By Scott A. Morgan
Special to ASSIST News Service
WASHINGTON, DC (ANS) -- In recent weeks CANAN (Christian Association of Nigerian-Americans) held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. The timing of the event was symbolic. It came shortly after the United Kingdom made membership in the group illegal and it buoyed the hopes that similar action can be taken here in the United States. So the question that deserves to be asked is why is there a disconnect between London and Washington on this issue?
Members of Boko Haram
At the event the Christian advocacy group Jubilee Campaign presented a fact sheet compiling events that occurred last year in Nigeria from the State Department and start a body at the University of Maryland that monitors current trends by terrorist groups. Some of the findings were:
1) Nigeria had the fourth most suicide attacks of any country around the world.
2) Of the 57 attacks against telecommunications sites around the world 38 were launched by Boko Haram.
3) Of all the religious institutions that were targeted in 2012 around the world, one third were in Nigeria. Also of the 325 attacks launched against educational institutions, 60% of them occurred in both Nigeria and Pakistan.
4) There were more attacks against religious institutions in Nigeria than against diplomatic posts around the world in 2012.
5) The attacks in Nigeria were the most lethal with an average of 2.54 people killed per attack.
These statistics are chilling. It shows that the group is very dedicated to its efforts to drive away Christians, Muslims they feel are backsliding, and those who seek education. It should be noted that these stats are only in the northern states of Nigeria. These states have imposed Sharia Law as well as the national laws which are currently enforced in other parts of the country. It is currently believed that the group may be an influence in both Chad and Cameroon and may in fact trigger the status of an FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization).
Bodies being loaded onto a truck after another suspected Boko Haram attack in Nigeria
So then what is a FTO as defined by the State Department? A group is determined to be a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Secretary of State acting under authority of Section 219 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act as amended. The plan is to have this play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and to pressure terrorist groups to get out of the terrorism business. (author emphasis) There are legal definitions that have to be met also.
What are the current criteria currently being used at this time? According to the State Department website the following are used:
1) The Group must be Foreign.
2) The Group must be engaged in terrorist activity as defined by Section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA or terrorism as defined in Section 140 (d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. 2556f(d)(2) or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
3) The organization's terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the Security of U.S. Nationals or the National Security (Foreign Relations, National Defense or Economic Interests) of the United States.
It appears that on these criteria that it is a no-brainer. Nigeria is a key ally of the United States in Africa. It provides 27% of the oil imported by America so it's a key economic partner as well. So what is the problem?
The Problem is tactics. The State Department is trying to determine whether or not Boko Haram is a terrorist group or an insurgency masking as a terrorist group. That is a huge question to determine and one that does not have an easy sell.
Legislation has been introduced in both Houses of Congress seeking to have the State Department determine such action. The Senate version has been introduced (S.198) but Chris Smith of New Jersey has not introduced the Bill in the House yet. It is expected to be introduced before the planned Nigeria hearings in October. There is a huge risk in this situation. It could divest into a partisan battle and the losers will be the Christians and moderate Muslims in Nigeria. Haven't they suffered enough already?