells SciDev.Net about how Africa needs to fuse local policies with global efforts on scientific collaboration. He says better higher education could help the continent solve many of its problems and maximise its greatest asset — its youth.
What’s required to boost science and technology investment in Africa?
Africa is the continent with the youngest people, one full of opportunities and with an amazing amount of young talents. I am an ardent believer that this talent will drive the science and technology agenda of the future. That is why we need to harvest every opportunity not just for Africa’s benefit, but also for the benefit of the whole world. These young people are going to make a lot of contributions that’ll help all of us.
But these young talents often struggle to access education. How can the continent deal with this?

This is why you have to action things in parallel, not in series. Africa can’t afford to wait for a primary education or secondary education initiative to bear fruit, because the rest of the world is moving forward quickly. The continent needs to engage the excellent, high-quality talents in the tertiary education centres and the universities to turn them into scientific leaders in their own domains. So, you can’t just do primary or secondary education. You must also do tertiary education.You must create an environment where economic growth can result from science and technology. This is a very complex and difficult issue, but there is a real opportunity to be able to do that, especially in some of the wealthiest African states.

 

Many African nations are struggling to come up with the money for higher education. What kind of encouragements can you offer political leaders?

The only way you are going to get real success here is to take the brightest and best that you’ve got and give them the opportunity to really succeed. In science and technology — and particularly that driving at economic development — it is a game of winners. That means a country must back its 100 best young students and actually ensure that the facilities are provided for them in-country.

 

Within that there is a real risk. You have got to take some of your budget and risk that budget in high stakes. The rest needs to go towards the technical know-how required to sustain economic growth. This is much more open to central strategies and direction. And then you need to have a third pot of investment, which is providing education that supports young people and improves their livelihoods.

 

What role do you envision for universities in this?
The key word is autonomy. Universities should be allowed to choose who they educate, how they educate and the subjects they deem important. That doesn’t mean there should not be points of discussions. But it is a game of trust. It is a very big challenge because, of course, voters will want to know what is being delivered for their money. It’s a huge investment people have to commit to. This is where courage is needed from policymakers and scientists because they are taking decisions which may prove to be unpopular. My anxiety is that, if those investments are not made today, the continent will continue to fall behind, because the scale of investment is not as high as is theoretically possible.
Do you think Africa can produce the next Einstein?
Einstein was a brilliant scientist, but he was a loner. He did not work with teams. Modern science requires large-scale teams. What I want is the confidence of African scientists to engage in global collaboration. In my own field of biomedicine, in cases where leadership is very much with the African investigators, they now participate, showing leadership in their domains and tackling global challenges such as HIV and many other conditions. I would like to see that extended to mathematics, into physics, into Africa space programmes. With that confidence in them, when they go back to their own institutions, they will try to play a part in other international consortia. Africa has got to be part of solutions and play its part.
Thinking inwards, are African entrepreneurs responding to African needs?
When I am challenged in Cambridge University about entrepreneurship, I always refer the questioner back to my experiences in the high streets of Kampala. This is where you see entrepreneurship. Every single time somebody sells or buys something there is an opportunity. There are various individuals dealing with decisions. And that is vital for local economies as local know-how is created.
But the real paradigm shift happens when innovation and research go hand-in-hand. This needs to be widespread because these opportunities can create wealth over and above just the local environment. For that, one of the key issues is the protection of people’s intellectual properties to ensure that they can operate effectively within the global setting. Here I think the African Union has a lot of work to do by ensuring that the entrepreneurs are appropriately protected. Only then can we begin to enjoy the products of their innovations both in-country and on the global scene.
Q&As are edited for length and clarity.

 

This article was originally published on SciDev.Net. Read the original article.

Modi’s razzmatazz diplomacy isn’t serving African interests

Vineet Thakur, University of Johannesburg and Alexander E. Davis, University of Johannesburg

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded his five-day, four-nation tour of Africa on July 11. He spent two days in South Africa and made brief visits to Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya.

As he left Nairobi at the end of the tour, Modi had covered 42 countries in his 51 trips abroad. Antarctica is now the only continent he has not visited in his two years in office.

Constantly referencing Mahatma Gandhi and donning “Madiba shirts”, Modi left no stone unturned to charm South Africa. But no matter how much he emphasised the special and unique nature of “Africa-India” relations, his “special relationship” stump speech has been made repeatedly around the world.

India has historically felt the need for anti-colonial and south-south solidarity with African states. But its strongest ties in the past 15 years have been with oil-producing states and those with large Indian diaspora. Although much is made of India’s trade ties with Africa, trade with the continent as a whole has been stagnant at about US$72 billion a year for the past five years.

