CANAN, IN MEETING WITH ENVOY, INSISTS ON US DESIGNATING BOKO HARAM TERRORISTS

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CANAN, IN MEETING WITH ENVOY, INSISTS ON US DESIGNATING BOKO HARAM TERRORISTS Pastor Laolu Akande 11/16/12 10:22 AM

CANAN, IN MEETING WITH ENVOY, INSISTS ON US DESIGNATING BOKO HARAM TERRORISTS

 

CANANUSA.ORG- New York, Nov. 16, 2012- Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, Prof Adebowale Adefuye and the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN have both agreed to work together towards the elimination of terrorism in Nigeria, even if through different approaches. While CANAN continues to actively advocate for the designation of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US government, the Nigerian government opposes the designation, but says it is working hard to end terror attacks in the country.

The message CANAN took to the meeting was a simple one: the federal government of Nigeria by itself alone cannot solve the menace of Boko Haram violence. 

In effect, the Nigerian government and people will need and benefit from drastic international assistance, including a proper designation of the terror group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, FTO, by the US government.

At a meeting with leaders of the group on Thursday afternoon at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC, Adefuye disclosed that the incidence of terrorism attacks in Nigeria would have been greater than what it currently is, if not for the government’s onslaught against Boko Haram.

CANAN leaders at the meeting included leader of the delegation, Archbishop Joseph Alexander, the group’s Executive Director, Pastor Laolu Akande, Washington DC Representative, Emmanuel Ogebe, CANAN’s Maryland State Associate Coordinator, Dr, Mercy Obamogie, Pastors Joseph Akiyode, Tony Ojoibukun and Deacon Ralph Osamor, CANAN’s Security Coordinator. 

The Nigerian Ambassador to the US, Prof. Adefuye who identified with the fact that many innocent Nigerians have been unjustifiably killed in the terror attacks, especially Christians, noted that “we are no less repulsed by this violence, our revulsion is not less than yours.”

He added that “preventive measures which have been put in place by the federal government has reduced the incidence of the attacks.”

According to Nigeria’s Ambassador the US government has also been actively backing the federal government in quelling the activities of the terror group.

“The rapidity, frequency of Boko Haram violence has been prevented by our forces and Americans backing us,” he disclosed, adding that President Goodluck Jonathan, himself, the federal government and CANAN are united in terminating the activities of Boko Haram.

But the Ambassador objected however to the call for the designation of the group by the US government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, FTO, which the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN have been actively clamouring for in the US since the group’s inception in September this year.

In his own remarks the leader of the CANAN delegation to the Ambassador Archbishop Joseph Alexander, a trustee of the group, (representing Pastor James Fadele, the Chairman of the association,)  stated that concerted international efforts are needed to end the Boko Haram attacks. 

The Archbishop who is also the Founding Bishop of the New Covenant Ministries based in New York and with churches around the world said “on our minds is the peace of the Nigerian nation, we need to get other nations to help Nigeria end the terrorism of Boko Haram.”

 

Alexander said the killings of Christians and innocent Nigerians must stop and the reign of fear, which he said has become rather troubling especially in the north of Nigeria.

 

While thanking the Nigerian Ambassador for his openness and active engagement with the Nigerian Diaspora in the US, the leader of the CANAN delegation added that the designation of Boko Haram will enable the US government go after the resources that is financing and maintaining the Boko Haram violence.

 

Speaking in a similar vein, CANAN Executive Director, Pastor Laolu Akande explained that based on academic researches and studies conducted on the connection between terrorism and foreign direct investment, including one by the Asia Development Bank, the designation of Boko Haram as an FTO by the US will not necessarily influence investors from coming to Nigeria.

 

Quoting a UN report on the subject, Akande said terrorism was number 7 concern of foreign investors generally, adding that “investors will go for profit wherever they can find it, even if it is in the mouth of a lion.”

 

Also at the meeting, CANAN’s Representative in Washington DC, Lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe said the federal government has not considered compensation to Nigerians killed and attacked by terrorists, but there are active plans to help and support Islamic education.

 

According to him, after President Jonathan was elected president last year, wide violence in northern Nigeria killed Christians and 700 churches were burnt because the president won. But he lamented that no compensation has been paid to anyone since then.

 

At the end of the meeting, Prof. Adefuye expressed understanding and promised to report the views of CANAN back to the federal government, adding that “we are all committed to the same goal, except that we have different approaches.”

Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization not yet a good idea Darren Kew 11/17/12 12:59 PM
Friends --

Many thanks to Pastor Akande for this important posting.  In the spirit of debate, please find my testimony before the House Subcommittee on Africa last July, in which I argue the opposite -- that it would NOT be helpful to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization at this time.

The reason is that designating Boko Haram as an FTO puts little additional tools in the hands of the US government that it does not already have.  The only tangible benefit is that the Justice Department could seize Boko Haram assets in the US, of which it likely has none.

Meanwhile, giving Boko Haram the FTO designation will hand it a public relations victory, and play right into its objectives of trying to further ignite religious tensions in Nigeria, attract more disaffected youths to the movement, and also lump the moderates in the Boko Haram movement -- who have been trying to make peace overtures to the government -- alongside the hardliners.  Any Nigerian peace NGOs trying to work with anyone remotely connected to Boko Haram would not be eligible for funding.

The Obama administration has a smarter policy:  designate the individual hardliners as terrorists, like Shekau, and so try to divide them from the broader movement and its part-timers.  This has strengthened the hand of NSA Dasuki's response to the crisis:  trying to talk with the moderates while going after the hardliners, which opens the possibility of breaking the movement apart against itself.  It is better to give these efforts more time to see if they gain any traction over the next year.  If they fail, and if Boko Haram shows increasing involvement in regional anti-state movements as in Mali, then FTO might be worth the cost.

The Nigerian government must, however, absolutely investigate all attacks and provide compensation to the Christian communities that have been attacked -- and to the Muslim ones as well.  In addition to Boko Haram, other Islamist and Christian militias have committed atrocities that must be brought to justice.

Best,

Darren

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization now! Olaolu Akande 11/17/12 7:10 PM
Dr Kew:

Thank you for your response and for 're-providing' the details of your testimony to the House Sub-committee.

I am also aware of the joint statement issued by you and other US scholars on the issue of the FTO designation for the Boko Haram - a designation which groups like ours advocate and would continue to support.

The reasons are very simple and clear. 

It is clear not just to us, but to the FBI, Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department of the US government. 

All these agencies have already recommended the designation of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, according to western newswires.

We know that when the designation is put in place, a clear signal would be delivered to the fat pockets financing Boko Haram. They simply understand no other language.
And by the way, those financiers are well ensconced in their Nigerian government gift of impunity.

When the US designates the group an FTO, the international community starts to build a groundswell of opinion against the group and makes the movement of their financing much harder since other countries are likely to implement similar measures.

Only people like you understand this fantasy of handing them a public relations victory. I hope we are not taking this public relations logic too far!

But I also understand the motivation of scholars like yourself, and some International NGO activists, which include all or some of these: 

(i) a fundamental commitment to protect the spaces of your research upon which your professional accomplishments, including promotion, depend, 

(ii) a concern for ensuring that your funding (for research and "development assistance") sources are not closed up by such designation, 

(iii) a long-term fidelity to protecting and projecting "a particular hegemonic interest" in the Nigerian federation (there are "intellectual progenitors" of this "cause" in both Britain and the US), 

(iv) an ultimately futile, and undoubtedly superficial, pretension to engaging the "larger picture" in a "complex" country such as Nigeria, a "complexity" which is, partly, both a product of the historical mess created by the British, and the continuing perverse actions by local and international actors, including international scholars who regularly misadvise important countries such as the United States,

 (v) and, an obstinate fascination with the "exotic" politics of a "distant" country. 

However, as a Christian, I am not persuaded that such motives are more important than the commitment to our Christian community and our common humanity, both of which are now being threatened by Boko Haram.

Some of the elements of these motivations are evident in your testimony, as well as the regrettable statement earlier issued by you and others. 

Can you imagine if some Nigerians were to issue a statement urging the United States not to designate Al-Qaeda as an FTO, because, as you stated, this will "play right into its objectives of trying to further ignite religious tensions [in say Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Libya], attract more disaffected youths to the movement, and also lump the moderates in the [Al-Qaeda] movement -- who have been trying to make peace overtures to the government -- alongside the hardliners." 

Can you imagine how such a preposterous argument would sound, Prof Kew?

Let us even imagine that such a terrorist group exist within the United States, for instance in the New England region of the US, say, specifically in the State of Massachusetts. 

Imagine if such a group announces a mission to Islamize the US. 

Imagine that such a group regularly detonates bombs in some churches in the Boston area and elsewhere, targeting Christians. 

Imagine if 10,000 people have died at the last count in the hands of this group. [Recall that 3, 000 people were killed by Al-Qaeda during 9/11]. 

Would you write that such a terrorist group ought not to be designated as one because subsequently "Any [US] peace NGOs trying to work with anyone remotely connected to [Al-Qaeda] would not be eligible for funding." 

Seriously, would you? 

Would you advise the US Government about "trying to talk with the moderates while going after the hardliners, which opens the possibility of breaking the movement apart against itself," while adding that "It is better to give these efforts more time to see if they gain any traction over the next year." 

Would you ask that more American lives be sacrificed so that scholars and "peace NGOs" could have research access and be eligible for funding?

By AP's count way more than 700 innocent Nigerians have been killed this year alone by Boko Haram, and we are supposed to be bothered about some research fancies?


Dr. Kew, these are some of the questions that could be raised even within the logic of your own position. 

There are more fundamental issues beyond the points you raised and the obfuscation which you presented to the Subcommittee of the House. 

Boko Haram's links with other FTO in the post-9/11 age may be unique, but this is not the first time that Nigeria would face and face down such Islamist groups. 

Tying the phenomenon to disaffection with the geopolitics of power in Nigeria is neither illuminating nor useful in the context of the terrorism that Boko Haram is involved in. 

