Saturday, 24 May 2014

Long-term foreign help needed to stop Boko Haram

Nigeria needs foreign help to defeat Boko Haram, a senior intelligence source told AFP on Friday, as the country’s top Muslim leader broke his silence to demand action to defeat the militants.

The security source, who agreed to an interview on condition of anonymity, said the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls had laid bare Nigeria’s inability to end the increasingly bloody uprising.

“The Chibok kidnap has exposed our nakedness. It has exposed how porous we are,” he said in the state capital of northeastern Borno state, Maiduguri.

“It has clearly shown that we don’t have the wherewithal to deal with this insurgency that has raged on for five years now.

“We have no option but to eat humble pie and accept whatever foreign assistance we can get to end this violence.”
Long-term foreign help needed to stop Boko Haram
The comments follow sharp criticism in Nigeria and abroad of the government’s initial response to the crisis, which has since led to international teams being sent to help in the rescue effort.

The wider issue of the military’s use of conventional tactics against an enemy fighting a guerrilla war has also been called into question.

Unmanned US drones and manned surveillance planes have now been sent to scour the harsh terrain in northeast Nigeria and neighbouring Chad from the skies.

Britain, France and Israel have also sent specialist teams to Nigeria.

United Nations Security Council on Thursday formally proscribed Boko Haram as an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organisation.

An arms embargo and assets freeze is designed to cut off foreign funding and support from groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

US Ambassador Samantha Power called the sanctions “an important step” to support Nigeria in defeating “Boko Haram and hold its murderous leadership accountable for atrocities”.

But Jacob Zenn, from the Jamestown Foundation think-tank, said Boko Haram largely operated “beyond the formal parameters where an arms embargo or asset freeze would affect the group”.

Boko Haram funds its activities from bank robberies, extortion and kidnappings for ransom and is strongly suspected of having support from sections of the Nigerian military and state.

Zenn said, however, that the move was an indication that world powers were now addressing the Boko Haram threat.

“It could be a sign that the international community, in particular France, which hosted the summit that gave a boost to establishing these sanctions, will now take on Boko Haram with the same level of seriousness, if not more, than it took on AQIM when it controlled northern Mali in 2012-13,” he told AFP by email.

Analysts say the upsurge in violence outside Boko Haram’s northeast heartland is a show of strength both to the Nigerian government and now to the international community.

The security source suggested foreign intervention could go beyond the current hostage crisis, which is now in its sixth week.

Nigeria’s military had been too heavy-handed in dealing with the extremists, with widespread claims of atrocities against civilians, that had alienated local communities in the northeast, he said.

“Our priority will have to be getting the girls safely out of the hands of Boko Haram and then go after them with the foreign assistance at our disposal,” he said.

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