04/26/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In a press release, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced today that he will be meeting the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, virtually on Tuesday. The meeting is part of a series of Africa-focused meetings scheduled throughout the day. Other meetings will include one with the Young African Leadership Initiative and senior leadership in Kenya.
The press release says that Blinken plans to highlight the United States and Nigeria’s “shared goals of strengthening democratic governance, building lasting security, and promoting economic ties and diversification.” The two countries have a long history of positive bilateral relations, much of which centers around US funding for security initiatives in Nigeria.
Buhari, who was elected to his current office in 2015, has had a tenure marked by security troubles. Despite running on promises to end terrorism and communal violence—much of it religiously motivated—he has had only mixed success in creating stability and was forced to sack his security chiefs earlier this year amid widespread discontent with recent increases in violence. In addition, he seems to largely deny the religious component of the violence.
Nigeria has dealt with significant internal violence for years, mostly at the hands of the Boko Haram terrorist group and militant Fulani herdsmen. Tens of thousands have been killed or abducted by these two groups, and hundreds of thousands have been internally displaced.
1,900 civilians and government employees were killed by Boko Haram and Fulani militants in 2020 alone, according to ICC analysis of the situation. Much of the violence is concentrated in Christian-majority areas of the Middle Belt region.
ICC’s analysis shows that the majority of civilian and government deaths in 2020 happened at the hands of Fulani militants rather than Boko Haram terrorists or bandits. Despite this fact, the government of Nigeria continues to largely ignore the Fulani crisis in favor of the more easily-defined terrorist threat posed by Boko Haram and the simpler criminal threat posed by vaguely-defined bandits.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Blinken should push Buhari to take the issue of Fulani militancy seriously and to address the issue of violence against vulnerable Christian communities being targeted for their faith. The complexity of the situation facing Buhari is undeniable, but it only exacerbates the problem to ignore its religious component. The US devotes significant resources to the fight for peace and security in Nigeria and should push its partner to come up with a robust, comprehensive plan to combat the violence currently on the rise in Nigeria.
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