News / Africa

Analysts: Difficult Dialogue with Nigeria's Violent Boko Haram Essential

Police say Boko Haram militants staged attack in Kano, Nigeria Jan 24, 2011 which left this market in ruins and left at lead 185 people dead
Police say Boko Haram militants staged attack in Kano, Nigeria Jan 24, 2011 which left this market in ruins and left at lead 185 people dead

Even though Islamic radicals in northern Nigeria continue attacks and are so far resisting offers of dialogue, analysts closely following the violence say negotiations will be essential in any solution.

With deadly violence involving radicals in northern Nigeria taking place on a near daily basis, Boko Haram leaders appear on the Internet and are quoted in newspapers refusing recent Nigerian government offers of dialogue.

On the YouTube website late last week, an audio recording attributed to the self-proclaimed Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau warned that the radicals would begin bombing secular schools and universities in retaliation for recent security and vigilante attacks on mosques and Koranic schools.

Increasingly, Boko Haram leaflets calling for the imposition of Islamic Sharia law are being distributed in major northern Nigerian cities.

The new threats and communications strategy come amid increased warnings by government officials in Nigeria and neighboring countries that Boko Haram is linking up with outside terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Somalia's al-Shabab extremists.

Despite the deteriorating situation, Carl LeVan, a Nigeria expert at American University in Washington, says dialogue is the best solution.  He says any major security crackdown by Nigeria's government, with possible help from other African countries or the United States, would make the situation worse.

"A strategy that militarizes the conflict and reduces the opportunities for negotiations will, in fact, facilitate the internationalization of the conflict.  In other words, it is not clear that there are significant ties to some of the more global violent Islamist movements at this point, but solutions and strategies which push Boko Haram towards more violence and which make offers of diplomacy seem less credible will certainly become a problem down the road,” Levan said.

Analysts say the movement and its grievances are local, but that Boko Haram as well as Nigerian and regional officials have an interest in making it seem much broader to gain attention and possible outside funding.

Last week, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said he wanted to open a dialogue, but that he doubted Boko Haram leaders would come forward.  He compared them to the world's most elusive terrorists, such as former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

John Campbell, who studies Boko Haram at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations, says that simplifying who the Nigerian radicals are might be part of the problem.

"I do not think Boko Haram is a coherent organization.  It is rather a movement, a grassroots insurrection against the secular government in Abuja, but also against the traditional northern Islamic establishment which its adherents see as not being really Islamic at all and one that basically exploits the poor populations in the north,” Campbell said.

Boko Haram grew out of a violent Muslim fundamentalist Salafist movement initially called the Taliban.  Its best known leader, radical cleric Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in 2009 while in police custody during a Nigerian security crackdown that killed at least 600 followers.  Analysts and Nigerian officials say that after the crackdown, several radical leaders struggled to become the head of the movement.

Criminal syndicates, some loosely affiliated and others not linked to the movement, have also claimed to speak on behalf of Boko Haram, which means “No to Western education.”  The name itself did not come from the radicals, but from Nigerian media and government officials who sought to make fun of them.

The escalating violence comes amid a sense of growing economic and political marginalization in northern Nigeria, following a series of controversial national elections.  Economists say the number of people living in poverty in the Muslim-dominated north is three time higher than in the mostly Christian south, which is home to President Jonathan.

Deirdre LaPin of the University of Pennsylvania took part in a recent Washington panel about Nigeria's problems.  She said a key to ending the Boko Haram threat should also involve main northern politicians.

"Their marked silence in the face of some of the most egregious attacks by Boko Haram and others in the north suggests that they are not using their authority to control these activities at all," Lapin said.

Analysts say new development policies in northern Nigeria and better local governance are also desperately needed.  Unless this happens, they warn, more young unemployed northern Nigerians could be attracted by Boko Haram's anti-government messages and violent tactics, making the problem even more severe.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid