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USA/Africa: Reject "Terrorist" Designation for Boko Haram
AfricaFocus Bulletin: Action Opportunity
Jun 20, 2012 (120620)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
Bills introduced in the U.S. House and Senate in May, if
passed, would require the U.S. Secretary of State to present
a report on whether Boko Haram in Nigeria should be formally
declared a "Foreign Terrorist Organization." Such a move,
which would be a change in U.S. policy advocating a
multifaceted approach to the threat from Boko Haram, would
be a counterproductive mistake with far-reaching negative
consequences for both Americans and Nigerians.
Update - June 21, 2012
Reuters article today says U.S. designated three Boko Haram
leaders as "terrorists." - first step on a road in the
wrong direction. Targeting individuals instead of dealing
with structural problems. Please sign the petition at
Following on a letter in May by more than 20 leading U.S.
scholars of Nigeria warning against such a designation (see
Bulletin is launching a petition for AfricaFocus readers and
others to join in opposition to such a step. While U.S.
officials knowledgeable about Africa are well aware of the
dangers in such a narrow counterterrorism focus, there is
the threat that pressure from Republicans in Congress, as
well as from officials in security-related branches of the
U.S. government, could continue to rise. They may be aided
by Boko Haram itself, which hopes that its violent actions
against civilians in Nigeria will provoke wider conflict and
raise its prestige in international terrorist networks.
While AfricaFocus often provides information on petition
initiatives and other action options provided by activist
organizations, initiating an AfricaFocus petition is a new
step, and one that will be used only selectively, given
the additional time involved. However, this seems to be
an opportunity in which the weight of informed opinion may
help prevent a policy change for the worse that would be
extremely difficult to reverse once taken. And it seems
an appropriate test of the potential for combining the
expertise of AfricaFocus readers with the outreach possible
through on-line petition software.
The damage done by a formal FTO designation is clearly
apparent in the case of Somalia, where it has limited the
options for negotiations, slowed humanitarian relief at the
cost of thousands of lives, and caused enormous difficulties
for Somali Americans seeking to support their families back
home with remittances. Applying such a policy to Nigeria
would potentially cause even more damage.
The petition text is below.
For additional background, including a letter by U.S.
scholars on Nigeria to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton taking a similar position against FTO designation
for Boko Haram, see http://www.africafocus.org/docs12/mil1206.php#bh
For other relevant background information, see also the
links below, following the petition.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney
General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama and Members of
We urge you not to support the formal designation of Boko
Haram in Nigeria as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization"
(FTO). Such a move would be a counterproductive mistake
with far-reaching negative consequences for both Americans
It is correct for the United States to join the vast
majority of Nigerians in condemning the group for the brutal
violence it has inflicted on innocent civilians in Nigeria
and their threats to national unity and security in that
But U.S. government designation of the group as a FTO, as
currently proposed by several Members of Congress and some
officials in the the Department of Justice, would increase
rather than diminish the threat from Boko Haram. It would
give the group additional visibility and credibility among
international terrorist networks. It would increase the
chances that the group would direct its attacks against U.S.
Most significantly, it would reinforce counter-productive
militarization of Nigerian government actions against the
group. Repressive actions by Nigerian security forces in the
past have already contributed to increasing support for Boko
Haram among those affected. What is needed instead is a
multifaceted strategy. Such a strategy must include not only
security measures to protect civilians but also flexible
diplomacy and serious attention to development issues,
particularly in the disadvantaged North of Nigeria where
Boko Haram finds support.
FTO designation would also cause enormous collateral damage,
making it difficult for both the U.S. government and nonprofit
groups to address humanitarian and development
issues, particularly in the North. It would hamper any
efforts by third parties to encourage dialogue and it would
introduce new tensions into U.S.-Nigerian relations. It
would also pose serious bureaucratic obstacles to travel and
family remittances for Nigerian Americans and other
Nigerians resident in the United States.
The Nigerian government is well aware of the
counterproductive effects of a FTO designation for Boko
Haram and has expressed its opposition. So have more than 20
of the top U.S. scholars on Nigeria. We urge you to heed
their informed advice that FTO designation would be a
serious mistake with long-lasting negative consequences for
both Nigerians and Americans.
To endorse this petition as an organization, please send the
name of your organization and contact details to
To sign the petition as an individual, visit
Organizational Signatories as of June 20, 2012
Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS)
Just Foreign Policy
Priority Africa Network (PAN)
United African Organization (UAO)
* In Congress, the petition is specifically addressed to the
chairs and ranking minority members of the committees on
Homeland Security and subcommittees on African Affairs,
Senators Susan Collins (D-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (CT) of
the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs;
Representatives Peter King (R-NY) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
of the Committee on Homeland Security;
Senators Chris Coons (D-DE, Chairman) and Johnny Isakson (RGA)
of the Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on
African Affairs; and
Representatives Christopher Smith (R-NJ);
and Karen Bass (D-CA) of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights.
Additional background sources include
Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African
Affairs, "Nigeria, One Year After Elections," April 9, 2012
Lauren Ploch, Specialist in African Affairs, Congressional
Research Service, Remarks at House Committee on Homeland
Security subcommittee hearing "Boko Haram: Emerging Threat
to the U.S. Homeland," November 30, 2011
"Homeland Security Committee Report Details Emerging
Homeland Threat Posed by Africa-Based Terrorist
Organization, Boko Haram"
Cleen Foundation (Centre for Law Enforcement Education,
Nigeria), "Responding to the Emerging Trends of Terrorism in
Nigeria," Conference Proceedings, 2011
Charity and Security Network, "Safeguarding Humanitarianism
in Armed Conflict: A Call for Reconciling International
Legal Obligations and Counterterrorism Measures in the
United States," June 2012
Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 - H.R. 5822
Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 - S. 3249:
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit
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