John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Presidential Committee Acknowledges Poor Governance Is Root of Boko Haram

by John Campbell
September 27, 2011

Nigerian authorities escort media through the village of Hayin-Uku near Abuja where they say a two-room bomb-making factory was found September 6, 2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

The Presidential Committee on Security Challenges in the Northeast Zone issued its final report yesterday. As had been foreseen in its earlier, interim report, it urges dialogue and calls for amnesty for Boko Haram participants who surrender to the government as well as for compensation to the “human and organizational victims of the violence,” including victims of the security services. It also calls for enhanced “international intelligence sharing” and “interagency cooperation through diplomatic channels/pacts.” To me, this smacks of a request for counterterrorism assistance from the United States and other Western nations.

The report is clear-eyed about the “remote and immediate causes of the security challenges in the country”: Poverty, youth unemployment, paramilitary forces established by politicians, weak governance, and failure to deliver fundamental services. It also notes that the 2009 “extrajudicial” murder of Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic Islamic preacher, was an immediate cause of the current wave of violence.

The committee puts great emphasis on negotiation. But, to me, it is unclear with whom the government could negotiate. The followers of Mohammed Yusuf seem to be only a part of the widespread unrest in the northeast that has been labeled Boko Haram. Press reports on the committee’s recommendations claim that “Boko Haram” has designated the Sultan of Sokoto, amongst others, as a preferred interlocutor. Yet, in the aftermath of the April 2011 elections, a mob burned down the sultan’s private house because he had “sold out” to the southern Christian Jonathan government. The fundamental question remains: What is Boko Haram and what is its relationship to northern alienation and disaffection?

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by U George-Nkemnacho

    Brilliant. It would have been more useful if the link to the interim report had been included

  • Posted by Bill Knight

    With whom to negotiate? Why not ‘the common man’? Of course, that would first mean listening to him, for a change. After all, might not the common man know the answer to the fundamental question?

  • Posted by Sulayman Dauda

    The emergence and activities of the by popular name ‘Boko Haram’ is beyond the presidential committee claimed that has to do with poor leadership and ideal youth. Any finding will be incorrect without looking at or considering some major factors of denial of citizens mandate and the brutal nature of the Nigerias untrained military and paramilitary personnel as well as the increasing nature of inequality between the privilege and the none privilege.

  • Posted by Mike Blyth

    I appreciated your analysis last week on NPR as well as posts here on CFR re: Nigeria. Clearly you believe that Boko Haram is more of a grass-roots, uncoordinated movement than a tightly-run organization. In what I’ve read and listened to, you’ve also focused exclusively on the social and political motivations of the group rather than on religious ideology. I’m curious how you deal with the recent statements of Boko Haram leaders in the press and on their supposed website, that seem to align closely with Salafi style Islam and sound much like AQ rhetoric. Do you think this is simply posturing in order to gain status, or a shift in the movement, or the work of a splinter group or what?

    Also, how do the high-profile suicide bombings fit into this view? It seems most commentators have seen them as an indication of connections with international terrorism because of the nature of the target (particularly the UN building) and the technology used. What do you think?

    Mike in Jos, Nigeria

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