YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Following a June 10 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) that nine of the ten “most neglected displacement crises in the world” are found in Africa, one Nigerian bishop is warning against blaming the West for the situation.

“To accuse the West of neglect of Africa begs the question but it strikes at the heart of our problem in Africa, our expectations that we shall continue to be on the laps of Western nations for the rest of our lives to be petted and fed even when we refuse to grow up or perhaps the petting has made it impossible for us to grow up,” said Bishop Matthew Kukah of Sokoto.

“How can the West be accused of negligence when it is at the heart of the wars in Africa? You are asking the accused to become the defendant,” Kukah.

The bishop spoke to Crux after the publication of the NRC report, which highlighted several areas of concern on the African continent.

Cameroon – which is facing the triple threat of a separatist uprising in the Anglophone western regions, a Boko Haram insurgency to the north, and an influx of Central African refugees to the east – tops the list. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Mali, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and Niger also made the cut. Venezuela is the only non-African country on the list.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said the “deep crises represented by millions of displaced Africans are yet again the most underfunded, ignored and deprioritized in the world.”

“They are plagued by diplomatic and political paralysis, weak aid operations and little media attention. Despite facing a tornado of emergencies, their SOS calls for help fall on deaf ears,” he continued.

The report says the crises in these countries are expected to get worse in 2020, a situation that will be compounded by the global coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 is spreading across Africa, and many of the most neglected communities are already devastated by the economic shocks of the pandemic. We need solidarity with these conflict-stricken communities now more than ever, so the virus does not add more unbearable disaster to the myriad of crises they already face,” said Egeland.

While the report blames donors for de-prioritizing the crises – probably because they do not fit into their geopolitical map – Kukah lays the blame for the continent’s woes on the African leaders who are generally ill-prepared for tackling problems.

Nigerian Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto gestures during a 2016 interview with Catholic News Service in Washington. (Credit: Bob Roller/CNS.)

“I think we should ask ourselves why our leaders have been so careless in their failing to develop robust internal mechanisms for protecting their people and building strong institutions and nations. Africa has had enough of the tragedies of too many ill prepared people who have captured power, with limited understanding of how the world works and so called leaders who have continued to look after the interests of the west at the expense of their own people just for the crumbs that they and their families feed on,” the bishop told Crux.

“So, I believe it is wrong first of all to accuse the West of neglecting African crises especially when  some of these crises are caused by the greed of Africa’s leaders who continue to turn their countries into personal fiefdoms,” he said.

Focusing on Nigeria, Kukah said the wealth of the nation has been “instrumentalized by the elite and they have become funnels for slush funds.”

He questioned Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s sincerity in fighting one of Nigeria’s most tenuous conflicts – the war against Boko Haram, which has been going on for more than a decade in the northeast of the country and claimed more than 20,000 lives and left more than 7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Nigeria’s more than 200 million people are almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims, with Christians predominant in the south, and Muslims in the north. Several Muslim-majority states have implemented sharia law, despite the nation’s secular constitution.

The current president is a devout Muslim, and many of his critics have accused him of favoring his co-religionists.

“Except the president and his team, no one can explain where we are and where we are going,” the bishop said.

He pointed to the fact that today, rather than bringing Boko Haram under control, “banditry, kidnapping and other forms of violence are now consuming the entire northern states as we speak.”

Prelates lead a protest over unending killings of Nigerians in Abuja, Nigeria, March 1, 2020. (Credit: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters via CNS.)

“Only two weeks ago, 74 people were slaughtered, and their villages destroyed in Sokoto State, the heart of the old caliphate,“ Kukah said, referring to the Islamic kingdom that once ruled the area.

He also said no Christians seem to be involved in the defense policymaking apparatus of the country.

“For example, today, Nigerians have been asking about the contradictions in the security operations in Nigeria: A conflict that originated from a Muslim group fighting to make Nigeria an Islamic state is being fought by a government that is headed by a Muslim and a northerner as President, with the Ministers of Defense, National Security Adviser, Chief of Immigration, Controller of Customs, Director of State Security, Inspector General of Police, Chief of Army and Air Staff all Muslims and northerners,” he pointed out.

“The rest of us are all spectators. And, while entire communities have been destroyed and internally displaced persons are running into hundreds of thousands, today Nigerians continue to ask how the president would have overseen and approved the building of two universities in the homes of both the Chief of Army and Naval Staff? So, does it make sense to accuse the international community? What are you accusing them of?” Kukah asked.

The bishop said the consequence of such lope-sided policy has resulted in “the destabilization of the country.”