We are persuaded that the United States should not wait until we experience a repeat of  what happened in Bengazi before designating the Boko Haram as an FTO, while joining the Nigerian government to haunt down these atavistic elements whose ambitions of imposing a pre-historic age on Nigeria is real. 

For you and others, Nigeria maybe a research site, for 160 million people, it is home. The humanity of the victims and potentials victims of Boko Haram cannot be surrendered to the sophistry of traveling academics. 

I am sorry Dr. Kew, but the Boko Haram menace and terror, is no longer just an academic debate! And for sure, we no longer have such luxuries! 



Laolu Akande
Empowered Newswire
&
Executive Director
Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans, CANAN
P. O. Box 1041
Bay Shore, New York 11706


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<Kew -- Africa Subcommittee Testimony 7-10-12.pdf>
<Nigeria - QFRs - Kew answers 8-14-12.pdf>


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Darren Kew, Ph.D.
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Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development
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Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance
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More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization Darren Kew 11/20/12 8:30 AM
Thanks Pastor Akande for this.  I think you sum up some of the errors in the pro-FTO position well, and I am glad we are continuing the debate, although as a long-time fan of your Guardian articles I am sad that you have to fall to personal barbs to make your point, rather than evidence or research.

But let me address some of those quickly.  As a Catholic, I do in fact take the attacks on Catholic and other Christian churches very seriously and personally.  And as someone with many close friends who are Muslims in Nigeria, I take those attacks very personally and seriously as well.  And as someone who lost friends to Al Qaeda on 9/11 and to the misguided US intervention in Iraq thereafter, I know the importance of trying to think before we act out of anger or fear.

Which is why I am interested in seeing an end to the killing on all sides, not just an end to the killing of Christians.  We need to find alternatives that bring the killers to justice -- including the financiers in any level of government, as you rightly point out.  But we need to do so in a way that does not make matters worse by fueling religious differences even further.

If you had been to Maiduguri with me recently to do research on Boko Haram, rather than in New York (although I hope you weathered the hurricane well), you would have found important evidence that the BH movement is much bigger than just the hardliner network at its core (which does indeed appear to have links within the state and federal governments), and that it has a great deal of part-time followers and a broader array of possible supporters that could move further toward its camp if Boko Haram succeeds in turning its insurgency into a religious war.  Many of these pockets of possible or part-time support already have antipathy or wariness toward the (Christian-majority) United States, and it is highly likely that the FTO designation could be seen as the US taking the Christian side, which will push these groups closer to Boko Haram and escalate the violence.  If Boko Haram succeeds in becoming a major popular organization beyond just its hardline network, the disaster of that would far outweigh any gains of asset seizures now.  In addition, any of the "moderates" within the BH movement who have been trying to find a negotiated solution to the crisis would, after the FTO designation, be easily seen as siding with the Americans and so be silenced even more.  Religious leaders and peace NGOs risking their lives to keep the fire from spreading would be whipsawed by being seen as pro-American on the one hand (since Boko Haram will be able to frame opposition to their tactics as effectively siding with the US), and yet be ineligible for US funding on the other (and as you say, if other funders follow suit on FTO, their resource pool will dry up).  The basic test of good policy is to ask if it will actually achieve the ends it promises, but also to try to foresee any unintended consequences.  As you mentioned, a long list of many American scholars of Nigerian politics, including me, warned the US government that an FTO designation at this time would not achieve the ends it seeks.  In fact, it would likely backfire and make matters worse.  The battle over public opinion is terribly important at this stage, and since that is the only tangible area of impact of FTO at this point, we have to judge it along those lines.

You rightly point out that the FBI, Justice, and Homeland Security are pushing for this, which make sense, since it would put some additional tools in their hands.  Some of the Republicans in the House and Senate, particularly on the House Africa subcommittee, are also pushing for FTO (and notably, invited the President of CAN but did not invite anyone to represent a Nigerian Muslim point of view to the hearings last July).  But the only tangible benefit for the present would be the ability to seize Boko Haram assets in the US, which are likely nonexistent.

Note that I am definitely not saying that Boko Haram should never get FTO designation.  All I am saying is that we should take it off the table for the time being to see if NSA Dasuki's efforts gain any traction.  If you look in the responses I sent to the subcommittee, I suggest some possible future conditions for them to consider that would merit FTO designation for Boko Haram.  It is possible, as you suggest, that some of the Nigerian politicians who are likely financing Boko Haram in part may have assets in the US, and they should be brought to justice.  This is certainly the strongest argument for FTO, but at this point no one appears to have provided any substantial evidence that any Boko Haram-connected politicians have assets in the US or Europe.  If your organization has or can obtain such evidence, then that would be a different situation, and I hope you are looking for it -- that would change the debate dramatically.  For the present, however, neither I or the other traveling academics, or Saharareporters or the New York Times, I believe, have found much evidence yet.  So far, it seems unlikely that such politicians have much here, and if they do, it would make more sense to track them for now -- and seize them later once more of the network has been rooted out, and after the Nigerian government's efforts play out more fully.

