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Boko Haram will not be defeated militarily - academic

04 May 2015, 14:40 Alicestine October, Media24 Parliamentary Bureau

Washington - As nearly 300 women and children were freed by Boko Haram in Nigeria, a call was made in the US for a more citizen-centred approach to root out the extremist group.

Dr Raymond Gilpen, dean of the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies in Washington, said a military approach to Boko Haram was not the solution.

After the kidnapping of more than 100 schoolgirls in Nigeria, many calls were made on the Nigerian government to take more decisive action.

Said Gilpen: "Boko Haram is a group with a small core of ideologically driven extremists who are perpetuating criminal activities in North eastern Nigeria."

Socio-economic realities

According to Gilpen, Boko Haram was thriving in the north eastern part of Nigeria which is four times poorer than the rest of the country and these broader social realities must be considered for a more comprehensive approach to the problem.

"Most people think it needs a military solution where the military goes into the forest and defeats them, but it is a small group of ideologically-driven people who are causing the problems. They feed on the discontent in the North eastern part of Nigeria."

Gilpen said these socio-economic realities made communities more conducive to be lured by Boko Haram, which they then saw as a group that could provide where the government had failed.

"So it is not about going into the forest to fight these small groups of fighters without addressing the broader societal issues with a more citizen-centred approach."

The most important thing, Gilpen said, was to address the issue of governance as well as social, economic and political alienation that not only allowed Boko Haram to exist, but also entrenched it in the society.

- Alicestine October is part of a media tour for African journalists hosted by the US State Department and Foreign Press Centre.

- News24


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