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Guns are more of a threat mechanism for Boko Haram. It is knives they use to kill.

Known for attacking Christians, government officials and schools in an effort to halt anything it considers to be Westernization, Boko Haram is an Islamic jihad terrorist organization that aims to form an Islamic state in northeast Nigeria. Their violent campaign, which began in 2002 under Mohammed Yusuf, is increasing in intensity and inciting fear throughout the region. This past year alone saw hundreds of deaths at the hands of Boko Haram and the group’s official recognition as a terrorist organization by the United States.

Many innocent Nigerians have been severely affected by the horrors around them. One young woman was held captive for three months and ordered to slit the throats of newcomers brought to her camp. Orders such as this, in addition to the slaughter of numerous people in front of captives, are not uncommon circumstances in the presence of Boko Haram.

Attacks on schools have resulted in an unfortunate educational hiatus. Borno state, for example, closed down all of its schools prior to the normal end of term in order to keep children and educators safe. And the conflict is spreading.

Thousands of refugees have run away from the region, taking refuge over international borders. Navanethem “Navi” Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has recommended a regional effort in order to take on the tumultuous issue of Boko Haram’s terrorist activity.

Nigeria’s national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, also offers a new path to solve the problem. Claiming that corruption, injustice and a lack of opportunity have led many young Nigerians to support or even join Boko Haram, Dasuki proposes a plan quite different from the military campaign currently attacking Boko Haram camps that is failing to make much progress toward peace.

Dasuki calls it a “soft approach” and purports to enroll past Boko Haram members in vocational schools while local imams deliver different, more pacifist, interpretations of the Quran. The primary issue, however, is that a great many Nigerians, alienated in the northeastern section of the country where Boko Haram runs rampant, harbor a deep distrust for President Goodluck Jonathan’s counterinsurgency program in the area. This military action is expected to continue even through Dasuki’s new approach.

The hope is that a mobilization of “family, cultural, religious and national values” can turn the tide of the situation in northeast Nigeria. With enough energy behind these new initiatives, perhaps the number of people terrorizing civilians will subside and a feeling of safety and security will form as a replacement for fear.

– Jaclyn Stutz

Sources: The Economist, BBC, Al Jazeera, All Africa
Photo: Daily Post