Your fears of foreigners' "hegemonic interests in the Nigerian federation" and the "historical mess created by the British" are representative of the larger political dynamics that I mentioned are engaged in this decision as well.  It is clear that Boko Haram's efforts to ignite the religious divide are gaining traction and shaking many older and deeper grievances across the federation, such as the Hausa-Middle Belt minority tensions that Dr. Jibo Ibrahim discussed in his posting yesterday, as well as influencing the current politics surrounding President Jonathan's 2015 ambitions versus those of key Northern elites.  Although I do personally believe that most Nigerians would prefer and would benefit more from a single Nigeria that democratizes enough to provide decent governance, I believe that if Nigerians vote to end the federation through a peaceful process, that is their right.  But I don't think that the United States or Nigerians themselves have anything to gain by violently breaking the country apart across religious and/or ethnic lines, such as Boko Haram appears to want.  And since the only real impacts of an FTO designation at this time are in the very important realm of public relations and debate, the fact that it could sour the views of the Islamic periphery groups I mentioned would, in effect, have the United States inadvertently strengthening the trends tearing the country apart.  We have other, more effective ways to show that we stand with Nigeria's Christians and Muslims that would be far more effective at this time, and I think the Obama administration has largely employed those for the present, although there are a couple minor changes I advocate in the testimony.

The "preposterous argument" you outline below is indeed that, and it has little resemblance to the thrust of my comments.  You are certainly right, however, that I am an outsider to Nigeria and frequently a traveling academic there since 1993, although I lived there for extended periods as well.  You have been living in New York since at least the 1990s when I was an avid reader of your Guardian columns, and I was always eager to hear your perspective on US politics as well as the UN, since an outsider's view is often helpful.  I hope you can see my work in a similar light.

Are the hardliners in Boko Haram terrorists?  Yes, of course.  Do Christians deserve justice for Boko Haram's crimes?  Absolutely, and so do the Muslim victims of their attacks.  Are Nigeria's corrupt politicians responsible for letting the country get to this point?  Absolutely.  Will the FTO designation help address any of this?  Not really, at this time.  Could I be wrong that NSA Dasuki's efforts deserve more time?  Certainly, but I don't see any better alternatives at this point on the table.  Let's take a realistic look at the tools and options we have, weigh them on the merits, and try to craft the best solution possible, based on evidence and research where possible.  We don't have the luxury to do otherwise when so many lives are at stake.

I look forward to your further comments, and I hope others will weigh in on this debate as well.

Darren
Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization MEOc...@gmail.com 11/20/12 3:14 PM
I am learning from this discussion/debate, so I'd hate to see it marred by unnecessary discursive fisticuffs. Darren is a friend and treasured colleague, and I know Laolu through his work on this and other lists and we have mutual friends and acquaintances. I consider this a very important conversation between two respected interlocutors with equal concern about the menace of Boko Haram. For me, Darren makes a very compelling case against FTO designation. I am convinced that, at this point, the cons are greater than the pros. 

That said, I am a little disappointed that Darren does not seem to interested in exploring the theological foundations of Boko Haram as a first, important step in understanding the political and social goals--declared and undeclared--that flow from that theological standpoint. This is a problem those of us on the left seem to have. We often prefer explanations and analytical trajectories that do not risk disturbing or being misread as critiquing primordial and religious narratives. In an overly politically correct world of left-wing analysis, we seem to perceive every self-declared religious extremist movement as a fundamentally political and economic problem that can be cured by political and economic policymaking. We cling to this hackneyed analytical bromide even when it contradicts the declared positions and rhetoric of the extremist group in question. This is where the intellectual and political Right do a better job than those of us on the left. Their motives may not be pure or sincere and their inquiries are often skewed by prejudice and bigotry, but they want to locate the root of the terror they are trying to solve. They try to develop and ideological profile of the groups sworn to terrorism as a prelude to making policy to grapple with their activities. Yes, they go overboard and blur the line between inquiry on one hand and hysteria and demonizing generalization on the other, but the left will do well to start asking the same questions that many on the right privilege as a point of policy departure, which is to ask, when  confronted with a murderous extremist group like Boko Haram, what the group believes, disseminates, and seeks as an end goal. In other words, what is the vision of the group and is that vision placable, compatible with a negotiated settlement, amenable to compromise and reason, etc? There is no way you can unravel this without a systematic excursion into the doctrinal and theological positions of the group. Even the political exercise of separating the nihilist hardliners from the nominal members would benefit from a knowledge of the internal theological debates and strands within the group. 

Yet many analysts on the left shy away from these kinds of exploration, conveniently and sometimes lazily throwing around the well-worn explanation that poverty, corruption, and political positioning are responsible, as though there is violent religious extremism everywhere you have these factors, which is not the case. When the need for this foundational understanding is posed, the stock response has been to deemphasize the religious and theological basis of Boko Haram or to subordinate this to the all-explaining fetish of economic deprivation and political exclusion, and to point to the violence of Niger Delta militancy, a false equivalence on several levels. Niger Delta militancy is not animated by any religious doctrine, does not seek religious goals or conditions consecrated in scripture, and does/did not target victims on the basis of religion, focusing for the most part on sabotaging state institutions and oil infrastructures. Because of these reasons, and as Murray Last has argued, they can be bought off with largesse and development while Boko Haram may not be swayed by the type of political and economic amelioration that most analysts are recommending as a solution. If you don't understand the depth of the extremist problem confronting Nigeria, and the ideological roots of the Boko Haram challenge specifically, you run the risk of proffering overly generic and thus ineffectual responses.

