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Posted: 07/21/2012 at 6:27am | IP Logged Quote News Room

US State Department fails to designate Boko Haram as FTO

Posted: 20 Jul 2012 11:14 PM PDT

-- Maintains socio-economic grievance is to blame for terror.
-- Prescribes economic development as remedy.

By Elizabeth Kendal

On Thursday 21 June, the U.S. State Department designated three Nigerians as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT). All three are senior leaders of Boko Haram with known links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM): Abubakar Shekau (Boko Haram's most visible leader), Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi.

According to a statement by the State Department, the designation under Executive Order 13224, "blocks all of Shekau’s, Kambar’s and al-Barnawi’s property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with or for the benefit of these individuals."

However, the State Department resisted calls to designate Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO). This is despite the fact that Boko Haram is a foreign organisation that engages in terrorist activity and maintains ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Shabaab in Somalia -- two groups that have been designated FTOs. Morgan Lorraine Roach, Research Associate with the Heritage Foundation, maintains that Boko Haram does meet FTO requirements and warns that it would be a mistake for the US to consider itself immune from attack.

See also, Boko Haram: Obama Fails to Designate Nigerian Sect a Terrorist Organization
By Morgan Lorraine Roach, 22 June 2012

The State Department's failure to designate Boko Haram an FTO generated some controversy. The matter was discussed on Tuesday 10 July, at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights.

U.S Policy Toward Nigeria: West Africa's Troubled Titan
10 July 2012, Chaired by Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
Transcripts of witness testimonies can be downloaded from this site.

In his opening remarks, Chairman Christopher Smith (R-NJ) condemned Boko Haram's attacks as "unprovoked and unconscionable". Smith reminded the hearing that "Boko Haram reportedly is in league with al-Qaeda in the Mahgreb and is involved at some level with Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, Islamists in Somalia and possibly even the Taliban in Afghanistan."

Consequently, the question from Smith and committee member Mr Turner, was why? Why is the State Department blocking the designation of Boko Haram as an FTO?

It appears that the US State department has resisted calls from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to designate Boko Haram as a FTO on the grounds that the State Department believes Boko Haram is not monolithic and that only a small faction within Boko Haram (albeit its leadership) has any interest in international terrorism. The larger faction, so the State Department's theory goes, is "moderate".

Furthermore, because the US State Department appears to believe that the root cause of instability in Northern Nigeria is socio-economic hardship and not Islamic fundamentalist political ideology, the State Department prescribes aid and economic development as the remedy.

Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State, testified that, "Boko Haram thrives because of social and economic problems in the north that the government must also address. A coordinated government effort to provide responsible, accountable governance to all Nigerians, while creating opportunities for economic growth, will diminish the political space in which Boko Haram operates."

Earl Gast, the Assistant Administrator for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development, drew the same conclusions as Carson. "Consistent with the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, USAID's development activities target the root causes of the popular frustration with the Government of Nigeria that stokes instability in the North, Middle Belt and Niger Delta regions: poor governance, insufficient respect for human and civil rights, inadequate delivery of basic services, and a lack of economic opportunity, particularly for young Nigerians. . .

"Each of these efforts [aimed at advancing economic development] contributes to Nigeria’s development and mitigate the root causes of instability. . ."

According to Gast, Nigeria's political leadership can mitigate the root causes of instability by pursuing "reforms that will create a large, educated middle-income country, while holding itself accountable to engage and serve politically, socially, and economically marginalized populations."

Like Carson, Gast does not see Islamic fundamentalist political ideology, or even the southward migration of the Muslim Fulani, as an issue in, let alone a root cause of, the north's insecurity and instability. In fact, in both Carson's and Gast's testimonies, a word search for "Islam" reaps zero results / no matches.

During question time, Representative Smith questioned why Boko Haram's leaders were designated as SDGTs, while Boko Haram (the organisation) was not designated an FTO. Smith noted that Boko Haram is, at its core, pushing a radical Islamic position, seeking to impose Sharia law and promoting radical Islam.

In response, Carson reiterated the State Department's position, maintaining that Boko Haram is not monolithic or homogenous, and for the large part, it is only killing Nigerians and only for domestic reasons: i.e. to discredit the Nigerian government. "The phenomenon of Boko Haram is one of discrediting the central government in power, for its failure to deliver services to the people", he said. "As long as social economic conditions exist in the north to the extent that they do now, there will be a reaction . . ."

