Nigeria, which has the largest economy in Africa, faces a severe test of national security. The rebel movement Boko Haram carried out a daring kidnapping of schoolgirls and a fatal bombing this month, as the date for the country to host an African economic forum draws near.
Boko Haram, an Islamist, anti-government organization, has continued to attack schools and government offices in northeast Nigeria. One of the most lethal attacks came from a bomb that was set off this month in the capital, Abuja, killing 75 people. An attack on a girls’ school resulted in the abduction of 234 girls, only 44 of whom have been rescued.
After such violence and terror, concern is growing as the World Economic Forum for Africa, to be held in Abuja next week, approaches. About 1,000 African leaders are expected to participate, including some heads of state. Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, will preside. It has yet to be announced who will lead the American delegation.
Nigeria’s 130,000-member armed forces, which have modern arms, should be able to deal with Boko Haram and have been making an effort. But there are reports of divisions within the military between Muslims from the north of the country and Christians from the south.
The willingness of Muslim soldiers to participate wholeheartedly in hunting down Boko Haram rebels is in question. So is the attitude of neighboring majority-Muslim states Chad and Niger to cooperate with Nigerian forces in curtailing Boko Haram activities launched from their territory.
Nigeria risks a catastrophe if it doesn’t act quickly and forcefully to contain Boko Haram. It may have to cancel the high-profile forum in the name of security.