News / Africa

Is Boko Haram a 'Foreign Terrorist Organization'?

Burnt newspaper copies are seen in the rubble of a destroyed ThisDay newspaper building in Abuja April 28, 2012.
Burnt newspaper copies are seen in the rubble of a destroyed ThisDay newspaper building in Abuja April 28, 2012.
Heather Murdock
ABUJA - Some American lawmakers want the U.S. State Department to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, a formal move that would trigger automatic sanctions against the Islamist militant group.  The lawmakers say the Justice Department in Washington supports the designation. However, some Nigerians say this could complicate efforts to negotiate a truce with Boko Haram, and scholars contend it could actually make Boko Haram stronger. 

The U.S. State Department maintains a list of "foreign terrorist organizations" that threaten the United States.  While the Nigerian group Boko Haram has been linked to many acts in Africa generally considered to be terrorism, is it a threat to the U.S.?

Last week, three U.S. senators introduced a bill that would force the State Department to make a decision, because they feel Boko Haram is “becoming increasingly lethal and forging closer ties to al-Qaida and al-Shabab,” the Islamist militant group in Somalia.

U.S. Senators Scott Brown, Saxby Chambliss and Jim Risch say Boko Haram is a threat both to international and U.S. national security. 

Human Rights Watch says the group has killed more than 1,000 people since it began an insurgency against the government in 2009, attacking churches, markets, schools, media houses, government offices and security forces.

The State Department says it is considering the issue.  Here in Nigeria, however, many people say that by placing a terrorist label on Boko Haram, the United States could damage the Nigerian government’s ability to restore peace.

University of Abuja senior lecturer Abubakar Umar Kari says some Nigerian government figures favor military action to suppress Boko Haram.  However, he thinks authorities in Abuja should be fighting the root cause of the discontent that enables terrorist groups' growth.  He says the problem is rooted in poverty.

"I think the U.S. should do well in trying to convince the Nigerian government to address the problem of widespread massive poverty in the north as the first step towards addressing the Boko Haram problem, rather than encourage [Nigeria] to continue in its hawkish posture," he said.

American scholars including former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell say a "terrorist" label by the State Department could raise Boko Haram's international profile and strengthen the group.  He adds this could, in turn, increase and intensify abusive tactics by Nigerian security forces and make it harder for the central government to negotiate a truce with Boko Haram.

Hope for negotiations

On the streets of the Nigerian capital, it is hard to find anyone who does not hope for negotiations. Abdulmalik Jega manages a shopping center across from the offices of ThisDay, the newspaper that was bombed a month ago by Boko Haram.  Without negotiations, Jega says, the violence will continue.

"Since our security is not adequate and they don’t have the modern basic equipment to fight those terrorists, I don’t think they can fight them without sitting down with them.  This war will never end until you sit down and talk to those people.  It will never end," said Jega. 

Campbell is co-author of a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging a cautious approach to the terrorism designation. The former diplomat says that, unlike other groups on the U.S. list, Boko Haram appears to be fractured, and without clear goals. 

If Boko Haram is designated as a foreign terrorist organization and sanctions are imposed, Campbell and his associates warn that thousands of Nigerian-Americans could be deterred from sending money home.  Campbell says remittances brought more than $10 billion into Nigeria in 2009 and that the terrorist label itself could make U.S. interests a target for Boko Haram.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid