24 May 2012

Nigeria: Azazi to U.S. - Don't Put 'Terror' Label On Boko Haram

Photo: NNTV
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

Nigeria has voiced its opposition at the United States plans to include Boko Haram on its list of foreign terrorist organisations, news agencies reported yesterday, quoting senior government officials.

National Security adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi and Nigeria's ambassador to the United States Prof. Ade Adefuye yesterday formally requested the US not to include Boko Haram in its terror list, Italian news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reported.

The report said Azazi and Adefuye made their request at the end of a series of meetings with senior White House officials.

Nigeria fears that including Boko Haram in the US watch list could make it more difficult for Nigerian citizens to travel to the US and further affect bilateral trade between the two countries.

The Federal Government said it would manage to counter the threat posed by Boko Haram, as was done in the past with other militant groups in the country.

Also yesterday, Defence Minister Bello Halliru Mohammed said the US Congress push to designate Boko Haram a "foreign terrorist organisation" would not help efforts to start dialogue and does not have Nigeria's backing.

"We are looking at a dialogue to establish the grievances of the Boko Haram. I think the attempt to declare them an international terrorist organization will not be helpful," Mohammed said on the sidelines of a meeting between South Africa and Nigeria in Cape Town.

"Boko Haram is not operating in America and America is not operating in Nigeria," Mohammed said, quoted by Reuters news agency. "They are not involved in our internal security operations, so I don't think it would be of much significance really in that respect. But we don't support it."

The Federal Government held indirect talks with Boko Haram in March, but discussions broke down quickly and the group said it could not trust the government. It is unclear whether government efforts to resume links have borne fruit since.

Pressure has been growing on the Barack Obama administration in the US to formally designate Boko Haram a "foreign terrorist organisation."

US Republican senator Scott Brown wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton late last week, urging her to designate the group as a terrorist organisation.

US Representatives Peter King and Patrick Meehan, chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its counterterrorism subcommittee, released a letter they sent to Clinton suggesting the administration was moving too slowly on Boko Haram.

But days later, 20 American scholars with a special interest in Nigeria warned the United States not brand Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organisation because doing that would internationalise the sect and enhance its profile among Al-Qaeda and other global militant groups.

"The network's focus has been overwhelmingly domestic, despite an August 2011 attack on the United Nations office in Abuja," they said.

The scholars also said such branding for the sect would bar non-governmental organisations and academic researchers in US from having interactions with them.

Those who signed the letter, according to the Examiner website, are Carl LeVan (American University), Peter Lewis (Johns Hopkins University), Jean Herskovits (SUNY - Purchase) , Daniel J. Smith (Brown University), Adrienne LeBas (American University), R. Kiki Edozie (Michigan State University), Brandon Kendhammer (Ohio University), Susan Shepler (American University), John Campbell (Council on Foreign Relations), David Dwyer (Michigan State University).

Others are: Paul Lubeck (University of California - Santa Cruz), Darren Kew (University of Massachusetts), Pearl Robinson (Tufts University), Laura Thaut (University of Minnesota), Clarence Lusane (American University), Nicolas van de Walle (Cornell University), Judith Byfield (Cornell University), Susan M. O'Brien (University of Florida), John Paden (George Mason University) and Deborah Brautigam (Johns Hopkins University).

With Agency Reports

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