from Africa in Transition, Africa Program, and U.S. Interests in Africa

Nigeria's President Buhari Argues "Africa's Fight Against Terror is the World's Fight"

In an op-ed in the Financial Times, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari highlighted the importance of development in curbing terrorism, a welcome departure from conversations focusing singularly on military might.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari meets with national security leaders in Abuja, Nigeria on October 22, 2020.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari meets with national security leaders in Abuja, Nigeria on October 22, 2020. Nigeria Presidency/Handout via Reuters

Muhammadu Buhari has authored a thoughtful piece about Africa's struggle against terrorism in the Financial Times, his chosen outlet an indication that his audience is international rather than domestic. He observes that with the U.S. departure from Afghanistan, Africa has become the frontline of the “global war on terror”—though, as he says, it was never really global. The United States and other Western countries have devoted few resources to the struggle in Africa relative to the blood and treasure spent in the Middle East.

Buhari is clear-eyed: he acknowledges that terrorism cannot be defeated exclusively by military force. He affirms the need for development to bridge the gap between the economy and rapid population growth. He does not ask Nigeria's friends and partners for military “boots on the ground”: echoing a theme of President Biden's, he wrote, “the U.S. and its Western allies cannot be expected to underpin the security of others everywhere and indefinitely.” Instead, he asks for foreign investment, especially in infrastructure, and access to military materiel. The president cites his administration's construction of a new rail line from the coast through northern Nigeria to Niger as an infrastructure project that will promote both security and economic development.

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Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari

Heads of State and Government

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Boko Haram

President Buhari's op-ed should be welcomed. It is a departure from the more usual official statements that jihadi terrorism will be defeated by military might, usually without reference to addressing its root causes, and sometimes with unrealistic or exaggerated claims of an impending victory. His focus is on the north and jihadi terrorism. He does not refer to unrest in the former Biafra or the upsurge in criminality, including kidnapping, both of which are primarily domestic matters.

More on:

Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari

Heads of State and Government

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Boko Haram