Over a dozen professors from some of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. have signed on to an open letter addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging that Boko Haram not be designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.

The scholars, who claimed to have a special interest in Nigeria and broad expertise on African politics, said such a designation would “legitimize abuses by Nigeria’s security services, and internationalize Boko Haram.

Further, they said, "it would limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy, and undermind the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region."

“We are acutely aware of the horrific violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, including attacks on both Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, whether government officials or civilian targets. We share your concerns about the impact of extremist violence on Nigeria’s democratic progress and security in general,” the signers to the 3-page letter wrote.

 But, “An FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram’s standing and enhance its status among radical organizations elsewhere.”

The letter was sent in anticipation of a visit this week by Gen. Owoye Andrew Azazi, Nigeria’s National Security Advisor to DC. It was copied to Johnnie Carson, Ass’t. Secretary of State for African Affairs.

The group letter stressed the primarily regional focus of Boko Haram which could tilt dangerously if the U.S. pointed drones or other military weapons at the group.

 “The network’s focus has been overwhelmingly domestic, despite an August 2011 attack on the United Nations office in Abuja,” they wrote.  “There are clear indications that their tactics and targets have turned most Nigerians against them, including local populations in the north.

“An FTO designation would potentially shift the organization’s posture towards the US and validate the more radical factions’ analysis of outsider influence in Nigeria.  It would also undermine the Nigerian government’s ability to address the problem through law enforcement and thereby improve rule of law.”

 Further, “an FTO designation would give disproportionate attention to counter-terrorism in (U.S.-Nigerian) bilateral relations, and increase the risk that the US becomes linked – whether in reality or perception – to abuses by the security services.

 “An FTO designation would effectively endorse excessive use of force at a time when the rule of law in Nigeria hangs in the balance.  There is already evidence that abuses by Nigeria’s security services have facilitated radical recruitment.  This was made unequivocally clear in 2009 following the extrajudicial murder of Mohammed Yusuf, which was broadcast across the internet.  That incident was immediately followed by Boko Haram’s radicalization, splintering, and increased propensity for large scale violence. “

 They stressed: “The routine use of the military for domestic law enforcement is a cause for alarm in a country with a deep history of military rule, and where formal declarations of states of emergency have historically led to broader political instability...

 Recalling a February visit to Nigeria by former president Bill Clinton, the scholars reiterated his observation that “it is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence with violence.”

 A lasting solution to Boko Haram, they concluded, will require robust political and developmental components initiated by the Nigerian government and broadly endorsed by the Nigerian people

 Among the signatories to the letter delivered Monday were Carl LeVan (American University),

Peter Lewis (Johns Hopkins University), Jean Herskovits (SUNY – Purchase) , Daniel J. Smith (Brown University), Adrienne LeBas (American University) and R. Kiki Edozie (Michigan State University)

 The full letter and signatories can be found at: http://carllevan.com/2012/05/boko-haram-letter-to-clinton-from-scholars/

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