Do not designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization

Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are writing to urge you to not designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). We realize that Boko Haram is responsible for terrible violence against innocent civilians and the loss of hundreds of lives particularly over the last several months. We share your concerns about its impact on peace and stability in the region. However an FTO designation would place militarism at the center of our bilateral relations, undermine human rights organizations and potentially criminalize the work of international humanitarian and peacebuilding organizations.

An FTO designation would effectively endorse excessive use of force at a time when abuses by Nigeria’s security services have undermined the rule of law and facilitated radical recruitment. Boko Haram would gain credibility among global jihadists, and the more radical factions’ critique of foreign influence would be validated. When the Nigerian police extrajudicially killed Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram’s leader, in 2009, it immediately radicalized members and increased their willingness to use large scale violence.

A lasting solution to Boko Haram will require addressing regional ideological differences rooted in colonial legacies, and especially inequalities due to mismanagement by the political elites. It requires seeking ways of holding the political elite accountable and demanding transparency and the rule of law. These projects should be led by Nigerians. American foreign policy needs to unequivocally and publicly support the rule of law and human rights, and strengthen independent organizations monitoring human rights conditions. External assistance premised on counter-terrorism rather than diplomacy and development will make it difficult for the US to play any sort of constructive role, and would work against the domestic political efforts necessary for a peaceful resolution to the violence.

The overall effect of the FTO list system is to privilege a militarized strategy in Africa and has not worked where it is currently used.
In conclusion, we believe that addressing the issue of Boko Haram will require a diplomatic, developmental, and demilitarized framework. An FTO designation would send precisely the opposite message. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in order to further discuss these views.

Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,

cc: Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Africa Action
Africa Faith & Justice Network
Eritrean Community for Human Rights & Refugee Protection
Foreign Policy In Focus
Friends of the Congo
Maryknoll Center For Global Concern
Medical Mission Sisters, Alliance for Justice
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Justice and Peace Office
Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary – Jo’Ann DeQuattro
Save the Congo – Eric Miller

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