Congressman Chris Smith Urges Nigerian Government to Change Tactics Against Boko Haram

Published: February 21, 2014

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04)
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04)
With an upsurge in violence by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, today called on the Nigerian government to rethink its unsuccessful efforts to quell the violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of Nigerians since the Boko Haram threat began in 2003 with the creation of the militant group in northern Nigeria. Boko Haram reportedly killed more than 100 civilians Feb. 15. The group also is believed to have killed one guard and injured several others in a strike against the residence of the commander of the Joint Task Force fighting the group earlier this week in northern Borno State. Nearly 100 worshippers also were killed in another suspected Boko Haram attack in January on a Catholic church in the village of Izge near the Cameroon border.

Congressman Smith led a congressional delegation to Abuja and Jos in Nigeria last September, and heard accounts of the brutal tactics of the Nigerian government and of its weak commitment to investing in social services, both of which have hurt its efforts to end the reign of terror by Boko Haram and its offshoot Ansaru.

“We learned that there are contradictory tactics being used by the Government of Nigeria that are worsening the already-dire situation,” Smith said. “Even as a presidential commission attempts to conduct meaningful peace talks with Boko Haram representatives, other elements follow them from meetings and either arrest them or engage them in shootouts. Clearly, these contradictory tactics are making it less likely that even a relatively peaceful end to this violence can be achieved. Furthermore, the refusal to increase services and provide development in northern Nigeria only creates fertile ground for terrorist recruitment.”

For more than a year, there have been reports that the Nigerian government has been overly heavy-handed in its military/security response to Boko Haram/Ansaru violence. The killing of Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf while in police custody in 2009 is but one action that has been counter-productive. The congressional delegation last September was told of raids on Muslim homes in which heads of households were manhandled in front of their families and attempted arrests in which the target was killed along with others, including presumably innocent people. Human rights violations by Nigeria’s Joint Task Force combating Boko Haram/Ansaru have been cited in reports ranging from the U.S. Department of State to Human Rights Watch.

In April 2013, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan created the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North to open a negotiating front with their Islamic insurgents. However, many in President Jonathan’s government are said to have serious doubts about potentially offering amnesty to terrorists, and the congressional delegation was told that some government officials have actually sabotaged the peace process.

Source: Cong. Chris Smith Office

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