• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

The ‘soft’ approach to countering insurgency

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Whether it is called terrorism or Boko Haram insurgency, the common denominator here is the terrifying insecurity in some parts of Nigeria that has not only kept a whole region under siege, but has also destroyed its economy and the social fabric of its people.

The activities of the Boko Haram insurgents have always been quite horrifying and bloody with high casualty figures enough to rattle the spirits of our forefathers in their graves, and every attempt by federal troops to counter the insurgents leads to confrontations that leave, in their trail, monumental losses.

Worried by this unsavoury situation and not relenting in its efforts to contain and curtail this insurgency, the Federal Government recently rolled out what it called ‘soft approach to counter Boko Haram’ in which it highlighted a wide range of initiatives, making a clear departure from the use of force and lethal implements.

According to Mohammed Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser, who announced this in his presentation in Abuja, government decided on the soft approach based on the findings of the Economic Intelligence Unit in his office which  explored the efficacy of economic interventions that could  contribute to the PREVENT programme, and also the unit’s investigation of what other nations facing terrorism have done successfully in the areas of job creation, poverty alleviation and economic development as antidote to quelling terrorism.

Dasuki explained that these findings have resulted to the development of a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme that is both vertical involving three tiers of government, federal, state and local, and horizontal involving civil society, academics, traditional, religious and community leaders.

“The programme utilizes existing structures within and outside government to deliver targeted programmes and activities that further the overall goal of stemming the tide of radicalization and, through families, communities, faith-based organizations, build resilience to violent extremism.

We salute this initiative not only because of its emphasis on social and economic reintegration of the insurgents into the sane and mainstream society, but also because, for once, government seems to realize the value of human life which is mindlessly wasted during confrontation with the insurgents.

We recall that former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his open letter to President Goodluck

Obasanjo submitted that, knowing the genesis of Boko Haram and the reasons for escalation of violence from that sector, conventional military actions based on standard phases of military operations alone will not permanently and effectively deal with the issue of Boko Haram, adding, “there are many strands or layers of causes that require different solutions, approaches or antidotes. One single prescription cannot cure all these ailments that combine in Boko Haram”. We can’t agree more with this thinking.

We are of the view that this Boko Haram insurgency cannot be contained only through the use of brute force; intelligence gathering, strategic community engagement and even psychological warfare are critical tools.  We also salute Dazuki’s radicalization initiative which seeks to engage the violent extremist convicts/suspects in theological, ideological, physical and entrepreneurial value change that leads to a change in their behavior”, and would also require substantial capacity building of prison staff in areas such as psychology, sports and arts therapy, faith-based instructors and vocational training experts.

In the final analysis, we hope that government would remain committed to this new approach and see the implementation to a logical conclusion.

We were somewhat confused by President Jonathan’s assertion in far away Namibia where he said that government would no longer deal with the Boko Haram insurgents with “kid-gloves”. Did he mean a return to, or continuation of, the use of brute force that seem to have yielded no victory? Or does his expression convey the understanding that government will attack the insurgency through all fronts, (unlike its long held mono-military strategy), without neglecting the non-military approaches as highlighted above?

Beyond the talks and the posturing, it is evident that the real strategy of government towards the debilitating, bloodletting insurgency in the north east region will not be masked for long.