The militant Islamist group Boko Haram’s increasingly bold attacks in Nigeria—most notably its April kidnapping of nearly three hundred female students—threaten to fuel further Muslim-Christian violence and destabilize West Africa, making the group a leading concern for U.S. policymakers, writes former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell, CFR senior fellow for Africa policy studies, in a new Council Special Report from the Center for Preventive Action(CPA).
“For policymakers everywhere, Nigeria should be the central African question. No country’s fate is so decisive for the continent. No other country across a range of issues has the power so thoroughly to shape outcomes elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. If Nigeria works well, so might Africa. If the democratic experiment in Nigeria stalls, and development and governance stagnate, the rest of Africa suffers and loses hope,” concludes a new Council Special Report.
There is a leadership struggle underway within Boko Haram, the violent, extremist movement that has claimed more than 20,000 lives since 2011 and destabilized the secular Nigerian state and its neighbors. The personal struggle between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi reflects in part the rivalry between Boko Haram and a splinter group, “Ansaru,” and are part of a complex, intra-Muslim conflict across the Sahel, including competition between rival al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State.
Africa’s largest economy is struggling to find its feet. Sliding oil prices threaten to derail President Muhammadu Buhari’s efforts to put Nigeria’s public finances back in order, fund planned infrastructure spending, and field much-needed social programs.
Poor governance and extreme poverty has contributed to the rise of Boko Haram, a radical Islamist movement, in the northeast of Nigeria. John Campbell argues that to defeat Boko Haram governments must focus on humanitarian assistance and work to improve the lives of northern Nigerians.