The stylish and relentless African writer, Xan Rice, provides a revealing window on Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency in a new article in the Financial Times. Boko Haram, which has carried out increasingly violent terrorist attacks on civilians and the government in Nigeria, remains poorly understood, its aims and objectives unclear. While Rice does not clear up any urgent issues, he presents an indendiary quote from a Nigerian journalist, Ahmad Salkida, who often speaks on behalf of Boko Haram and is believed to be a credible source. Speaking of Boko Haram’s links with Islamicists around the world, Ahmad Salkida says, “In the past few years the relationship with al-Qaeda has been about ‘capacity building’. But the links are growing.”
That mere statement, if true, could well indicate that a shift in U.S. strategy towards Boko Haram is already underway. To date, the Obama administration appears to have taken a hands-off approach towards Nigeria’s internal insurgencies, which unfortunately are not limited to Boko Haram. Yet as the Nigerian government continues to fail to build a credible response to Bojo Haram, the opportunities arise from the U.S. to fill this policy gap — and perhaps in a way that brings Nigeria’s many problems to the forefront of the American polity.
Rice, by the way, is a welcome addition to the press corps in Nigeria. He spent some highly productive years based in Nairobi for the Guardian newspaper. His addition to the FT’s African team makes the paper’s already stellar coverage of the sub-Saharan even stronger.