By Faith J. H. McDonnell
On June 3, 2013, the U.S. Department of State made the surprising and welcome announcement that its “Rewards for Justice” program isoffering a bounty on information leading to the capture of key leaders of terrorist organizations in West Africa. The top reward, up to $7 million, is for Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram. Boko Haram is the brutal Jihadist group working to eradicate the Christian presence in northern Nigeria and impose Sharia law on the whole nation.
It is commendable (did I mention surprising?) that the State Department is taking this step to capture Shekau and other Islamist terrorists. Bounty for Yahya Abu el Hammam, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader, and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, Signed-in-Blood Battalion leader, is up to $5 million each. Information leading to the location of Malik Abou Abdelkarim, another AQIM leader, and Oumar Ould Hamaha, spokesperson for the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) will net an informer up to $3 million for each. The State Department has prioritized the capture of Boko Haram leader Shekau. But why not target the entire organization?
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence have deep concerns about Boko Haram. They have urged State to designate it a Foreign Terrorist Organization (F.T.O.) so that it can be more closely monitored, and the U.S. can be more helpful to the Nigerian government in trying to dismantle this Islamist menace. But the State Department does not see Boko Haram the same way.
The State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism’sannual report stated that “The militant sect ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,’ better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram (BH), conducted killings, bombings, kidnappings, and other attacks in Nigeria, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and the widespread destruction of property in 2012.” Noting that “attackers killed Nigerian government and security officials, Muslim and Christian clerics, journalists, and civilians,” the terrorism report calls “on the Nigerian government to employ a comprehensive security strategy that is not predicated on the use of force.” Nigeria should also address “the economic and political exclusion of vulnerable communities in the north,” chides the report.
Even while reporting on terrorism by the “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teaching and jihad,” the State Department appears blind to why Boko Haram does what it does. “This is a Jihad not inspired by pecuniary or unequal motives but one that is driven by fanatical and dogmatic religious ideology of doing away with Christianity in Nigeria,” says Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The Counterterrorism Office is correct that Nigeria should address the vulnerable communities in the north that have suffered from economic and political marginalization, but that is not Boko Haram! It is the Christians in northern Nigeria who are most neglected and poverty-stricken – all the more so now, as family breadwinners have been slaughtered, hospital bills must be paid, and homes, churches, and businesses have been burned to the ground by Boko Haram….