In the past two years, Modi’s foreign visits have become celebrated events – from Madison Square Garden in New York to Wembley Stadium in London to the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg. The substance of his visits is often overshadowed by their symbolism, which is connected to his broader political project. Modi’s Africa trip has to be viewed in the context of this project. Three things stand out.

Modi’s political project

First, his diplomacy is a branding exercise of “India is Modi and Modi is India”. This is a duplication of his successful domestic strategy. Election after election in the state of Gujarat and later nationally, Modi pursued an individual-centred, presidential-style campaign. Yet India is supposed to be a party-centred, prime ministerial democracy. In making foreign policy an extension of his domestic campaign, he has turned Indian diplomacy into an effective public relations machine.

Second, foreign visits, he recently acknowledged, are as much about providing him with international legitimacy as they are about promoting India’s interests. To understand this we must reach back to the 2002 communal killings in Gujarat under his chief ministership. These drew condemnation – and visa refusals – internationally.

In cultivating personal relations with world leaders – US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, even South African President Jacob Zuma – Modi is recasting his image as an international statesman. In this exercise, he adroitly mixes Gandhi and glamour. Whether he espouses another G – gravitas – is debatable.

Third, Modi’s version of internationalism is strongly rooted in an exclusive strain of nationalism. This connects strongly with the Indian diaspora. The exilic consciousness of the diaspora clings to romantic notions of a “motherland”. When these notions of motherland mix with neoliberalism, it creates a curious mix of middle-class diasporic nationalism.

Modi’s operatic-style performances and carefully choreographed public speeches abroad in massive venues have projected him as a political rock star. This, a form of concert diplomacy, has fired up the Indian diaspora, but it hasn’t substantially changed the content of Indian foreign policy or its engagements with African states.

Modi’s South Africa visit took place against the backdrop of India’s recent snub at the Nuclear Suppliers Group. His main success was announcing South African support for Indian membership of the group. Given South Africa’s strong credentials on nuclear issues and historical opposition to nuclear weapons, the yes to India came, surprisingly, without much domestic debate.

Worrying signs for Africa

Missing from Modi’s foreign trips is a focus on issues most pressing for Africa’s people. These are seemingly neglected.

One of these, which has been a cornerstone of India’s relationship with sub-Saharan Africa, has been a willingness to provide generic drugs. India does so in violation of US intellectual property laws.

Zuma Modi

President Jacob Zuma and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
GCIS

 

The importance of India’s defiance of these laws has been acknowledged by successive South African governments. In late 2015 Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi warned of a “genocide” of six million AIDS sufferers in sub-Saharan Africa if India acceded to the US patent regime. This would deny the country access to affordable antiretroviral drugs.

Recently, however, Modi has agreed to work with the US to review intellectual property issues. As a result there are growing concerns that his US engagements might lead to India abandoning its resistance to the patenting regime.

On his visit to Johannesburg and Pretoria, Modi was tailed by a Médecins Sans Frontières billboard trailer calling on him “not to shut down the pharmacy of the developing world”. But this element of health care appears not to have been discussed.

Another concern not addressed is safety of African students in India, who constantly face racist violence. While attacks on Africans in India are not new, what is remarkable is that Modi’s government has refused to acknowledge these as instances of racism.

Hindu nationalism champions the idea that India is a tolerant and historically inclusive society. That there is ingrained racism is not acknowledged. Attacks on Africans have been dismissed as a “law and order” issue.

There were hopes that when Modi was visiting the continent he would promise to protect African citizens on his own soil.

But this was not to be.

Instead, and quite ironically, on the day that Modi travelled to Pietermaritzburg, the place where Gandhi started his life-long commitment to non-violent protest, Modi’s government initiated a violent clamp-down of protesters in Kashmir, killing 42 and injuring more than 1,500 so far. This unfortunate coincidence is perhaps the best representation of Modi’s political project and shows the emptiness of his Gandhi-Mandela rhetoric.

The Conversation

Vineet Thakur, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study, University of Johannesburg and Alexander E. Davis, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in International Studies at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Meet the Yahoo boys – Nigeria’s undergraduate conmen

Oludayo Tade, University of Ibadan

Many undergraduates in Nigerian universities dabble in internet fraud. Nicknamed “yahoo-yahoo” after the international web portal and search engine, this perfidy has become a way of life for the young con-artists. Many of these fraudsters – dubbed “yahoo boys” – have become filthy rich.

Some have been caught by the law. In April 2012, Olasaidi Dare, an undergraduate of the Olabisi Onabanjo University in Ago-Iwoye, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for an attempt to obtain money under false pretences in a cyber-café.

