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Christmas Day Bombings Call Government Resolve into Question

Condemning the Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria as senseless is self delusion. There is method to Boko Haram's madness.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 12/27/2011, 6:25 AM

The White House responded to the coordinated church bombings in Nigeria on Christmas Day with a routine condemnation. "We condemn this senseless violence and tragic loss of life on Christmas Day," read the White House statement.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague labeled the attacks cowardly as did UN Secretary-General  Ban Ki-moon.

Boko Haram a.k.a. People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad has claimed responsibility for the bombings. This organization displayed a degree of sophistication in synchronizing the bombings and it has increased its geographic reach. It started in the predominantly Moslem north of Nigeria, but now has extended its activity to the religiously mixed center of the country.

Boko Haram maintains extensive ties with Al Qaeda in North Africa and with the Al Shabab guerrilla organization in Somalia. It has obviously learned from these organizations and far from being senseless it has a strategy.

In a communique following the bombings in the northern Nigerian that was published in The Daily Trust, Boko Haram outlines its demands: 'There will never be peace until our demands are met,' the paper quoted the spokesman as saying. 'We want all our brothers who have been incarcerated to be released; we want full implementation of the sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended.'

It is a classic guerilla strategy: if the government does not react vigorously it loses credibility with the citizens. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian southerner, while sending condolences, referred to the attacks as "unfortunate" and comforted his people by saying that the guerrilla organization would "not be around forever - it'll end one day". This was not precisely the response that was awaited.

Jonathan has already drawn flak from one of his defeated opponents in the last elections. Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled Nigeria as a military ruler from 1984-5, claimed that the reaction from the Vatican and the British government conveyed a greater sense of urgency than the Nigerian president

Buhari, a Moslem as his name attests, actually backs the imposition of Sharia law in the north. Buhari condemned Jonathan's reaction "This is clearly a failure of leadership at a time the government needs to assure the people of the capacity to guarantee the safety of lives and property."

If the president decides on a tough policy that will necessarily impose hardship on the guerrilla organization's bastions in the Islamic north, he risks fracturing the country along its Christian-Muslim fault lines. Therefore one can call the attacks many things but not senseless.