Sunday 26 August 2012

BOKO HARAM: Their grouse, the solution, by Amb. Carson

This is the concluding part of the abridged version of a recorded exchange during a Sub-committee on Foreign Affairs congressional hearing in America, with leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in attendance.
In this concluding part, House members sought to know why Boko Haram leaders were designated terrorists and the group, not designated as  a FOREIGN TERROR ORGANISATION, FTO. It is revealing.
Ambassador Carson

Ms Bass
One is about Boko Haram, the other is about corruption.  What is the real objective of Boko Haram?

Ambassador Carson
I think it is an attempt to both discredit and bring attention to concerns and grievances legitimate or illegitimate, of the people who are carrying out the activities and this is, in deed, by pointing out enormous economic deprivation that exists in northern Nigeria.

It is not to suggest that poor people are terrorists but it is to suggest that that kind of environment helps to generate and feed the notion that the government is not providing adequate service delivery in all segments to the people of the country.  And I think it is largely in an effort to embarrass and discredit (the administration) by bringing attention to these sets of grievances.

And I think the core elements of Boko Haram are also ideological in their orientation.  I do not think they represent the views of the larger Muslim population that exists across Nigeria.  But it is the notion that they have a set of grievances.  One of the things that have happened is that Boko Haram leaders do not, in fact, put down on a piece of paper what they are actually striving for and one of the things the government has frequently said is ‘come forward and tell us what it is that you want us to do

Ms Bass

I appreciate your pointing  out that individuals were identified as terrorists as opposed to the overall organisation and you feel that the reason for that is that labeling the organization as an FTO would embolden its members, that it will boost their status.

Ambassador Carson
I think it will serve to enhance their status, probably give them greater international notoriety amongst radical Islamic groups; probably lead to more recruiting and probably more assistance.  One of the concerns (also, is that) we elevate them to a higher level and higher status than they deserve.  But these three particular individuals have showed the desire not just to go after the Nigerian government and Nigerian interests but also go after larger western interests including American interest.

But there is, in fact, a big distinction there; these individuals are prepared to go after larger interests beyond those that are Nigerian to discredit and embarrass the Nigerian government.

Ms Bass
And how will you asses the Jonathan administration’s strategy towards countering terrorism? I also wanted to know what, in general, extent are Nigerian intelligence and security forces cooperating with those of neighboring countries where AQAM is operating and where some members of Boko Haram have reportedly been trained

Ambassador Carson
Let me say that  the government could be doing better both in trying to combat the Boko Haram threat and it could certainly be doing better in trying to increase service delivery  across the North.

I know that government in neighboring states, particularly Niger and Cameron, to a certain extent, Chad, are concerned about the Boko Haram threat because many of the people now live in southern Niger and southern Chad, north western part of Cameroon, as well as going across to Benin and upper parts of Togo – these are ethnically linked (with) the same linguistics communities, so there is this concern about the spread of this kind of violence into their own countries

Ms Bass

You know one of the topics that we have not talked about today is the drug issue – drug trafficking.  So I wanted to know if you could comment about that especially if there is a relationship, what the Jonathan administration is doing to address drug trafficking; and is there a relationship between Boko Haram and the drug industry?

Ambassador Carson
I am not aware of any major link or connectivity between drug trafficking and the financing of Boko Haram!  We do know that drug trafficking is a major problem all along the west African coast; it continues to be a serious problem in Nigeria because of the use of human traffickers moving drugs and because of the use of ports, airports for movement of narcotics in West Africa and from there into Western Europe.  So it is an issue.

Ms Jackson Lee
(Why do we have these conflicts in Northern Nigeria, especially the attacks against the churches; why are we at this point of conflict?)

Ambassador Carson
Let me make quick global points: We here in Washington recognize Nigeria to be one of the two most important nations in sub-Saharan Africa.  We look at it as Africa’s largest democracy and our largest trading partner; our 5th largest supplier of crude oil and a country we seek to strengthen and broaden our relationship with.  So Nigeria is legitimately of great significance to us and we don’t want to ignore it.

Secondly, Nigeria faces the kinds of dilemma that many African states have because of the large number of different ethnic and linguistic, religious groups that exist there.  But the country’s people have decided over time that the best way to manage the country is through democratic means and democratic ways.

I think what we are seeing, the kind of problems in northern Nigeria with respect to Boko Haram do not represent the vast majority of people in the North, which does not represent the views of the overwhelming number of Muslims.

The Boko Haram group is made up of a small group of individuals that are indeed trying to play on the effort to discredit, embarrass and to under mine the credibility of the central government and it is not just the central government led currently by a Christian leader. I want to point out again that Boko Haram was active under President Yar’Adua  but the sense of hopelessness built upon a lack of service delivery, lack of opportunity, a lack of hope helps to contribute to this.



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