Internal politics hampering Nigeria's Boko Haram fight

2015-02-24 17:05
Boko Haram Islamists leader Abubakar Shekau. (File AFP

Boko Haram Islamists leader Abubakar Shekau. (File AFP

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Johannesburg - Internal politics within Nigeria is one of the reasons the country is failing to deal with terror group Boko Haram, a Nigerian researcher and international law expert said on Tuesday.

"Tied to the politics is the internal power struggle between the north and south of Nigeria... who controls the oil wealth of Nigeria," University of Johannesburg post-doctoral fellow Dr John-Mark Iyi told reporters ahead of a conference on Boko Haram and international law.

"It affects how the president responds to Boko Haram and explains why his response here and there has been questionable."

Boko Haram made headlines last year when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April. The girls have never been found, despite claims by the government that they would be returned.

Before 2009, when Boko Haram emerged, the country had no anti-terrorism laws, Iyi said.

Long-term response

Part of the problem was that in northern Nigeria children were not sent to school but learnt under an Imam as part of their Islamic upbringing.

"Ten million people under the age of 16 are not attending school... 70% of children between the ages of six and 16 have never been to school," he said.

This made it easier for the organisation to recruit followers.

"Nigeria shouldn't have been surprised to find itself in this situation."

Had Nigeria implemented a short and long-term response to enforce education or provide children with vocational skills they might not have been faced with a crisis of this magnitude.

Earlier, Iyi said Boko Haram also appealed to people's ethnic affiliations to recruit followers.

This made it easy for them to recruit not only in northern Nigeria, but also in neighbouring Chad and Cameroon.

Weapons and financial assistance

Iyi added that Boko Haram was known to have links to the global militant terrorist organisation al-Qaeda. He said sanctions imposed on Boko Haram by the UN security council in 2014 were not effective because they were not being enforced.

International law professor at the University of Johannesburg Hennie Strydom told reporters international organisations would be hesitant to intervene in the country unless specifically asked to do so by African organisations.

He said this stemmed from a statement made by the African Union during the crisis in Sudan that African problems required African solutions.

Strydom pointed out that 13 000 lives had been lost and one million people had been displaced since the conflict with Boko Haram started.

The two-day conference starts on Wednesday with host speakers and military officials from Nigeria and other African countries, and France and Poland.

It would cover issues including where Boko Haram obtained its weapons and financial assistance, the United Nations response to the crisis, the internal capacity of Nigeria to deal with the problem, and the role of neighbouring states.

Read more on:    boko haram  |  nigeria  |  west africa

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