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Boko Haram and the Lord Resistance Army pose gravest threat

African, China, United States, Russia, Boko Haram, Lord Resistance Army, Nigeria, Uganda, Islamic State, ISIS, Nigerian, Ugandan

Counterterrorism

Boko Haram and the Lord Resistance Army pose gravest threat

According to security analysts, Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Lord Resistance Army in Uganda constitute a serious threat to African and international peace. Both of these terrorist groups emerged from the northern part of Uganda and Nigeria, exploiting the region’s lack of education, cruel poverty, high unemployment rate, lack of economic opportunities particularly for youths, and absence of fundamental basic needs. It may be mentioned here that, Africa represents a strategic continent for major countries such as the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France. For years, the United States has been providing strategic and financial support to Nigeria and Uganda with the aim of neutralizing and defeating these notorious terrorist groups in the African countries. But until now, the outcome is discouraging.

The Lord Resistance Army is the deadliest non-state group in Uganda. Founded in 1987 by Joseph Kony, the LRA operates in Uganda and neighboring countries such as the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and Sudan. According to Ugandan officials in 2007, the LRA had only 500 to 1,000 soldiers, but other sources estimated that there could have been 3,000 soldiers, with approximately 1,500 women and children. By 2011, unofficial estimates ranged from 300 to 400 combatants, with more than half believed to be abductees. Since the LRA first started fighting in the 1990s they may have forced well over 10,000 boys and girls into combat, often killing family, neighbors, and schoolteachers in the process. The LRA has frequently used children to fight because they are easy to replace by raiding schools or villages. According to Sophie Neiman from the Congressional Research Service, the LRA has killed more than 100,000 people and conscripted tens of thousands of children.

Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram in 2002 and led the group until 2009. After Yusuf’s death, Abubakar Shekau took over until he died in 2021. Boko Haram’s actions are brutal and widespread and drew international attention in April 2014 after the abduction of 276 schoolchildren. Boko Haram has killed more than 15,000 people, including more than 6,500 in 2015 alone. As the deadliest group in West Africa, Boko Haram is responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 children and has displaced over 2.3 million from their homes. Boko Haram has also contributed to regional food crises and famines, which afflict more than 9.2 million, according to the United Nations.

In August 2011, a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a foreign target—the UN building in Abuja, Nigeria’s political capital—for the first time. This attack on the UN is a response to Nigeria’s harsh security response against Boko Haram members. It is also a warning message to the United States and the international coalition fighting against the group. What concerned the US Department of State is the allegiances of Boko Haram to other international terrorist groups, particularly the Islamic State (ISIS), to which the group pledged allegiance in 2015.

In 2015, Africa established a coalition force to fight Boko Haram. With the support of the African Union and the United States, the coalition has marshaled more than 8,000 troops from Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria to combat Boko Haram’s insurgency. In September 2021, Brigadier General Bernard Onyeuko of the Nigerian Armed Forces announced the surrender of close to 6,000 Boko Haram insurgents, and the killing of their leader, Aboubakar Shekau.

How American nations can be freed from the blood-mongering notoriety of these dangerous terrorist? Some analysts say, the United States should expand the Fulbright Program and Humphrey Fellowship Programs and other exchange programs with Nigeria and Uganda to highlight and strengthen their commitment to democracy and to building Nigeria and Uganda’s strong civil society’s leadership capacity. It is also important to facilitate travel between northern Nigerian and Ugandan citizens and the United States. This will encourage these countries to prioritize education as most Africans dream of traveling to the United States.

Additionally they want the US to officially reiterate its support for free, fair, and credible elections, promote democracy, and maintain modest funding for supporting elections by encouraging efforts by the International Republic Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and other nongovernmental organizations to monitor the election campaigns, polling, vote counting, and election’s aftermath.

They said, the Biden administration should also urge the Nigerian and Ugandan governments to promote and encourage peace and democracy in their respective countries. American officials should identify governors who provide a model of good governance and publicize their efforts. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should continue its strategy of working exclusively with state governments with a good record of accomplishment.

With the ongoing series of crisis and inflation in the United States, and Biden’s enhanced involvement in war in Ukraine and his ambition of starting another war against China in Taiwan, it is unlikely that Joe Biden would have further energy and resources for helping African nations in getting rid of the existing challenges posed by terrorist acts of Boko Haram and the Lord Resistance Army. In my opinion, America’s political landscape will change following this November’s midterm elections once Republicans gain majority in the Congress and Senate.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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