How US scholars save Boko Haram

THE SUN Newspaper- Willy Eya

As the nation battles the menace of the Boko Haram sect, more revelations have emerged about the reluctance of the United States of America to list the group as a global terrorist organization. Checks by Sunday Sun revealed that despite the orgy of bloodletting by the dreaded sect, it may never be listed as a terrorist group because of the long term implication on the future of Nigeria and America’s interest.

The development came amid reports of efforts by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to woo the United States to list the sect as a terrorist group. In a letter to Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made available to Sunday Sun, 21 American scholars on African politics with special interest in Nigeria, had urged the United States not to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

The scholars in a letter dated May 21, 2012, acknowledged the horrific violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, including attacks on both Muslims and Christians in Nigeria but cautioned that an FTO designation would internationalize the sect, legitimize abuses by the nation’s security services, limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy and undermine the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region. They argued that a lasting solution to Boko Haram would require robust political and developmental components initiated by the federal government and broadly endorsed by the Nigerian people through democratic processes that enhance the rule of law.

The scholars argued that an FTO tag on Boko Haram would limit American policy options to those least likely to work, and undermine the domestic political conditions necessary in Nigeria for an enduring solution. Part of the letter reads: “An FTO designation would internatonalize Boko Haram’s standing and enhance its status among radical organizations elsewhere. Boko Haram’s recent tactics, including the use of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices, raise questions about their foreign links. “The network’s focus has been overwhelmingly domestic, despite an August, 2011, attack on the United Nations office in Abuja.

“Rhetorically, some of Boko Haram’s critique of northern underdevelopment and elite corruption are within the realm of mainstream political discourse. But there are clear indications that their tactics and targets have turned most Nigerians against them, including local populations in the North”. The scholars warned that an FTO designation would potentially shift the organization’s posture towards the US and validate the more radical factions’ analysis of outsider influence in Nigeria. They argued that it would also undermine the federal government’s ability to address the problem through law enforcement and thereby improve the rule of law.

The scholars also noted that the designation would give disproportionate attention to counter-terrorism in America’s bilateral relations, and increase the risk that the US becomes linked to abuses by the security services warning that it would effectively endorse excessive use of force at a time the rule of law in Nigeria hangs in the balance. “There is already evidence that abuses by Nigeria’s security services have facilitated radical recruitment.

This was made unequivocally clear in 2009, following the extrajudicial murder of Mohammed Yusuf, which was broadcast across the internet. “That incident was immediately followed by Boko Haram’s radicalization, splintering, and increased propensity for large scale violence. “Moreover, the routine use of the military for domestic law enforcement is a cause for alarm in a country with a deep history of military rule, and where formal declarations of states of emergency have historically led to broader political instability”, the letter further stated.

The scholars also reasoned that accurate understanding and proper addressing of the issue of Boko Haram would require a diplomatic, developmental and demilitarized framework, and emphasized that the State Department and its civilian developmental partners must be in the lead. The letter further stated: “Less attention has been brought to the damage that this system does to academic inquiry more generally.

“An FTO designation would prevent independent scholarly inquiry about Boko Haram, and increase suspicion in the future about researchers with no governmental ties. Public policy benefits from dialogue with public scholars, and an FTO designation would effectively criminalize broad categories of research”. But in a counter argument, President of CAN, Ayo Oritsejafor, told the US House Sub-committee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights, that the activities of Boko Haram maximally qualified it to be listed as a global terrorist group. In a statement dated July 10, 2012, he presented to the committee, Oritsejafor said that Boko Haram has waged a systematic campaign of terror in Nigeria and seeks an end to western influence and removal of the Christian presence in the nation.

He recalled the killing of 58 people in Christian villages in Jos, Plateau State including a senator and a state lawmaker describing such activities as outright terrorism, not legitimate political activity or the airing of grievances. The CAN president said that by refusing to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, the United States was sending a very clear message, not just to Nigeria but to the world that the murder of innocent Christians and Muslims who reject Islamism were acceptable losses. “It is hypocritical for the United States and the international community to say that they believe in freedom and equality, when their actions do not support those who are being persecuted. “A non-designation for the group only serves to hamper the cause of justice, and has emboldened Boko Haram to continue to strike out at those who are denied equal protection under the law.

“The frequency, lethality and sophistication of Boko Haram’s attacks raise disturbing questions regarding training and logistical support they have received from other like-minded international terrorist networks”, he said. He argued that though the designation of Boko Haram as foreign terrorist organization was not the final solution to Nigeria’s problems, it would be an important first step towards restoring the confidence of those who support freedom and equality in the eyes of the law.

The cleric regretted that Boko Haram increasingly turns towards genocide through the systematic targeting of Christians and Christian institutions in pursuit of its goals, adding that history would not forget the actions or inactions of the United States. He wondered why the State Department designated Boko Haram’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau and two others as “specially designated terrorists’, but fell short of designating the organization as a terrorist group pointing out that it would be the equivalent of Bin Laden as a terrorist and Al Qaeda as not a terrorist organization. “Since its creation, the Boko Haram network has never hidden its agenda or intentions.

Boko Haram has openly stated that they reject the Nigerian State and its Constitution and seek to impose Shari’ah Law. “To this end, Boko Haram has waged a systematic campaign of terror and violence. They seek an end to western influence and a removal of the Christian presence in Nigeria. “In Nigeria, my people are dying every single day, and it is only a matter of time before the international terrorist links and anti-democratic Islamist agenda of Boko Haram turns its attention to the United States”, he said.

On May 24, 2012, three Americans including Messrs Brown of Massachusetts, Chambliss, and Risch introduced a bill before the Senate of the United States requiring a report on the designation of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization and for other purposes.


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