As airstrikes rain down on the Islamic State in the Middle East, Nigerian children burn alive. In a deadly attack last week carried out by Boko Haram — an Islamic extremist group active in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon — the world was reminded that the Nigerian government is incapable of dealing with the crisis on its hands. Nigeria is plagued with a weak government, increasingly impoverished citizens and a displaced population of over 250,000 people in the past 10 months due to Boko Haram.
Despite claims from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that the militants have been “technically defeated,” attacks and conflict rage on in Nigeria. And of the 276 girls kidnapped by Boko Haram almost two years ago, 219 of them remain missing.
While the focus on the Islamic State is warranted, and deserving of even more commitment, the seemingly willful ignorance of the atrocities committed by the powers at play in West Africa cannot continue. Human lives are at stake, and it is the responsibility of those countries that can do something to aid governments who are hard-pressed to respond to critical issues.
In the global fight against terrorism, it is imperative that states address and respond adequately to all threats, regardless of geographic or quasi-imperial interests in the afflicted region. The world must look at Boko Haram as a challenge and a threat to stability everywhere, not just stability in West Africa. Boko Haram is not invincible. However, they will not go away unless the countries they have terrorized form a strong, united front.
The Nigerian government has all too clearly proved their ineffectiveness in protecting their people. They have consistently presented false information on the whereabouts of the missing Chibok girls, claimed truces were in place when they clearly are not and have been to the negotiating table more times than one can count. Boko Haram is not going to negotiate, so the only course of action is, well, action.
The United States and United Nations need to back a Nigerian-led coalition of West African states, namely those most affected — Niger, Chad and Cameroon. A coalition like this already existed and made significant progress, but that progress was halted once Nigeria claimed Boko Haram was defeated. These efforts must be compounded with U.N. and U.S. support, including training for troops, supplies and military counsel. Organizations that live to inspire fear thrive when countries can be singled out, draining time and resources through small-scale attacks and retreats. They lose that power when a full offensive is taken, and one must be taken in order to protect the lives and dignity of innocent people. If it isn’t, then the thousands of lives taken and millions disrupted by Boko Haram will go unanswered, and terror organizations will have gotten away with one more atrocity.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 8 print edition. Email Patrick Seaman at [email protected]