Chairman Christopher Smith lampooned the State Department for paying lip service to the insurgency in Nigeria. He also flatly rejected any assertion that terrorism is caused by social and economic problems, telling Ambassador Carson, "It is all too convenient to suggest that somehow, just because there are depravations" that poverty is to blame. "Ideology that is highly, highly radicalized may exploit poverty at times, but poor people do not necessarily become terrorists and killers. That is an insult, frankly, to poor people,"

Smith lamented that the State Department seems to grossly underestimate the threat of militant Islamists who seek to impose Islamic Sharia law, and under-appreciate the radical Islamic fervour that drives Islamists to kill for Sharia.

See: US Congressional Panel Examines Boko Haram Violence in Nigeria
By Cindy Saine, Voice of America, 10 July 2012

Also invited to give testimony to the subcommittee was Darren Kew, Ph.D, Associate Professor, McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Boston. Kew's analysis echoed that of Carson's and Gast's, but went much further.

With his opening words -- "The recent escalation of violence between Nigeria's Muslim and Christian communities is not a single conflict between the two great religions" -- Kew set the stage for an exercise in politically correct moral equivalence. As it turned out, it was worse than that.

Kew maintained that the context of Northern Nigeria's sectarian violence was Nigeria's "dramatic demographic shift in [the] number of Christians over the last 20 years. Heavy Christian proselytising in the minority-dominated regions of the 'Middle Belt', in the northeast, and in the far Northern regions of the country has won numerous converts in these areas, fuelling resentment amongst some members of the Muslim communities. . ." He added that that while some fringe Muslim groups do engage in proselytising, their success is limited.

Ignoring the reality that apostates are severely persecuted and even killed, Kew maintained that ethnic minority Muslim are converting to Christianity in pursuit of political power.

Contradicting Carson's and Gast's testimonies, that the April 2011 elections were Nigeria's "most credible national election since it returned to democratic rule" (Carson) and "freer and less violent than any since Nigeria's return to democracy in 1999" (Gast), Kew implied that the April 2011 election provided legitimate grounds for northern grievance. Kew aired failed presidential candidate General Buhari's claim that he (a northern Muslim) only lost because the poll was rigged, without providing any evidence in support of the claim.

Kew claimed that the militarisation of the Middle Belt is a cause rather than a consequence of sectarian conflict. Furthermore, he made constant reference to "Christian militias", without ever actually naming one.

Incredibly, Kew asserted that "pastoralist-farmer conflicts" occur where "predominantly Christian farmers have moved into traditional grazing lands for Muslim herders". In reality, the exact opposite is the case: desertification has driven the Fulani Muslim nomadic cattle herders south where they end up trespassing on and frequently destroying "indigene" predominantly Christian-owned agricultural lands. The southward migration of the Fulani is a reality and a problem felt right across the ethnic-religious fault-line, not merely in Nigeria.

Contradicting Boko Haram's claims about itself, Kew maintained that Boko Haram is not really interested in Christians, but is only targeting churches in a tactical ploy to "situate itself as the Islamic alternative to the corrupt status quo".

Echoing Carson's and the State Department's hypothesis, Kew claimed that there are hardline Boko Haram and "moderate" Boko Haram -- as if imposition of Sharia Law was a moderate proposition. He also recommended that while Boko Haram "currently holds the military initiative" (his opinion) it should build alliances and create a political movement "or some form of parallel party with which it is affiliated or which seeks to capture its message".

He recommended that the US take a "subtle approach" towards Boko Haram, isolating its "hardliners" while strengthening its "moderates".

A Nigerian Perspective

Standing in stark contrast, was the testimony of Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). An eye witness, with first-hand experience and historical understanding, his statement is essential reading.

"Nigeria," said Oritsejafor, "is not a country divided by North and South, but a country divided between those who support freedom and equality in the eyes of the law, and those who promote persecution and violence as a means to an end.

"To an outside observer it may appear as though Boko Haram is not a monolithic group; that it is fragmented and disorganized, but I am here today to give you the Nigerian perspective. Since its creation, the Boko Haram network has never hidden its agenda or intentions. Boko Haram has openly stated that they reject the Nigerian State and its Constitution and seek to impose Shari'ah Law. To this end, Boko Haram has waged a systematic campaign of terror and violence. They seek an end to western influence and a removal of the Christian presence in Nigeria.

