- - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

About the same time as the Paris massacre at Charlie Hebdo, Boko Haram was murdering hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocents in the town of Baga in northeastern Nigeria. Jihadists in Nigeria have brutally targeted innocents throughout the region. But make no mistake; the root cause has little to do with religion. We must confront the material realities of the discontent. This is a war that will never end, and consequently we cannot win if we do not grasp the underlying causes. Ideas, no matter how perverse, do not come with consume-by dates.

Nigeria is a country with more than 173 million people, more than twice the populations of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria combined. It has the largest population in Africa. It is the biggest producer of oil in Africa and the 12th largest producer in the world. The Nigerian economy is the driver for economies throughout West Africa. Nigeria is an ethnically and religiously diverse country, like most African states. What happens in Nigeria is important to all of Africa. How Nigeria solves the Boko Haram crisis will have repercussions throughout the region and the world.

Since 2002 it is estimated that the United States spent more than $100 billion on our war in Afghanistan. Some could argue that we have little to show for this effort. Afghanistan is just as dangerous and corrupt a place today as it was before we invaded. If anything this should tell us that the solution to the problem with Boko Haram in Nigeria is not and should not look like the “solution” we provided to Afghanistan. But this does not mean we should throw up our hands in frustration.

The most powerful weapons against Boko Haram are economic security and inclusion. It is most likely too late to convert hard-core jihadists into liberal democrats, but it is not too late to affect the world view of Nigerian Muslims who see their futures aligned with the simple human interest of living in an economically secure, just and peaceful world. This is the war we must support and win in Nigeria. The weapons of this war are not guns, drones or cruise missiles, but human engagement, tolerance, respect and inclusion.

FRED MCKINNEY

President and CEO

Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council

Boston


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