I have not seen any attempt to understand this fundamental dynamic in Darren's two contributions (I apologize if this is part of your congressional testimony, the transcript of which I have not read). I have also read many journalistic, scholarly, and polemical writings on Boko Haram and they tend to simply repeat the economic and political causation thesis without systematically analyzing the theological basis, if any, of the group's demands and quests. The only exception I have come across so far is an excellent article in the Journal of Religion in Africa, which upends much of the "economic and political deprivation" thesis, focusing instead on a comprehensive review of the theological history and evolution of Boko Haram, situating the movement not in economic and political conditions but in a decades-long infiltration of Wahhabi and Salafist forms of extremist Islam into Northern Nigeria, a development that occurred to the detriment of the traditional Sunni establishment and the pacifist sufi orders of the region. This process began in 1978 with the founding of the Izala sect on a doctrinal corpus inspired by Saudi Wahhabism. It culminated, decades later, with the emergence of ultra-radical and implacable strains like Boko Haram, Kala Kato, Dar-Islam, and other sects that lack the visibility of Boko Haram. It is a fascinating and well researched article that relies on tape-recorded messages, sermons, debates, and doctrinal edicts of the group to reach a sound, sobering conclusion on the origins of and ideological justifications for Boko Haram's homicidal activities and its practically non-negotiable sociopolitical demands. The societal configuration that the group envisions doesn't appear to be one that a transparent, secular governing system and a more equitable economic arrangement can fulfill or preempt. Coming to terms with this basic fact is in my opinion the foundation of a sound solution, whether that solution is the kind of divide and conquer strategy that Darren advocates or some hybrid that brings together several suggested solutions.
There is enough in the world for everyone's need but not for everyone's greed.


---Mohandas Gandhi
Re: More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization Darren Kew 11/21/12 8:04 AM
Thanks for this, Moses.

I do give some discussion of the roots of Boko Haram in the testimony, but there are much better ones available out there.  Raufu Mustapha had a great op-ed on this recently:  http://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-05-boko-haram-killing-in-gods-name.  USIP also has a good study on its website.  Hausa speakers can also find some of Mohammed Yusuf's sermons on YouTube, and I heard that there is also an interesting theological debate between him and other scholars that brought out many of his strange, idiosyncratic views, which show that his inner circle was not strictly Salafist -- rather, there are many personal dimensions at play.

I think the key point I tried to make is that Boko Haram is not yet a cohesive organization -- it is a collection of groups, a movement that is evolving as we speak.  The hardliners at the core are definitely a well-organized, disciplined network capable of very complex terror operations.  And as Moses indicates, they appear to have a rigid belief system that shows little room for negotiation at this point.  It is the broader array of loosely affiliated groups or part-timers that I am most worried about in regard to the FTO designation.  They are far more numerous and represent a broad spectrum of theological and political opinions.  One common thread that I think they share, however, is an antipathy for the US, and I fear that FTO could be the pebble that starts the landslide.

One important point we haven't discussed about Boko Haram, however, is the key role that the police played in provoking the core group to become violent.  The "Nigerian Taliban" wing that undertook its main operations in 2002-03 and appears to have later joined Boko Haram (my interviews contradict the idea that the Taliban and Boko Haram are the same thing) appears to have initially been a fairly peaceful Hijrah group based in Yobe with ties to the governor.  The governor later sent the police to drive them out, killing several of their members and starting them on the cycle of violence.  Boko Haram had a similar experience thereafter:  an initial ambivalence about violence means initially (Yusuf appears to have waffled on this issue during 2003-06), but the police killing several BH members provoked rounds of increasing violence thereafter, culminating in the 2009 "coup" in Maiduguri and the military response.  The irony of this is that my interviews seem to suggest that Boko Haram was quickly losing popularity in Borno by 2008-09 for its views and growing violence, but that the indiscriminate military operations in 2009 provoked wider public angers that worked in Boko Haram's favor thereafter.

This is what worries me most about the policy I am suggesting -- the NSA effort to negotiate is important, but the often-hamfisted military operations alongside of it to flush out the hardliners may well add even more recruits to the movement than before.  In the short term, the military seems to be the only option to try to restore some measure of security in Borno, and has the outside chance of catching some of the hardliners, but without some political settlement soon, the military options may backfire.  Police reform is an absolute must in the longer term, but I would love to hear some better short-term options if folks have them.

Thanks again to all,

Darren
...
Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization MEOc...@gmail.com 11/21/12 2:41 PM
A few quick thoughts as I retire for Thanksgiving.....

1. I have just read Raufu Mustapha's very engaging op-ed and, although it has a little discussion of Boko Haram's strange theology, it too is stuck in the "state failure" and "economic deprivation" paradigm. If I counted the number of times this explanation has been repeated for every crisis that rears its head in Nigeria and Africa, I'd now be dizzy from arithmetic fatigue. Please give me something new, something that speaks to why the same state failures and economic deprivation actuate violent religious extremism in Northern Nigeria and not elsewhere in the country, why state failure and misrule lead to a violent, jihadist mobilization in Northeast and Northwestern Nigeria and not elsewhere--say, in the southwest or northcentral regions where you also have large numbers of Muslims. The big unsaid in these analyses is extremist Salafist and Wahhabi teachings and their growing influence in Northern Nigeria in the last four decades. Sometimes the explanation may not be as complicated as we think. When our alibi fails to apply to other parts of the same milieu where the conditions we lament are also present then we should be brave or humble enough to name the problem and not do the usual dance of political correctness, attributing every event or phenomenon thing in Nigeria to state failure, misgovernance, and economic deprivation. When we do that, we actually reduce our people to mere economic or political machines bereft of ideational, spiritual, and ideological priorities and goals. Or as a people without the capacity to develop and articulate a coherent, even if wacky, body of theology and ideology that is then deployed to anchor a struggle with a clearly defined if unrealistic end goal.

Moving on.....

It appears that some members of the Nigerian Taliban gravitated towards Boko Haram when the movement became fully operational under the charismatic leadership of founder, Mohammed Yusuf. This would have been a natural process of coalescing, since the defunct group espoused most of the doctrinal flourishes and political commentaries that became associated with the Boko Haram brand. But I am confused that you located the original Nigerian Taliban group in Yobe state. My understanding is that it began in Borno, specifically in the Maiduguri-Konduga-Bama axis. The group was made up of mostly University of Maiduguri students who repudiated and abandoned their Western educational certificates and pursuits, became engrossed in the politically charged and ultra radical teachings of Salafi and Wahhabi Islam, and were radicalized for good measure by the US-Taliban war in Afghanistan. They then migrated in a Hijrah to the Gwoza Hills, from where they launched sporadic attacks on the communities at the foot of the hills and on Gwoza town itself. Soldiers where then deployed there to confront them, resulting in the first reported armed confrontation between the group and the military. It is possible that a parallel Taliban group also emerged in Yobe at the same time, so I am not necessarily disputing your history. By the way, I am very familiar with the Borno-Yobe axis because I lived and went to secondary school there for a period. In fact Gwoza and its hills were only a few miles from my boarding school, so when I was reading about military-Taliban battles on Gwoza hills, it brought mixed memories.

You are spot on about the theological debates between Mohammed Yusuf and other clerics. In fact a lot of folks don't realize that Boko Haram was actually birthed in the crucible of these debates. Yusuf started out as a star pupil of the late Sheikh J'afar Adam, who returned, along with several other disciples of Izala leader, Shekh Gumi, from years of Wahhabi and Salafi training in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. Yusuf's falling out with his mentor was over a theological disagreement. In fact, even Adam, whose sermons were/are as fiery as they come in terms of hitting the standard anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-modern themes, found Yusuf's beliefs and evolving theology too extreme and tried in vain to set him straight, hence the separation, which lead Yusuf to found Boko Haram. Sheikh Adam was murdered less than a year after the split in what some speculate was a hit carried out by the hardcore followers of Yusuf, who was now competing with Adam for influence within the Wahhabi and Salafi community. Yusuf spent the subsequent years developing the core theology of Boko Haram from an eclectic corpus of sources and, yes, strange personal beliefs based on ignorance and his illiteracy (he had little formal Western or Koranic education and thus had a tendency for simplistic, absolutist interpretations).

Anyway, I wish commentators would spend as much time understanding the implacable theological core of Boko Haram and other emergent extremist groups in Northern Nigeria as they do on regurgitating well-worn "poverty and bad governance" explanations.

Finally, your chronology/timeline seems to contradict the widely held notion, which you also argue, that police persecution and harassment drove Boko Haram into violence. You state in your post that in 2008-2009 (BEFORE the military-police assault), Boko Haram was already losing its popularity on account of its violence and that the attack on its Maiduguri base in 2009 had the effect of winning undeserved sympathy for it among the populace. This shows clearly that the group's violence PREDATED the massive police and army operation that is widely credited with driving the group to violence. I agree with this interpretation because the group was for all practical purposes ALREADY violent at the time of the said operation, although the violence seemed very discriminating, targeting mostly Churches, bars, and other places of pleasure deemed anti-Islamic (remember the bombing of several churches over several months and the many attacks on alcohol brewing and drinking places before the supposed turning point of the military operation?). Any way, before the military operation that is said to have triggered the Boko Haram's embrace of violent attacks, the group was already building bombs as evidenced by reported accidental explosions in its bomb-making facilities in Maiduguri, as well as the reported use of bombs to lunch drive-by attacks on churches. All of these predated the police and army persecution/operation posited as the game changer in terms of the groups deployment of violence. In fact police and military action occurred in RESPONSE to Boko Haram's violence against mostly Christians but also some Muslims who drank alcohol or partook in activities that the group consider haram. This appears to me, again, as yet another one of those explanations that are simply repeated without reference to the actual chronology of events and without regard to the fact that the military-police operation in question did not occur in a vacuum but was a response to widespread insecurity that enveloped Maiduguri and its environs as a result of Boko Haram's violent terror. A more nuanced and modest argument can be made that the military operation may have caused Boko Haram to become INDISCRIMINATE in their attacks, going after Christians, moderate Muslims, state figures, moderate clerics, institutions, places of worship, schools, drinking places, etc. That's a far more accurate point to make.
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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization Darren Kew 11/21/12 4:11 PM
Thanks Moses --

On the "Taliban", I have a Guardian (of Nigeria) report from 2004 that discussed their Yobe origins and dispute with the governor, as well as some interviews that support it -- will try to dig it up.  But I am sure there must have been Borno-based members that joined at some point, so your point on there being both Yobe and Borno cells in the early days makes sense to me.

