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Who Can Save "Our Girls" and Nigeria? Only the Nigerian People, Not Washington

May 12, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls has captured international attention and sparked a twitter campaign. Yet few outside of Nigeria paid attention as the terrorist group responsible, Boko Haram, killed thousands of people in previous attacks on churches, schools, police stations, newspaper offices, beer halls, bus terminals, and more. When the organization assaulted a school with male students, it simply murdered them.

Americans understandably want to help, but Washington must avoid getting entangled in another interminable conflict, this one featuring relentless Islamic extremists battling brutal security forces. Only Nigerians can find a way to simultaneously defeat a terrorist organization which kills more indiscriminately than al-Qaeda and reform a political system which seems to guarantee failure.

Nigeria should be an African powerhouse. With a population of roughly 175 million, the continent’s largest economy, and abundant oil reserves, the country’s potential is obvious. Yet around 100 million people live in poverty and the state is incapable of keeping the lights on. Corruption is pervasive, with politics a popular means of self-enrichment. Rampant violence has turned Nigeria into a nation of armed guards, high walls, and checkpoints.

Getting involved in Nigeria may be emotionally satisfying, but it isn’t likely to help.”

Worse, Nigerians have endured civil war and extended military rule. Only recently has civilian rule taken root. Nevertheless, with the country evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, political machinations are often sectarian and always complex. Muslim northern states imposed sharia law over objections from Christian minorities; mob violence between Christians and Muslims cost many lives, especially in Nigeria’s so-called Middle Belt.

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram began more than a decade ago and turned to escalating violence after its leader was killed in government custody in 2009. The name is loosely translated Western education is prohibited, or more accurately, non-Muslim education is prohibited. While BH has complained of corruption and human rights abuses, its principal cause today is radical Islam. Social problems have increased its appeal to disaffected young men, but BH’s penchant for slaughter transcends any political grievances.

The government’s response often has been ineffective, even counterproductive. Although the authorities pushed BH out of urban areas and frustrated the group’s hope of creating a territorial caliphate, unlawful killings, mass arrests, and other abuses help sustain support for the guerrillas. Boko Haram has responded with terrorism, killing ever more promiscuously.

BH operates with relative impunity in three northeastern states. From 2009 …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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