- Category: Reports
- Published on Thursday, 12 July 2012 10:42
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GLOBAL attention was on Tuesday afternoon turned on Nigeria as the U.S. Congress held a special session on terrorism in Nigeria and the activities of the Boko Haram sect.
President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who was invited to the session, after listening to the Barack Obama administration reasons for acting minimally on the terror group, said it was the height of hypocrisy for the U.S. government to list three of Boko Haram leaders as terrorists and yet declined to designate it a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO).
U.S. Assistant Secretary, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, who represented the Obama administration at the hearing, told the Congress that Boko Haram thrived on poverty. He said: “Boko Haram capitalises on popular frustrations with the nation’s leaders, poor government, ineffective service delivery, and dismal living conditions for many northerners.”
Although he repeated U.S. condemnation of Boko Haram attacks, Carson urged the Congress to be cautious, saying “before we prescribe actions, it is important that we understand what Boko Haram is and what it is not. The truth is that our understanding is limited at best.”
The Republican Chairman of the U.S. House Sub-Committee on Africa, Christopher Smith, lampooned the American government for paying lip service to the insurgency in Nigeria.
It was when Oritsejafor took the floor that the panel had a better picture of the situation in Nigeria, particularly on the activities of the terror outfit.
In fact, Oritsejafor earned the praise of the American media, which in their reports, declared his speech as a “bold and blunt assessment before the Congress on the issue of Boko Haram.”
The CAN boss told the Congress that by merely naming some Boko Haram leaders as terrorists without designating the group as FTO, the State Department fell short of the expectations of Nigerians, who have lost their loved ones in attacks launched by the group.
“This would be the equivalent of designating Bin Laden as a terrorist, but failing to designate Al Qaeda as a terrorist organisation,” Oritsejafor said.
On several instances at the hearing, Smith asked Carson why the Executive arm of the government did not designate Boko Haram a terrorist body.
He even described as an insult and rejected the oft-repeated excuse of the State Department that Boko Haram thrives on social and economic problems in the North, insisting that “ideology,” is more of an explanation than poverty.
His words: “Ideology that is highly radicalised may exploit poverty at times, but poor people do not necessarily become terrorists and killers. That is an insult, frankly, to poor people.”
Oritsejafor agreed with the lawmaker, saying “this is not about economics but about an ideology that has a history of sponsoring genocide across the globe.”
Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, said the U.S. and the international community had not done enough to confront Boko Haram and identified with the CAN president that indeed the group’s attacks were focused on Christians.
He said “attacks by the Nigeria Islamic group Boko Haram on Christians, including those launched this past weekend, are absolutely unprovoked, and they are unconscionable.”
The Congressman added that “people of all faith, and all people of goodwill must demand immediate action against the terrorist organisation.”
Oritsejafor explained that “since its creation, the Boko Haram network has never hidden its agenda or intentions. Boko Haram has openly stated that they reject the Nigerian State and its Constitution and seek to impose Shari’a law.”
He said: “By refusing to designate Boko Haram as FTO, the U.S. is sending a very clear message, not just to the Federal Government of Nigeria, but to the world – that the murder of innocent Christians and Muslims, who reject Islamism, and I make a clear distinction here between Islam and Islamism are acceptable losses.”
The clergyman asserted that “it is hypocritical for the U.S. and the international community to say that they believe in freedom and equality, when their actions do not support those who are being persecuted.”
Describing Boko Haram’s actions “a systematic campaign of terror and violence,” he submitted that the group’s activities is “outright terrorism.”
According to him, Boko Haram’s intent is to exterminate western influence in Nigeria and end Christianity in the country, wondering how such could be seen as a legitimate political activity or the airing of grievances.
“A non-designation for the group only serves to hamper the cause of justice, and has emboldened Boko Haram to continue to strike at those who are denied equal protection under the law,” Oritsejafor declared.
The CAN leader lamented the loss of lives in Nigeria to Boko Haram and warned the U.S. of the danger the group posed to the international community.
His words: “In Nigeria, my people are dying every day, and it is only a matter of time before the international terrorist links and anti-democratic Islamist agenda of Boko Haram turns its attention to the U.S. In fact, this may already be a reality. In April of 2012, the NYPD learned that a U.S. resident living on the East Coast had sent surveillance, including maps and photographs of lower Manhattan and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels to an alleged member of Boko Haram based in Nigeria.”
Oritsejafor added that although the designation of Boko Haram as FTO was not the solution to all of Nigeria’s problems, yet it was an important first step towards restoring the confidence of those who support freedom and equality in the eyes of the law.
“We too want to have freedom, freedom of religion, freedom to worship without fear, we want to have justice, based on equality and not driven by discriminatory religious practices,” he said.
Meanwhile, a report has warned of possible broad sectarian conflict in Nigeria as poverty, inequality and injustice continue to deepen.
According to the international Christian-Muslim Task Force, “corruption, mismanagement, land disputes and lack of aid for victims or punishment for troublemakers have all fuelled tensions, especially in the North Central where the mostly Muslim north meets the largely Christian south.”
A 12-member joint delegation led by the World Council of Churches (WCC) General Secretary Olav Fyske Tveit of Norway and Jordanian Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, chairman of the board of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought recently visited the country
The team, which met Nigerian officials and faith leaders in Kaduna and Plateau states and in Abuja from May 22 to 25, 2012, said it wanted to show how Muslims and Christians could work together to foster peace.
The Geneva-based WCC and the Jordanian institute announced they would jointly publish books for Nigerian schools explaining the theology of peace in both religions and draw up a manifesto on inter-faith cooperation for Nigerians to sign.
“In Nigeria, three things are intertwined - religion, politics and ethnicity - and the three are beclouded with corruption, poverty and insecurity,” the report quoted former Justice Minister Bola Ajibola, who accompanied the delegation, as saying.
While acknowledging the condemnation of violence by religious leaders of both faith, they also said the team would seek partners to launch a neutral centre to collect accurate information on the conflict to help find a settlement.
“The crisis in Nigeria must no longer be seen as a localised issue,” the group said in their report.
The report also said sectarian clashes have already killed hundreds of people this year alone but noted that although the violence is the worst between members of the two faith since the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, the root causes go far beyond religion.
Attacks by radical Islamist groups such as Boko Haram that exploit these secular issues and revenge killings by Christian and Muslim gangs have reinforced the religious aspect of the violence.
“There is a possibility that the current tension and conflict might become subsumed by its religious dimension (especially along geographical ‘religious fault-lines’),” the report said and warned that blaming only religion for the strife would make that incomplete view “a self-fulfilling prediction.”