"This is outright terrorism, not legitimate political activity or the airing of grievances. By refusing to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization, the United States is sending a very clear message, not just to the Federal Government of Nigeria, but to the world – that the murder of innocent Christians, and Muslims who reject Islamism, and I make a clear distinction here between Islam and Islamism, are acceptable losses. It is hypocritical for the United States and the international community to say that they believe in freedom and equality, when their actions do not support those who are being persecuted. . .

"In Nigeria, my people are dying every single day, and it is only a matter of time before the international terrorist links and anti-democratic Islamist agenda of Boko Haram turns its attention to the United States. In fact, this may already be a reality, in April of 2012 the NYPD learned that a U.S. resident living on the East Coast had sent surveillance, including maps and photographs of lower Manhattan and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels to an alleged member of Boko Haram based in Nigeria. . .

"We too, want to have freedom, freedom of religion, freedom to worship as we choose without fear, we want to have justice, based in equality and not driven by discriminatory religious practices. Let me remind us that this is not about economics but about an ideology that has a history of sponsoring genocide across the globe. . ."

SEE ALSO: Report says killings in Nigeria next to Bosnian war
12 July 2012 The Guardian (Nigeria)
U.S. claims limited understanding of Boko Haram
Oritsejafor accuses Obama of hypocrisy

-----------------------

For more on the relationship between economics and human rights, see:
Economics and Human Rights,
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 21 July 2012

For information on the most recent violence in Nigeria see:
Nigeria: terror in Plateau state
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 168, 18 July 2012

Economics and human rights. Incl. "How is it possible?" by Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang (June 2004)

Posted: 20 Jul 2012 11:10 PM PDT

Boko Haram, the al Qaeda-link terrorist organisation that is traumatising Nigeria, has always been open about its Islamic agenda. The US administration, however, believes it knows better than the terrorists why terrorism happens. Refusing to take Boko Haram at its word, the US administration of President Obama insists that the root cause of Boko Haram terror is not Islamic fundamentalist political ideology, but frustration and grievance over poor living standards. The prescribed remedy, therefore, is socio-economic development.

See: U.S. State Department fails to designate Boko Haram as FTO
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 21 July 2012

Surely the hypothesis that improved living standards lead ipso facto to improved security and human rights has been tested long enough and proved false. Surely such thinking is both naive and a denial of reality.

As a supplement to the above Nigeria posting, I am republishing a piece written in June 2004 by persecuted Vietnamese Mennonite pastor Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang.

The full text of that WEA RLC News & Analysis posting (missing from my blog due to oversight) is available here (ASSIST). It includes a report on the 8 June 2004 arrest of the Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang, the General Secretary of the Vietnam Mennonite Church; and a translation of a letter dated 21 May 2004 from the leaders of the Vietnam Mennonite Church to the Mennonite World Conference detailing the severe and ongoing persecution in Dong Nai Province.

As noted in that posting, one Western diplomat, when presented with information describing the violent persecution in Dong Nai, responded in virtual disbelief with the question, "How is it possible that a province which is growing economically and which enjoys a lot of foreign investment, and whose standard of living is rising, is not also advancing human rights but is on the contrary is said to be persecuting Christians?"

The June 2004 WEA RLC News & Analysis posting also includes Rev Quang's response to that question. It is a response that is worth republishing today, for it strikes at the West's false yet intransigent belief that human rights are achieved through economic development and modernisation, rather than by challenging the way people think / what people believe.

--------------------------------------------------
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE?
By the Reverend Nguyen Hong Quang
(June 2004, full text)

"How is it possible?" These are the words of a ranking foreign diplomat of a Western country when he heard the story of what happened in Dong Nai [in April-May 2004] and the various ways that Christians were oppressed. This diplomat, who in many ways supports the bilateral relationship between our two countries and supports the development of Vietnam, was so sceptical that he blurted out, "How is it possible that a province which is growing economically and which enjoys a lot of foreign investment, and whose standard of living is rising, is not also advancing human rights but is on the contrary is said to be persecuting Christians?"

Confronted with such views and ideas from the diplomat, I was at once angry and sad. I was angry because the people responsible for causing these events "live above the law" and have a low view of our citizens and of humanity in general in the 21st Century. They do not value human beings, they violate the basic rights of people - the human rights that have been the desire of people for ages - and they have the power to deny the natural aspirations for freedom of the citizens of Vietnam.

