[DAKAR/BRUSSELS] Nigeria’s far north is not the hot bed of Islamic extremists some in the West fear, but it needs reinforced community-level peacebuilding, a more subtle security response, and improved management of public resources lest lingering tensions lead to new violence.
Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the region’s conflict risks. Violence has flared up there periodically for more than 30 years. Mainly in the form of urban riots, it has seen Muslims pitted against Christians, confrontations between different Islamic sects, and rejectionist sects against the state. The relative calm that much of northern Nigeria had enjoyed for several years was broken by the emergence in 2009 of Boko Haram, a radical group that appears to have some links to al-Qaeda.
In the build-up to the 2011 national elections, the worst-case scenario is that local violence will polarise the rest of the country. This must be avoided through actions at the local, regional and national level.