How many Christians need to be killed in Nigeria before Boko Haram are labelled terrorists?

December 7, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

A Barnabas trauma healing workshop for victims of anti-Christian violence

A Barnabas trauma healing workshop for victims of anti-Christian violence

Nigeria, December 6, 2012: As an international groundswell builds against the deadly activities of Islamist militants Boko Haram in Nigeria, why do the Nigerian government and the US State Department remain resistant to labelling the group a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO)?

Calls for the State Department to designate Boko Haram an FTO are intensifying as brutal attacks against Christians in the North show no signs of relenting. In the latest act of savagery, a group of suspected Boko Haram attackers went from house to house in the predominantly Christian part of the village of Chibok, Borno state, late on Saturday night (1 December). They set people’s houses on fire before slitting the throats of their victims, holding them upside down as when animals are slaughered; ten Christians were killed.

Later that night, gunmen killed five policemen as they attacked churches and governmentbuildings in Gamboru Ngala, near the border with Cameroon.

A Barnabas Fund contact in the Gwoza area, which lies further south along the border, said that numerous Christians had recently moved there, having been forced by Boko Haram to leave surrounding towns. The militants have now declared that Christians must leave Borno state altogether.

Boko Haram is intent on driving Christians out of Northern Nigeria; the group has issued a number of threats to this effect and is waging a targeted campaign of deadly violence against Christian communities.

Yet calls earlier this year from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and more than 20 American scholars for Boko Haram to be labelled a terrorist outfit largely fell on deaf ears in the US State Department, which in June named only three of the group’s leaders as foreign terrorists.


Christians in Nigeria are now intensifying their efforts with backing from Nigerian Christians in the US, who have formed the Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans (CANAN) to raise awareness of what it calls the “pre-genocide” conditions in their ancestral homeland.

The campaign has support from powerful quarters in the US: the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Homeland Security Department as well as several legislators have recommended FTO designation.

Pat Meehan, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, said that he would be tabling a draft bill in Congress; the bill will compel the State Department to explain its reasons if it refuses to give Boko Haram the FTO label.

FTO designation comes with the threat of sanctions and/or tracking, and makes it illegal for individuals or organisations in the US to give material support or resources to the group. The State Department also encourages other governments to block the supply of finance to them.

CANAN chairman Dr James Fadele said that Boko Haram is sustained by the procurement of weapons from outside Nigeria. The Christian group is arguing that FTO designation would send a serious signal to Boko Haram’s political and financial backers, who can currently support the Islamist group with impunity.


The Nigerian government is however opposed to the move. It seems more concerned about protecting its international reputation and economic interests than it does in protecting its vulnerable Christian citizens.

The government said that labelling Boko Haram an FTO would amount to returning the country and its citizens to the US’ terror watch list.

Nigeria’s Ambassador to America, Prof. Adebowale Adefuye, told a delegation of Christians last month that it would “internationalise the conflict”, suggesting to the Americans that Nigeriawas not able to deal with Boko Haram, despite the fact that it had been able to deal with the Niger-Delta insurrection.

He said that it would give the group “added importance … among fellow terrorist organisations who will then be inclined to help them” and warned that “every investor will think twice before going to a territory inhabited by terrorists”.


For its part, the State Department has denied that Boko Haram’s campaign is religiously motivated, instead using the term “sectarian violence”, which creates the false impression that Christians are equal participants. It has maintained the view that the Islamist group is driven by economic grievances, despite explicit statements from Boko Haram about its violent intentions towards Christians and calls for an Islamic state in the North.

The State Department’s position runs contrary to that of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is investigating Boko Haram for suspected crimes against humanity. A report by the ICC prosecutor released last month said that the group “has launched a widespread and systematic attack that has resulted in the killing of more than 1,200 Christian and Muslim civilians in different locations throughout Nigeria”.

The report stated that the attacks have been carried out with the aim of “imposing an exclusive Islamic system of government in Northern Nigeria at the expense of Christians specifically” and that Boko Haram has issued public statements in line with this agenda, including an ultimatum issued in January 2012 for Christians to leave the North.

How many more Christians need to be savagely murdered, attacked at church or driven from their homes before the Nigerian government and the US State Department are willing to label Boko Haram as the terrorist organisation that it is?

Dr Fadele of Canan said:

We are now calling on Americans to hold the State Department accountable for the current US policy on the issue of Boko Haram, which discounts the lives of Nigerian Christians and is attempting to recast what is a terrorism problem as an economic one.

He was also critical of the Nigerian government, saying it had given a very confusing response on the FTO issue owing to its need to avoid embarrassment and affirm the country’s sovereignty.

Dr Fadele said that the Nigerian government is “no longer capable” of stopping Boko Haram without “drastic international help”.

– barnabas edit

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