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Nigeria’s Insistent Insurrection

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
January 25, 2012
International Herald Tribune


Boko Haram's bloody weekend attacks in Nigeria's most important Islamic city, Kano, following unrelated countrywide protests over the end of a decades-old fuel subsidy underscore the fact that business as usual is no longer good enough. Only genuine reform of Nigeria's political economy can pull it back from the brink.

By partly reinstating the fuel subsidy, coupled with alleged payoffs to labor leaders and a certain amount of oppression, the government of President Goodluck Jonathan was able to subdue protests that brought the country to a halt for a week. But with Boko Haram, the radical Islamic movement that has been gripping the northeastern part of the country, a similar response is unlikely to work.

During previous insurrections, the government responded with handouts and military intervention. In the Niger Delta, the country's oil-producing region, former President Umaru Yar'Adua was only able to end the revolt by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger's Delta with payoffs to warlords (and, it is whispered, certain politicians) under the auspices of an "amnesty" for militants. But the government did not address the fundamental grievances — a perceived unfair allocation of oil revenue to the Delta region — that fueled the uprising.

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