Boko Haram is sometimes described as the 'Nigerian Taliban'
By Dan Wooding, who was born in Nigeria
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA (ANS) -- Jubilee Campaign and the Christian Association of Nigerian Americans (CANAN) -- www.cananusa.org - has told the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net) that it welcomes the status report just released by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor on their preliminary investigation on Nigeria.
Boko Haram members
"We especially applaud the clear recognition of the pernicious role the 'Salafi-jihadist' group Boko Haram has played in the violence, which has wracked Nigeria over the past few years," said a spokesperson for Jubilee Campaign (www.jubileecampaign.org).
"The report should be an encouragement to the thousands of families traumatized by Boko Haram's activities, which have claimed an estimated 3,000 lives in the last three years and imperiled the hopes of Africa's largest country."
The ICC's Prosecutor clearly found that Boko Haram has "attacked religious clerics, Christians, political leaders, Muslims opposing the group, members of the police and security forces, "westerners", journalists, as well as UN personnel. The group has also been accused of committing several large- scale bombing attacks against civilian objects, including deliberate attacks against Christian churches and primary schools."
The ICC's Prosecutor concluded that these attacks, along with Boko Haram's calls for genocide, amount to crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute, i.e. "(i) murder under article 7(1)(a) and (ii) persecution under article 7(1)(h) of the Statute."
"As we approach the 9th year of Boko Haram's violent attacks, which began on Christmas Eve 2003, we hope that this report will galvanize the global community to work together to bring a speedy end to the violence," added the Jubilee Campaign spokesperson.
Jubilee Campaign and Representatives from the Nigerian Christian Community; Presenting Information to the ICC Earlier This Year
"We commend the current Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, for personally traveling to Nigeria and making a strenuous effort to bring clarity to the situation. We appreciate the efforts to more robustly engage with human rights groups, fact finders, and members of civil society.
"We call on all people of good will in Nigeria to set aside their differences, including the past grievances stemming from sectarian violence, and rally around the common threat of terrorism.
"We call on the relevant state and federal actors to fully investigate and effectively prosecute all acts of terror and sectarian violence, as such prosecutions are a necessary part of building true peace between communities.
"We call on the international community, including the United States, to formally designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization and implement necessary sanctions and protocols to bring a swift end to the murder and persecution on this massive scale, which the ICC now recognizes as amounting to crimes against humanity.
"We call on the ICC to move promptly to the 3rd phase of its preliminary examination. As the phase 3 process evaluates the viability of national attempts to prosecute Boko Haram, Nigerian authorities should fully cooperate and make all reports and past investigations available to the ICC.
"Finally we remember the victims of Boko Haram from Nigeria, Norway, Kenya, India, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, China, Cameroon, and Mali and assure them that humanity will hold their killers accountable -- they are not forgotten."
Note: According to an Irish group, Church in Chains (www.churchinchains.ie/node/487), Boko Haram was formed in 2002 by Sheikh Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, capital of the north-eastern Nigerian state of Borno. Originally formed to fight against government corruption and economic disparities between the north and the richer south, its aim now is to overthrow the government, create an Islamic state and impose strict sharia law. Borno, where Boko Haram has its base, is one of twelve northern states in which sharia is already in force. Christians are supposed to be exempt, but are often forced to comply.
After Mohammed Yusuf died in police custody on July 31, 2009, allegedly in an extra-judicial execution, Boko Haram declared jihad on the government, and they reportedly formalized links with Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb in June 2010. Since then, Boko Haram has been sending militants to Somalia for military training under al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Queda.
Victims of Boko Haram
Boko Haram is sometimes described as the "Nigerian Taliban". It promotes a version of Islam that forbids Muslims from taking part in any political or social activity associated with Western society, including voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education. Loosely translated from the Hausa language, Boko Haram means "western education is forbidden".
Its official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad, Arabic for "people committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and jihad". It targets not just Christians but also non-fundamentalist and non-jihadist institutions including universities, the police, secular courts and even liberal mosques. The secretary-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Dr Abdulateef Adegbite, has said that Muslim leaders do not support the activities of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram has been responsible for most of the recent attacks on Christians in Nigeria, although some violent attacks in remote rural areas have involved other Islamists, such as Fulani Muslim herdsmen. Boko Haram was responsible for Nigeria's first suicide bombing, on June 16, 2011, when eight people were killed and dozens wounded at Police Headquarters in the federal capital, Abuja. On August 26, 2011, another Boko Haram suicide bombing in Abuja, at the UN headquarters, killed 25 people. While some attacks such as these have been on government institutions, many more have been on churches, and Christians are suffering so much persecution at the hands of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria (which is predominantly Muslim) that thousands have fled to the Christian-majority south.
On March 4, 2012, Boko Haram announced a "war" on Christians and said it would launch a series of coordinated attacks in order to annihilate the entire Christian community in northern Nigeria. A spokesman said, "We are going to put into action new efforts to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women."
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, himself a Christian, has admitted that there are Boko Haram sympathizers in the government, security agencies and judiciary. (BBC, Compass Direct News, Guardian, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin).