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Ghana’s ex-president warns against using outside military force against Nigeria insurgent group

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: May 8, 2014 - 11:52:52 AM

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(FinalCall.com) - Former Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings cautioned Nigeria about the use of military force to counter the “insurgency being perpetrated by Boko Haram,” reported Ghanaweb.com.

Boko Haram’s (translated as “Western education is forbidden”) four year insurgency, according to an International Crisis Group report, has cost more than 4,000 lives, displaced nearly half a million people, destroyed hundreds of schools and government buildings, and devastated an already “ravaged economy” in the North Eastern part of the country.

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In this photo taken April, 21, 2014 four female students of government secondary school Chibok, who were abducted by gunmen and reunited with their families walk in Chibok, Nigeria. Nigerian parents say more than 200 girls and young women abducted from the Chibok school by Islamic militants remain missing one week later, despite a “hot pursuit” by security forces and an independent search by desperate parents who went into a dangerous forest. Dozens of the kidnapped girls managed to escape by jumping from the back of an open truck or hiding in dense forest. Photo: A/P World Wide photos

Rawlings cautioned that Africa’s most populous nation must not allow the international community to intervene into its affairs because of Nigeria’s growing insecurity. Rawlings expressed sympathy with Nigeria over recent acts of violence, including the bombing in the capital city Abuja, killing over 70 civilians, and the kidnapping of 200 girls. During an interview with Nigeria’s Vanguard newspaper, he said the war on terror would be won if Nigerians worked in unison. He also stated that Nigeria must resist the temptation to seek the assistance of foreign powers (most likely the U.S.) to solve its problems.

Rawlings may have been referencing the former governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu who, according to the Nigerian Tribune, has urged the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to “ seek the aid of international security agencies in tackling the alarming rate of insurgency in the country.”    

Kalu, addressing a group of journalists at Murtala Muhammad Airport, while waiting for an overseas flight stated, “So people who are advising the Federal Government or advising individuals here to quarrel with America are making a great mistake. We have to be best friends of America. We have to be best friends of the U.K. We have to be best friends of Germany … We have to be best friends of successful people, so that we too can be successful.”

In Nigeria people are not waiting on the government. 

Women from all over Nigeria April 30 converged on Nigeria’s capital city Abuja dressed in red to express their anger at the government’s failure to rescue their teenage girls. Female activists called the mass gathering “The Million Women’s March.” 

Nigerian civilians are also forming vigilante groups. In a letter dated April 26, 2014, the group Every Nigerian Do Something (ENDS) group told President Jonathan nearly 25,000 Nigerians, including retired soldiers and policeman,  have volunteered to take the fight against Boko Haram to the insurgents’ hideouts. The volunteers, however, must be allowed by the government to carry weapons.

“This commitment will require funding, it will require training and it will require collaboration and cooperation with the security services,” read an excerpt of the letter published in TurkishPresss.com. 

ENDS has been in regular communication with the Civilian Joint Task Force, another vigilante group determined to seek out and destroy Boko Haram. The group came into existence only last year through the efforts of Adamu Buba, “a one man army against the insurgents who were mounting daily attacks in Maiduguri, capital of Borno,” according to Turkishpress.com. Many expected Buba to be killed. His “survival” campaign motivated many youth to join JTF, now estimated to have 20,000 members.

Though armed with only daggers, swords, knives, machetes and sticks, the JTF has been credited with successfully chasing the insurgents from Maiduguri into the forest.  

The Jonathan administration appears to be responding to appeals that the government should increase its involvement. On April 28, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala revealed a new plan to combat Boko Haram that includes recruiting additional soldiers to fight the insurgents, cutting off alleged financiers from groups in the Sahel, and a Marshall Plan for the Northeast aimed at lifting the area out of poverty and underdevelopment. 

While the original Boko Haram motives appear to be honorable, using non-violence to—among other things—institute Islamic law and highlight government corruption, the group’s growing popularity has not come without cost. Boko Haram’s late charismatic leader Mohammed Yusef was arrested repeatedly and interrogated often. But his influence appears undiminished and is a serious thorn in the government’s side. 

During a series of clashes with police that escalated into an armed insurrection in 2009, which was eventually crushed by Nigerian troops, hundreds of Yusef followers were killed and the group’s principal mosque was destroyed. Yusef was captured, handed over to the police and expeditiously executed. 

The group went underground and a year later, according to the International Crises Group, launched revenge attacks on police officers and stations and military barracks. The initial motive appeared to be revenge for the killings of Yusef and his comrades.

The group has since fractured and has morphed into a “pure terrorist” group, according to published reports. It has attacked and killed Muslims and Christians, reports say.  

Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the United Nations’ special advisor for girls’ education, will visit Nigeria, according to the UK-based newspaper The Guardian. The purpose of his visit is to raise funds and to bring attention to the plight of the kidnapped school girls.

Many feel the Western press, in responding to the mass abduction, has been largely absent.

Clutchmagazine.com in a recent commentary titled, “#BringBackOurGirls: Why Is the Media Silent About Nigeria’s Abducted Girls?” the author excoriates the international media for giving significant coverage to the “South Korean ferry tragedy; and Prince George’s first royal tour,” but scant reporting on the kidnapping of girls taken from their school in Chibok.  

Nigerian officials have also been slow to respond, said Clutch magazine. The federal government’s “enhanced plan of action” was actually in response to the deafening outcry from citizens concerned with the violence spiraling out of control, including the bombing in Abuja and the abduction of the schoolgirls.

Recommendations to end the violence, made in the International Crises Group report, included discontinuing the government’s “heavy-handed military and police methods that risk pushing yet more restless, jobless and frustrated youth into violence and extremism.”

In addition the government should increase its work with Northern political, traditional and religious leaders. An open dialogue should ensue and serious topics of concern, such as the Boko Haram demand for an investigation into the execution of Mohammad Yusef and alleged crimes committed by security forces, should be addressed.

Jehron Muhammad, who writes for The Final Call newspaper from Philadelphia, can be reached at Jehronn@msn.com. Follow him on Twitter @JehronMuhammad.

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