Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said last night that Islamist extremist group Boko Haram would pose a threat to other African nations if not contained, while also pledging support for Mali.
Jonathan, speaking in an interview with CNN, however did not offer details while denying the Boko Haram insurgency was spurred by deep poverty in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and refuting widespread reports of major military abuses.
“Boko Haram, if it is not contained, would be a threat not only to Nigeria, but to west Africa, central Africa and of course to north Africa,” he said from Davos, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.
He mentioned Boko Haram members travelling to “link up” with members of Al-Qaeda’s north African branch operating in northern Mali and other north African nations.
“That is why the Nigerian government is totally committed to work with other nationals, other friendly governments, to make sure that we contain the problems in Mali,” Jonathan said.
Nigeria has pledged to send 900 troops to Mali and is to command an African force being deployed there.
Asked whether misrule and corruption were helping feed the violence blamed on Boko Haram in Nigeria, Jonathan firmly denied it.
Most Nigerians live on less than $2 per day despite the country’s status as Africa’s biggest oil producer, and many have seen the insurgency as largely in response to conditions in the north, which has been particularly neglected.
“Boko Haram is a local terror group and we call on the rest of the world to work with us,” said Jonathan.
“Because now we are talking about Algeria, we are talking about northern Mali, and what I believe is that if we allow terror to exist in any part of the world, it will not just affect that country or that state, but it will affect the rest of the globe, and we should not play politics with Boko Haram.”
Nigeria’s military has been accused of major abuses in its fight against Boko Haram, including killings of civilians, the burning of homes and indiscriminate arrests. Jonathan denied the assertions when asked about them.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both issued detailed reports on allegations of major military abuses, among others.
Informed that the US State Department has raised concerns over the military’s actions, Jonathan said US diplomats should seek out the true story.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south.