Tackle religious extremism, MRG urges Nigerian government
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) warns that Nigeria risks heading into a sectarian conflict if the government does not act decisively in the face of violent attacks committed by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
‘The threat to civilians in much of Nigeria, and specifically Christian communities in the north, from Boko Haram has reached crisis level,’ said Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. ‘It is critical that the Nigerian government acts quickly to defend its population, as well as bring perpetrators of the violence to justice.’
Boko Haram is primarily targeting members of the Christian community in the Muslim majority northern region of Nigeria, although it has carried out bomb attacks across the country. The result has been over 250 people killed during January 2012, and an estimated over 900 dead since the group launched its campaign of violence in 2009.
‘The violence is occurring against a backdrop of chronic poverty in the northern parts of Nigeria.’ said Chris Chapman, MRG’s Head of Conflict Prevention. ‘There is an urgent need for the government to address unequal access to resources, as well as formulate a long-term strategy to combat religious intolerance, otherwise there is a real risk that the violence may escalate into a wider conflict.’
Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a spate of coordinated deadly assaults that have left hundreds dead, including a series of attacks on churches on Christmas Day, killing over 40 people. On 20 January, at least 185 people were killed as a result of attacks in the northern city of Kano. While continuing to target government institutions like the army and police, Boko Haram has moved on to articulate an anti-Christian ideology through its increased attacks on churches.
The Nigerian government has responded by declaring a state of emergency in parts of the country. President Goodluck Jonathan has also announced the setting up of a special counter-terrorism force. A number of suspected Boko Haram members have been arrested.
MRG’s acclaimed global ranking, Peoples under Threat 2011, an annual survey of countries where civilian populations are most at risk of mass violence, ranked Nigeria ninth among the top ten highest countries.