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Toward Defeating Insurgency in Nigeria, Borrowing a Leaf from Egypt in the Middle East

The Middle East represents an ideology rather than a geographical space of 22 countries in Western Asia and North Africa. Egypt has had a long history of insurgency and political violence since the early 20th century. In Egypt, we saw that the Islamist Uprising between the 1980s to 1990s caused serious political instability and paved the way for the Sinai Insurgency of 2011 as a direct result of the Arab spring that swept through the region.

In Iran, in the past 100 years, insurgency has been a prominent feature. The authoritarian rule of the Pahlavi Dynasty beginning in 1925 and punctuated by The overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 can be featured as the beginning of the downtrend, creating a culture of resistance and rebellion among Iranians. Religious and sectarian tensions played roles in the rise of insurgency in Iran. The Islamic Revolution against the Pahlavi Dynasty in 1979 led to the establishment of an Islamic Republic. This revolution favoured the majority Shia Islam and created tensions with the Sunni minority. Some Sunni extremist groups (like Jundallah) began to launch offensive attacks that took diverse dimensions.

In Africa, various groups and organizations engage in violent activities against governments to achieve their goals. The reasons for the emergence of insurgency in Africa are complex and multifaceted. Colonialism altered Africa's borders, religion and political systems to meet the interests of European powers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The imposition of these borders and political systems resulted in ethnic divisions and linguistic crises, leading to tensions and conflicts that have escalated into insurgencies. These have been deepened by poverty, inequality, and lack of economic opportunities exacerbated by corruption, resource exploitation, and other forms of economic injustice.

Consequently, some groups turned to violent means to achieve their goals. Chiefly to all are ethnic and religious divisions which have also played significant roles in many insurgencies that have occurred in Africa. Marginalized or oppressed groups call for autonomy or independence using various violent means. Political decadence, ethnic and religious divides, corruption, poverty and illiteracy have led to a breakdown of the social contract between citizens and the State, making it easier for insurgents to gain a foothold.

This foothold can be seen in Northeastern Nigeria, especially at the start of the insurgencies, where prominent figures were quoted to pronounce Bokoharam as their brothers, “A fight against BokoHaram is a fight against the North'' an Ideology so deeply rooted that some communities protected infant-stage terrorists from the military. In Somalia, the Al-Shabaab militant Islamist group has been active since the early 2000s.

In Rwanda, ethnic tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi populations boiled over into a brutal genocide in 1994, an estimated ne million lives perished, according to a United Nations report. In North East Nigeria, the Boko Haram Islamist group aims at establishing an Islamic State in the country directly killing over 35,000 people and at least 1.8 million internally displaced persons (GCR2P, 2023).

The UN General assembly has always felt strongly about the role the military plays in eliminating non-state actors as opposed to the state vigilante groups in Northeast Nigeria. International commentators of repute have described the insurgency in Nigeria as being handled with soft gloves. The military must lose its soft gloves and attack the situation head-on while the people must be reoriented to see Boko Haram, not as freedom fighters, but as terrorists. What must Africans, particularly Nigerians, must do to unlatch the grip of insurgency?

How did the Middle East, Egypt in particular, crack down insurgency? As a reference, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, leader of ISIL, launched a violent campaign against the Egyptian government in 2011. In response, the Egyptian government pursued a counter-insurgency campaign that included militarisation and intelligence operations across the region. The use of force is many times imperative in managing insurgency. Security forces must be trained and equipped to effectively combat insurgency using technologically advanced equipment. This will foster intelligence gathering and management.

Diplomatic relations play critical roles in the fight against insurgency. Egypt has been an active participant in the global coalition to defeat ISIS and has coordinated with other countries in the region to combat the menace of insurgency. The Egyptian government has worked to improve diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries (such as Palestine and Libya) to engage in regional and international counter-terrorism efforts. Terrorism relies on funding to execute its machinations, foreign governments froze accounts connected to the Taliban, ISIL, and ISIS. This was a contributor to clotting the haemorrhage.

Recently, the Nigerian government redesigned the top three denominations of the Naira notes as a ploy to stifle terrorism financial structures and kidnapping logistics. Already, there are doubts if the new Naira redesign strategy will produce the results that the government is hoping for. Analysts like Dr Murtala Ahmed Rufa’i, a security expert on terrorism revealed that most terrorists do not keep cash rather they make investments in cattle, weapons, motorbikes, and property. The property next to yours could be Shekau’s country home. Heads of African nations where insurgency is a constant menace must dialogue with aggrieved parties and insurgent groups to address their grievances and find lasting solutions. This can include offering amnesty to those who lay down their arms and addressing political, social, and economic issues. This is applicable to groups whose motives can be addressed. Groups such as Boko Haram parade ideologies not suitable for progressive societies. Addressing the root causes of these will involve deep reconciliation between the government and the people, and between parties with varied views. Another strategy of the Egyptian government was to begin socio-economic reforms to eliminate the remote causes of insurgency.

For instance, since 2014, the Egyptian Engineering Authority affiliated with the Egyptian Army has spent billions of Egyptian pounds on development and construction projects in Sinai Peninsula. The development projects were planned and executed to create urban communities in the region. Such established urban communities became the foundation and pathway to economic boom in agriculture, tourism or related industries. Schools, universities, research centers and infrastructure projects such as tunnel projects for the Suez Canal and sundry health-care projects in the Suez governorate. This is easily replicable in the Northeastern states of Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa and Kebbi.

The Nigerian government could expunge the recruitment source of Bokoharam and ISWAP in the Northeast by improving the living standards, educational reach, opportunities and mental liberation of touch point areas. National governments in Africa must work towards improving public governance; through the provision of social amenities, in the spirit of equity, fair play, and transparency. At the same time, they must work to address issues of economic injustices, social and political exclusion, inequity.

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