News / Africa

Rights Group, Experts Urge Careful Response to Nigeria Violence

Nigerian police patrol as people attend prayers marking the muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in the capital Abuja, November 6, 2011.
Nigerian police patrol as people attend prayers marking the muslim festival of Eid al-Adha in the capital Abuja, November 6, 2011.

Human rights advocates and Nigeria experts are calling for a careful security response to recent violence in Nigeria's north by Islamist extremists.  They warn a botched reaction could lead to even more violence.  

Human Rights Watch is urging Nigerian authorities to act swiftly to bring to justice those responsible for what it calls the "terrible crimes" that killed at least 100 people in the northern state of Yobe November 4.

Boko Haram

The perpetrators have been identified as a group of Islamist extremists dubbed by Nigerian authorities and the media as Boko Haram - which in Hausa roughly means "Western education is a sin."

The extremists say they want strict imposition of Sharia, or Islamic law, in northern areas.  They say they will continue their violent campaign until Nigerian security forces stop persecuting their members and vulnerable civilians.

Human Rights Watch

In a statement issued this week, Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram is linked to attacks which have killed more than 425 people this year - including police officers, soldiers, community leaders, politicians, Islamic clerics, Christian pastors and church members.

But the New York-based group is also warning against abuses by Nigerian police and the military. Several hundred people were killed in a crackdown on the insurgents in 2009.  Human Rights Watch says that since then, it has documented abuses that include extrajudicial executions.

William Minter, who has been closely following the developments as editor of the Africa Focus online bulletin, says Nigerian security forces must understand their conduct can also be a part of the problem.

Police abuse

"If you kill a number of people or arrest a number of people but at the same time further alienate the population so that you increase the number of recruits, you are only leading to escalation and ignoring the real structural roots of why such discontent emerges," Minter said.

Nigeria has taken legal action in response to specific cases of abuse.  Earlier this year, five police officers were criminally charged in the 2009 deaths of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf and some of his followers.

But experts say the government needs to do more to address the issues of poverty and corruption that led to the rise of the extremists and local support for them.  John Campbell, who has been researching and writing about Nigeria for the Council on Foreign Relations, says there is a lot of anger.  

"What you have got is an extremely bloody - what shall we call it insurrection - that reflects the impoverishment of northern Nigeria," he said. "Also I think it's increased alienation from a government in Abuja which it does not think is particularly responsive to it."

Riots erupted in parts of northern Nigeria after this April's presidential election won by Goodluck Jonathan, who comes from the oil-rich south.  Nigeria's southern areas have also had years of violent militancy from groups saying oil riches have been unfairly distributed.  

North needs rebuilding

Paul Lubeck, a political sociologist from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and expert in northern Nigerian Islamic groups, says what northern Nigeria needs is to rebuild its industrial base, which existed until the mid-1980s, and start growing more rice.

"All of this requires a strategy for northern economic recovery that would benefit Nigeria and one that would offer youth hope.  Because if the spiral continues to go downward, there will be continuous, festering insurrections, stimulated by interventions by security forces that only make things worse," said Lubeck.

Lubeck and Campbell both see a role for the United States - which has expressed concern that northern Nigeria could start resembling parts of al-Shabab-dominated Somalia.  Both stress U.S. diplomacy and training could help the Jonathan administration deal with problems that a military response alone cannot solve.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs