Africa's gathering storm

Africa's gathering storm
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Imagine if the largest nation in Europe was increasingly in the grip of violent militants committed to genocide. Having already seen that happen once in Germany, such a development would spark dire cries of alarm that would echo around the world.

So, why are we not more concerned about the gathering storm in Nigeria — the country with Africa’s largest population of more than 180,000 million people? According to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria is now so utterly dominated by terrorist violence that only Afghanistan and Iraq are worse. In fact, the Nigerian Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram has already killed more people than ISIS did during its entire existence in Iraq and Syria.

Boko Haram started engaging in widespread violence in 2009. In 2011, the group bombed the UN headquarters in the capital, Abuja, killing 23 people and injuring 116 others. By 2014, Boko Haram was the deadliest terrorist group in the world. In April of that year, Boko Haram garnered worldwide attention for kidnapping 276 Christian schoolgirls. The best the rest of the world could muster as a response was a #bringbackourgirls Twitter campaign. Five years later, more than 100 of them are still missing and all but forgotten.

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Inspired by Boko Haram’s impunity, Muslim Fulani militants in the northeastern part of Nigeria have undertaken a campaign of mass slaughter against Christians, Shia Muslims, and traditional tribal religious groups. Fulani militant attacks and reprisals are responsible for more than 60,000 deaths since 2001. That, combined with the thousands more killed by Boko Haram, and the tens of thousands of Nigerian women and girls kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves, and you have a genocide on your hands.

Many believe Nigeria is about to implode, which would destabilize the surrounding countries and send millions of refugees north into Europe and beyond. Nigerians have made up a sizable portion of the refugees rescued from overcrowded boats trying to cross the Mediterranean. Extremists in the country immediately to the North killed four American soldiers in 2017.

The world ignored Rwanda — and hundreds of thousands died. We did not heed the cries of Darfur — and hundreds of thousands more died. To paraphrase Joseph Stalin, the death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic. So here’s a single name to remember: Leah Sharibu. Her mother, Rebecca, came to Washington last June to plead for American help in rescuing her daughter. Leah was among a group of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram two years ago. Boko Haram released all the girls who professed to embrace Islam. Leah, now 14, was the only one to refuse. As a result, she is being held by Boko Haram as a “slave for life.”

What we need is a Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region who can help to focus world attention on terrorism, religious persecution, mass rape and slavery, and other issues. This would be a Plan Nigeria, similar to the Plan Columbia that the United States undertook years ago. It completely turned Columbia around and could do the same for Nigeria.

As goes Germany, so goes Europe. And as Nigeria goes, so goes Africa. 

Frank WolfFrank Rudolph WolfAfrica's gathering storm DOJ opinion will help protect kids from dangers of online gambling Vulnerable Republican keeps focus as Democrats highlight Trump MORE is a retired Member of the United States Congress (R-Va. — 1981-2014). Matthew Daniels, JD, PhD, is the Chair of Law and Human Rights at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., and the author of Human Liberty 2.0.