African nations band together to defeat Boko Haram
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 6/26/15, 08:00 am
WASHINGTON—African countries will not defeat Boko Haram terrorists unless they work together, experts at a Wilson Center forum in Washington, D.C., said this week.
“This is our fight and we have to lead it,” said Kah Walla, president of the Cameroon People’s Party, who added African countries must work together to end Boko Haram “sustainably.”
Boko Haram’s latest insurgency began in 2009, leaving more than 13,000 dead and a million more displaced. On Monday and Tuesday, the extremist group reportedly killed more than 40 people in Nigeria’s Borno State.
Boko Haram—whose name means “Western education is sinful”—has followed the so-called Islamic State’s lead since last year, seizing control of a swath of northeastern Nigeria roughly the size of Belgium. This month, after ISIS accepted Boko Haram as a regional affiliate, the Nigerian extremist group renamed itself Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP).
Boko Haram’s spreading terror has extended beyond the Nigerian border, overflowing into Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Walla proposed an integrated regional approach as the only way to address the growing problem.
“Boko Haram is in the population,” she said. “They are at the grass-root levels. Right now we’re having these spontaneous attacks to Boko Haram. There’s no medium-term or long-term strategy.”
Walla proposed a four-prong strategy that focuses on the military, human rights, humanitarian needs, and development at economic and social levels.
Earlier this month, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with the leaders of the three affected countries to form a Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) that also will include Benin. The plan is to deploy a joint 8,700-member force by July 30.
“The hope is that the task force will be able to stop Boko Haram’s spill over into the region and weaken the insurgency in Nigeria,” said the Wilson Center's Monde Muyangwa.
So far, the MNJTF is receiving international aid. But Lauren Ploch Blanchard of the Congressional Research Service believes more work still needs to be done internally.
“You can buy them trucks, but you can’t force them to fuel the vehicles,” she said.
Boko Haram’s terror spree has contributed to a financial crisis for Nigeria, which boasts Africa’s largest economy.
“The root of the crisis is a decline in oil prices,” said John Campbell with the Council on Foreign Relations. “That means government revenue—80 percent of which comes from oil—has also declined rapidly.”
The country’s currency value also has dropped. Last month, Nigeria was plagued by a fuel shortage that almost crippled the economy, closing businesses and canceling flights. The outgoing government paid $800 million to oil suppliers to end the power outage.
As part of his inaugural speech last month, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised to restore Nigeria’s financial sanity.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.