On the police role in provoking Boko Haram, I wasn't referring to the 2009 military action.  I meant that police provocations and attacks began over the 2004-2009 period, roughly, leading the movement to respond in kind, in a gradually escalating cycle of violence, that led to their drop in local popularity by '08-09, or so local analysts in Maiduguri told me.  But I don't mean to suggest that police brutality was the only factor -- many other Nigerian groups of course face regular police brutality and don't go violent, so Boko Haram had/has its own pro-violence views driving things as well.

Thanks!

Darren
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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization MEOc...@gmail.com 11/21/12 2:42 PM
Darren, thanks for another lucid contribution.

A few quick thoughts as I retire for Thanksgiving.....

I have just read Raufu Mustapha's very engaging op-ed and, although it has a little discussion of Boko Haram's strange theology, it too is stuck in the "state failure" and "economic deprivation" paradigm. If I counted the number of times this explanation has been repeated for every crisis that rears its head in Nigeria and Africa, I'd now be dizzy from arithmetic fatigue. Please give me something new, something that speaks to why the same state failures and economic deprivation actuate violent religious extremism in Northern Nigeria and not elsewhere in the country, why state failure and misrule lead to a violent, jihadist mobilization in Northeast and Northwestern Nigeria and not elsewhere--say, in the southwest or northcentral regions where you also have large numbers of Muslims. The big unsaid in these analyses is extremist Salafist and Wahhabi teachings and their growing influence in Northern Nigeria in the last four decades. Sometimes the explanation may not be as complicated as we think. When our alibi fails to apply to other parts of the same milieu where the conditions we lament are also present then we should be brave or humble enough to name the problem and not do the usual dance of political correctness, attributing every event or phenomenon thing in Nigeria to state failure, misgovernance, and economic deprivation. When we do that, we actually reduce our people to mere economic or political machines bereft of ideational, spiritual, and ideological priorities and goals. Or as a people without the capacity to develop and articulate a coherent, even if wacky, body of theology and ideology that is then deployed to anchor a struggle with a clearly defined if unrealistic end goal.

Moving on.....

It appears that some members of the Nigerian Taliban gravitated towards Boko Haram when the movement became fully operational under the charismatic leadership of founder, Mohammed Yusuf. This would have been a natural process of coalescing, since the defunct group espoused most of the doctrinal flourishes and political commentaries that became associated with the Boko Haram brand. But I am confused that you located the original Nigerian Taliban group in Yobe state. My understanding is that it began in Borno, specifically in the Maiduguri-Konduga-Bama axis. The group was made up of mostly University of Maiduguri students who repudiated and abandoned their Western educational certificates and pursuits, became engrossed in the politically charged and ultra radical teachings of Salafi and Wahhabi Islam, and were radicalized for good measure by the US-Taliban war in Afghanistan. They then migrated in a Hijrah to the Gwoza Hills, from where they launched sporadic attacks on the communities at the foot of the hills and on Gwoza town itself. Soldiers where then deployed there to confront them, resulting in the first reported armed confrontation between the group and the military. It is possible that a parallel Taliban group also emerged in Yobe at the same time, so I am not necessarily disputing your history. By the way, I am very familiar with the Borno-Yobe axis because I lived and went to secondary school there for a period. In fact Gwoza and its hills were only a few miles from my boarding school, so when I was reading about military-Taliban battles on Gwoza hills, it brought mixed memories.

You are spot on about the theological debates between Mohammed Yusuf and other clerics. In fact a lot of folks don't realize that Boko Haram was actually birthed in the crucible of these debates. Yusuf started out as a star pupil of the late Sheikh J'afar Adam, who returned, along with several other disciples of Izala leader, Shekh Gumi, from years of Wahhabi and Salafi training in Saudi Arabia in the 1990s. Yusuf's falling out with his mentor was over a theological disagreement. In fact, even Adam, whose sermons were/are as fiery as they come in terms of hitting the standard anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, and anti-modern themes, found Yusuf's beliefs and evolving theology too extreme and tried in vain to set him straight, hence the separation, which lead Yusuf to found Boko Haram. Sheikh Adam was murdered less than a year after the split in what some speculate was a hit carried out by the hardcore followers of Yusuf, who was now competing with Adam for influence within the Wahhabi and Salafi community. Yusuf spent the subsequent years developing the core theology of Boko Haram from an eclectic corpus of sources and, yes, strange personal beliefs based on ignorance and his illiteracy (he had little formal Western or Koranic education and thus had a tendency for simplistic, absolutist interpretations).