On June 5 2012, a Federal High Court in Kaduna State sentenced Imonina Kingsley, of the University of Ilorin, to 20 years’ imprisonment. He defrauded an Australian of US$1,000 by presenting himself as a gay person from the Republic of Benin. He was charged for impersonation, possession of fraudulent documents and attempting to obtain money by false pretences.

These cases attest to the pervasive nature of internet fraud in Nigerian universities. My own research was conducted at Nigeria’s premier University of Ibadan. My aim was to determine how this subculture is organised among students in tertiary institutions. For this I spoke to a number of these “yahoo-boys”.

Areas of specialisation

Internet fraud is organised along areas of specialisation to make a success of the deviant behaviour. Fraudsters study the security network of online transactions to decide where to pitch their tents. Quick monetary reward is what “yahoo-boys” have in mind. They use different schemes.

Sending fraudulent messages to online dating websites and social network sites were reported to be low-risk – but high-profit – areas of specialisation.

A third-year student said to me:

I started online fraud in my second semester of 100 level [a session comprised of two academic semesters in Nigerian universities] as an impostor via online dating. Then I looked for the profile of people that live in developed countries. But if it is in Nigeria, I look for people who live in places like Port Harcourt, Abuja [luxury suburbs].

I always posed to them as a big man who needed a wife. Sometimes I posed to them on how my wife disappointed me and took away my property and children. All this is polished in a pitiable way with some pictures to convince them when I’m chatting with them. However, what I do mainly now is to transmit misleading information online for people to send their bank accounts [details].

Another scam that is popular with the “yahoo boys” is phishing, a technique used to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details.

Third, the “yahoo boys” are also big on ATM fraud. They may stand at ATM galleries to feign assistance to vulnerable users – illiterates, the old and the physically challenged – and later swap cards to defraud them.

The fraudsters carry out their attacks mostly on weekends and mostly outside the state where the account is domiciled. Banks are mostly non-functional on weekends. This means victims will be unable to ask their banks to stop illegal transactions on their accounts until Monday morning, when the banks open for business, even though they receive debit alerts over the weekend.

Informal networks and the insider factor

Informal networks are vital to the young scamsters’ success. These networks revolve around banks, security agencies, co-fraudsters and, sometimes, families.

The common means of collecting fraud money in Nigeria is through the banks, mostly through the Western Union money transfer. Through compromised banking staff, fraudsters use fake identity to access funds. This is because the fraudster would have used a foreign name and would not have a recognised identity card in that name. For successful execution of fraud, an insider within the bank is important: the banker facilitates payment without attracting the attention of security agencies. They also get their share of the loot.

The instability in the Nigerian banking sector may have created an uncommitted workforce. Working in an insecure establishment makes workers vulnerable. More than 2,000 bankers have lost their jobs due to economic recession in the country. A large numbers of casual workers are deployed to man key positions in the banks. This makes way for criminal opportunities.

Therefore the “yahoo-boys” find easy allies in banking staff, who are mostly youths too, because of their socioeconomic nightmare. The fear of unemployment has been identified as a push factor for undergraduates’ involvement in internet fraud.

A fifth-year student stated that the fear of the unknown may have attracted a number of students to “yahoo-yahoo” rather than waiting for after-school unemployment. They see internet fraud as a creative outlet in a country like Nigeria.

The influence of corruption

Hitherto, internet fraud was carried out at public cafés. However, with regular raids on these internet cafés and the arrest of suspected fraudsters by the police, the “yahoo boys” have simply moved their bases.

Plus, the proliferation of internet service providers in Nigeria has made it even easier for scamsters to commit internet fraud. It is now as simple as buying modems and surfing the internet within the confines of their privately rented apartments on campus. The “yahoo boys” stay in physical communes of like-minded individuals and use this network to launch internet attacks.

They share information on a particular target and find new ways of making prospective targets yield to their deceit. They are able to get help, share internet costs and jointly pay for fuel for generators, which are used to power their computers. They come to school during the day, and go to social clubs in the evenings and to celebrate their successes.

It is no surprise that there is a proliferation of “yahoo boys”. The celebration of wealth, particularly among politicians, serves to motivate the involvement of the youths in cyber-crime. Nigerian society celebrates wealth without questioning the source of the money.

So what do these young, undergraduate Nigerians do under these circumstances? They see a leadership that doesn’t care about their future. And they use their education to follow the example set by their elders that shows crime pays.

The Conversation

Oludayo Tade, Lecturer of Criminology, Deviance and Social Problems, University of Ibadan

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.