Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Beating Boko Haram

by Isobel Coleman
May 12, 2014

A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde). A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde).

Earlier today, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau offered to release more than 200 kidnapped school girls in exchange for prisoners. In the video, approximately one hundred girls are seen wearing hijabs and reciting verses from the Quran. Most of the girls are believed to be Christian, but Shekau explains they have been converted to Islam. Meanwhile, the international effort to rescue the girls is ramping up. The United States, the United Kingdom, China, France, and Israel are helping the Nigerian government strategize about how to find the girls and fight the radical Islamic group.

Widespread corruption, unemployment, and illiteracy make northern Nigeria, Boko Haram’s stronghold, fertile ground for extremism. As I recently wrote in a Foreign Affairs article, reforming Nigeria’s crumbling education system is crucial for the country’s future stability and economic growth.  Nigeria’s current counterterrorism approach relies on brutal use of force, which has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and public outrage. If Nigeria really wants to beat Boko Haram, the government must address the underlying issues that led to its rise and continue fuel the movement. Read more on ForeignAffairs.com.

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