I was sad because this country has heard too many politicians say we should serve the high calling of "freedom, democracy and independence", while hundreds of thousands of human beings have fallen in our homeland. At this time many suffer great hardships, even for simply trying to exercise the minimum right of "gathering to worship the Almighty" and are savagely beaten. The world has been exploding with social aspirations and advanced technology. Huge changes are taking place all over, affecting many governments like a strong whirlwind, bringing some of them to an end. The choice seems to be "develop, change and survive" or "disintegrate and fade away."

How is it possible? Is it possible that the extreme confusion of the diplomat, when faced with the fact of this repression, is evidence that he does not want to admit such things happen? His diplomatic work is to wholeheartedly foster relationships so that his country will understand and support Vietnam. The diplomat seems to believe in the philosophy that says "Develop the economy and raise the standard of living, and the valuing of human rights and freedoms will inevitably follow."

He has his beliefs, and I have my belief that the Bible's teaching is accurate when it speaks on principles governing humanity. Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

If a country honours and places a higher value on things spiritual (as the Kingdom of God, righteousness, etc.) than on material matter and economics, then that country will enjoy peace, stability and development. Compare the countries that respect the Creator and respect human rights, with countries which denigrate the Creator and trample on human rights. You will see clearly that those which respect the Creator and honour human rights are blessed, and those which disdain the Creator and flaunt human rights seem to be cursed. The difference between South and North Korea is a stark example. The South has a large section of the population that worships the Creator and the country respects human rights, while the North completely puts down the Creator and tramples on human rights is in an incredibly desperate condition. (The two Germanys formerly and the two Koreas today are clear and concrete examples.)

The Bible teaches in Genesis that in the beginning was God and that the world, the atmosphere, plants, animals, people and other things were created later. To raise the creation higher than the Creator is contrary to the Bible, as is putting material things ahead of the freedom to worship, to enjoy authentic human dignity and democracy and other human rights.

If an evil person is very rich but lives an openly debauched life, then the morality of all society will suffer and a dictator who has in his hands the means, the authority and the power, will use them to strangle freedom, democracy, and faith and morality.

The bankrupt policy of promoting economic development ahead of the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, though it seems to have the advantage in the beginning of winning outside favour, is contrary to the laws of the Creator and so how can it be supported? We have had nearly two decades of so-called "renovation", and a decade without the US embargo, but the situation of human rights and religious freedom for us Vietnamese has gone nowhere. Ask the Christians in Dong Nai.

So the prioritizing of what "seems right to man"-- that is putting a priority on promoting economic development and ties -- has worked out precisely contrary to the hopes and desires of the diplomacy of countries which enjoy democracy.

Evangelists Ms. Pham Thi Kim Huong, Ms. Trinh Thi Kim Phuong, Mr. Nguyen Thanh Trung, and Mr. Dang Dang Khoa are servants of the Lord who had their house of worship smashed. Then were cuffed and dragged away in front of their flock and before the villagers by Dong Nai security police and government officials on May 2, 2004. They were treated as criminals and thrown into a stinking vehicle used to transport pigs. The humiliation which the Mennonite pastors, evangelists in Dong Nai had to endure was a great disgrace, but they bravely endured with dignity.

How many times have the faithful been trampled on in Dong Nai? Only the perpetrators know, but nothing is hidden from God - not one of the evil acts in Dong Nai province.

As for the diplomat, he may continue to ask incredulously, "How is it possible?" in reference to our struggle for religious freedom, and the efforts of our government which has recently cranked up its positive announcements and propaganda efforts whilst in actual practice continues it's dirty deeds in Dong Nai. Dong Nai province has given the diplomat a clear answer with its unreasonable and steady harassment and persecution of the believers continuously from Easter until now. And this is but one small example of a widespread reality.

As a citizen of Vietnam I have a question. "How is it possible that the government machinery in Dong Nai Province is unaware that it has broken the law according to Article 129 of the Criminal Code of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam?" Local officials continue to deny the right of assembly and the right to worship God, giving orders to suppress Christianity, as has just happened again. How is it possible that government officials in Dong Nai continue to treat Christianity as an enemy and no one takes any action at all?

Respectfully,
Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang
(June 2004)
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