Nigeria, a week later

While the Nigerian President has been enjoying his jaunt to Brazil (where he has picked up some lovely soccer paraphernalia), bad news keeps coming from home. The death toll from violence in Northern Nigeria is pretty staggering: between 700 and 800 gone, with hundreds more injured. That’s not to speak of the displaced, who are ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
582687_090804_yadua12.jpg
582687_090804_yadua12.jpg

While the Nigerian President has been enjoying his jaunt to Brazil (where he has picked up some lovely soccer paraphernalia), bad news keeps coming from home. The death toll from violence in Northern Nigeria is pretty staggering: between 700 and 800 gone, with hundreds more injured. That's not to speak of the displaced, who are no doubt far more numerous. Clashes between police and Islamist group Boko Haram took place in cities; and Nigeria's cities -- even in the sprawling, dust-covered North -- are dense. And the military's tactics are blunt. The toll was bound to be big.

But bigger still for Nigeria is the danger that this bout of violence will be seen as the "latest front" in the war on Islamic extremism. As I blogged last week, and as Jean Herskovits writes on our site today, that perception is a mistake. Newsweek agrees for the same reasons: it's poor governance, not religious extremism, that is the heart of the matter.

While the Nigerian President has been enjoying his jaunt to Brazil (where he has picked up some lovely soccer paraphernalia), bad news keeps coming from home. The death toll from violence in Northern Nigeria is pretty staggering: between 700 and 800 gone, with hundreds more injured. That’s not to speak of the displaced, who are no doubt far more numerous. Clashes between police and Islamist group Boko Haram took place in cities; and Nigeria’s cities — even in the sprawling, dust-covered North — are dense. And the military’s tactics are blunt. The toll was bound to be big.

But bigger still for Nigeria is the danger that this bout of violence will be seen as the “latest front” in the war on Islamic extremism. As I blogged last week, and as Jean Herskovits writes on our site today, that perception is a mistake. Newsweek agrees for the same reasons: it’s poor governance, not religious extremism, that is the heart of the matter.

Why does the distinction matter so much? Religious extremism is easy to write off — and indeed, that’s precisely what the Nigerian state looks inclined to do.  A meeting of governors in the Northern region yesterday condemned the sectarian clashes… saying nothing about the frustration that sparked them. (Exhibit B: Yar’Adua in Brazil; an excellent place from which to show his concern for good, attentive governance.)

Pointing all this out would be a good subject for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to call attention to when she visits Nigeria as part of her African tour this week. Here’s hoping that Clinton’s staff understands what’s to blame for the violence better that the State Department Travel Bulletins seem to.

Photo: JOEDSON ALVES/AFP/Getty Images

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

Tag: Africa

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