Boko Haram Causing Insecurity In Nigeria
Notorious for terrorist attacks and killing sprees, Boko Haram poses a threat to Nigeria’s stability, according to Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield at the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs.
In her testimony in Washington DC, Ms. Greenfield said the Boko Haram group attacks the Nigerian Government, military, and ordinary citizens of all walks of life, including numerous Christians and an even greater number of Muslims.
She says their actions have increased tensions between ethnic communities, interrupted development, frightened investors, and alarmed Nigeria’s neighbors.
“Boko Haram poses a threat to Nigeria’s stability
and associated groups can strike Nigeria’s neighbors and target foreigners.” – Ms. Greenfield
Many Lives Lost
The unspeakable violence perpetrated by the extremist group has killed too many Nigerians, particularly in September this year, when attacks in Benisheikh resulted in the death of more than 160 people and in Yobe, where more than 50 innocent students lost their lives.
She reports that in August 2011, a suicide bomber from Boko Haram attacked the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
Also this year on February 19, Boko Haram kidnapped 7 French tourists in Cameroon.
According to Ms. Greenfield, although Boko Haram has directed most of its violence and rhetoric at Nigerian targets, reports of linkages between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, are worrying.
Boko Haram Causes Instability In Nigeria
Ms. Greenfield explains that Boko Haram’s ideology, which opposes Western culture and education seeks to overthrow the Nigerian state and replace it with a regime enforcing strict shari’a law.
In addition, Boko Haram has exploited religious rhetoric in an attempt to justify its violence, casting the state as hopelessly corrupt and un-Islamic.
“Regional and socioeconomic disparities have also contributed to the group’s ability to recruit.” – Ms. Greenfield
She notes that Northern Nigeria has long lagged behind the south in education and economic development.
Boko Haram’s activities call attention not just to violence, but also to poverty and inequality in Nigeria, she added.
Holistic Approach To Countering The Threats of Boko Haram
According to Ms. Greenfield, the United States is committed to helping the Nigerian Government and people counter the threat posed by Boko Haram and associated violent extremist groups.
In recent years, the US government has worked to help isolate Boko Haram’s leaders.
In June 2012, Ms. Greenfield says the State Department designated Boko Haram’s top commanders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224. In June 2013, the State Department added Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s official leader, to US Rewards for Justice Program and offered up to $7 million for information leading to his location.
Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224.
Ms. Greenfield reports that the United States has recently taken additional steps to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram and Ansaru.
She says the State Department designated both as Foreign Terrorist Organizations under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224.
“We anticipate that this designation will empower U.S. law enforcement and the Treasury Department with additional tools to pursue these violent extremist organizations.” – Ms. Greenfield
She says the designation is an important and appropriate step, but it is only one tool in what must be a comprehensive approach toward addressing the Boko Haram threat.
Instability in Nigeria is of direct concern to the United States.
Ms. Greenfield says Nigeria is one of the US’ most important partners in Africa.
Nigeria is the 22nd fastest-growing economy in the world, the 13th largest supplier of oil to the global market, and the second largest destination for U.S. private investment in Africa.
The significant mutual interests both US and Nigeria share have led the two countries to build a robust bilateral relationship.
Sectarian Violence Escalates in Nigeria
Earlier in 2012, spiralling violence escalated in Nigeria as Boko Haram group unleashed a series of attacks.
Boko Haram is a local terrorist group professing allegiance to Al Qaeda. Boko Haram militants attacked several churches on Christmas Day, killing dozens of worshippers. The bombings occurred in Madala, on the outskirts of Abuja, the Nigerian capital, and in the north-eastern city of Jos.
The United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, urged a bold effort by Nigeria’s political and religious leaders to halt the spiralling sectarian violence.
Boko Haram, which aims to install strict Shariah, or Islamic, law across Nigeria, has vowed to keep killing Christians in the multiethnic country.