Anyway, I wish commentators would spend as much time understanding the implacable theological core of Boko Haram and other emergent extremist groups in Northern Nigeria as they do on regurgitating well-worn "poverty and bad governance" explanations.

Finally, your chronology/timeline seems to contradict the widely held notion, which you also argue, that police persecution and harassment drove Boko Haram into violence. You state in your post that in 2008-2009 (BEFORE the military-police assault), Boko Haram was already losing its popularity on account of its violence and that the attack on its Maiduguri base in 2009 had the effect of winning undeserved sympathy for it among the populace. This shows clearly that the group's violence PREDATED the massive police and army operation that is widely credited with driving the group to violence. I agree with this interpretation because the group was for all practical purposes ALREADY violent at the time of the said operation, although the violence seemed very discriminating, targeting mostly Churches, bars, and other places of pleasure deemed anti-Islamic (remember the bombing of several churches over several months and the many attacks on alcohol brewing and drinking places before the supposed turning point of the military operation?). Any way, before the military operation that is said to have triggered the Boko Haram's embrace of violent attacks, the group was already building bombs as evidenced by reported accidental explosions in its bomb-making facilities in Maiduguri, as well as the reported use of bombs to lunch drive-by attacks on churches. All of these predated the police and army persecution/operation posited as the game changer in terms of the groups deployment of violence. In fact police and military action occurred in RESPONSE to Boko Haram's violence against mostly Christians but also some Muslims who drank alcohol or partook in activities that the group consider haram. This appears to me, again, as yet another one of those explanations that are simply repeated without reference to the actual chronology of events and without regard to the fact that the military-police operation in question did not occur in a vacuum but was a response to widespread insecurity that enveloped Maiduguri and its environs as a result of Boko Haram's violent terror. A more nuanced and modest argument can be made that the military operation may have caused Boko Haram to become INDISCRIMINATE in their attacks, going after Christians, moderate Muslims, state figures, moderate clerics, institutions, places of worship, schools, drinking places, etc. That's a far more accurate point to make.
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Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Re: More On Designating Boko Haram as a Terrorist Organization MEOc...@gmail.com 11/23/12 4:13 PM
Darren, thanks for the clarification. The question of whether police harassment even played a role in the INITIAL Boko Haram adoption of violence as a means to its agenda is up in the air and should be thoroughly debated and probably resolved before one makes the kind of definitive assertions that I keep reading about police culpability in provoking Boko Haram's violence. Maybe it's the historian in me, but in the absence of a clear chronology establishing the causal role of police harassment in Boko Haram's descent into violence, I'd like to be tentative and cautious in making pronouncements about causality. Establishing what came first--police harassment/brutality or Boko Haram violence is ultimately a chicken and egg question, a dead end inquest in my opinion. Like I said, the police did not just move against the group even in the period before the 2009 offensive in a vacuum. For good or ill, they were responding to widespread citizen complaints about Boko Haram's harassment of and attacks against innocent citizens that the group perceived to be sinners, unbelievers, and enemies of their agenda, including law enforcement agencies. In addition to reading about the groups early violence, I have family and friends in Maiduguri who told me that the group had been attacking people who drank alcohol, centers of prostitution, and Christians years before the 2009 police action. Police and military intervention was a response to these initial violent acts by Boko Haram. Unfortunately, the police--and this is where you and I may agree--overreacted, as they are wont to to, pushing the group into revenge attacks and further violence. My point is, blaming police harassment for the group's violence ignores the originary Boko Haram violence that drew in the police and their brutality in the first place. Let me say that yours is a measured strand of the argument as I have heard more problematic versions in many reports suggesting that the 2009 military-police offensive triggered Boko Haram's violence, an egregiously inaccurate yet ubiquitous rendering. One analogous event that comes to mind is the Maitatsine crisis of the 1980s. Take the Kano violence of that event. It is now often repeated in both journalistic and scholarly accounts of the crisis that Governor Rimi's order to the police and army to attack the group's base in the Yan Awaki quarters of Kano city was responsible for provoking the group into unleashing mayhem on the neighboring areas and on the general public. Completely--and conveniently-- forgotten in this interpretation is the fact that the Ludite Islamist sect, which railed against all instruments of modernity and technology, had been harassing their "sinning" neighbors, beating up passersby and even killing a few people who ventured into their "holy ground" in the Yan Awaki area, a reign of terror which caused residents of Kano city to complain loudly to the governor and to the emir, prompting the former, who initially patronized the group's spiritual head, to eventually order the police and soldiers to dislodge them from their fortress. The group, of course, fought back and the rest is history.  I know that seemingly pedantic historical excursions of the type that I doing here are not everyone's cup of tea, but they help to establish correct sequences of causality or to at least prevent us from arbitrarily establishing a baseline of causality and provocation by blaming the familiar scapegoats and culprits of Nigerian crises--the police and the military. Accuracy is very important when trying to establish causality and proffer solutions, whether that quest for accuracy leads us to a neat causal picture or a less definitive chicken and egg proposition.  ...