- Category: National Security
- Published on Thursday, 12 July 2012 16:05
- Written by Admin
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The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Ayo Oritsejafor, on Tuesday urged the United States to declare Boko Haram to be terrorists, but a U.S official said it was more important to address social inequalities.
In an unusually blunt appeal by a foreigner before the US Congress, Oritsejafor said that a decision to blacklist three Boko Haram leaders as terrorists did not go far enough.
He said that the US move on June 21 was "the equivalent of designating (Osama) bin Laden a terrorist but failing to designate Al-Qaeda a terrorist organization."
Oritsejafor said that the reluctance to brand Boko Haram as terrorists had emboldened the group, which is estimated to have killed more than 1,000 people since mid-2009 in attacks on Christian and government sites.
"By refusing to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, the United States 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," Oritsejafor said.
"It is hypocritical for the United States and the international community to say that they believe in freedom and equality when their actions do not support those who are being persecuted," AFP quoted him as telling the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
But Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told the hearing that Boko Haram was not homogeneous and that most of the group had the goal of trying to "embarrass or discredit" the government.
A designation as a foreign terrorist organization would trigger a full US government response against Boko Haram, freezing any assets it holds in the United States and making support of the group a crime.
Carson said the terrorist designation made sense for the three leaders -- Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi -- due to links to Al-Qaeda, but that it would be counterproductive to target the entire movement.
"Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the north that the government must find a way of addressing," Carson said.
Carson also sounded a note of caution on Boko Haram's reach, saying that some Nigerian officials have taken to blaming the group for all incidents in the region that are the work of "criminals and political thugs."