Countering Violent Extremism in Nigeria and Uganda

By Thomas Dyrenforth

Boko Haram’s rise in Nigeria was a result of social, economic, religious, and political tinder meeting in flammable conditions. These longstanding incompatibilities – religious tensions, rampant poverty, ineffective government, abusive military, and opportunistic clergy – served as the roots of conflict that have burned for nearly a decade, leaving nearly 30,000 dead and millions more displaced. However, this destructive conflict would have been avoidable if the Nigerian government had addressed these underlying causes when they first appeared. Today, Uganda is experiencing many of the same grievances that were present in Nigeria years ago: political repression, mass human rights violations, human insecurity, and economic and social marginalization. By examining Nigeria’s failure to prevent and counter extremism, Uganda can gain the knowledge of how to prevent violent extremism before it becomes embedded within society. The following comparative case study will examine both environments to provide recommendations for implementing an effective strategy. In Nigeria, the government must first defeat Boko Haram militarily through a coherent counterinsurgency strategy before it can implement a sustainable strategy to counter violent extremism. In contrast, Uganda has an opportunity to reverse the momentum of instability by enacting a comprehensive strategy to prevent violent extremism by maximizing various sources of resilience to rebuild trust and address core grievances. Uganda must act now before this tenuous situation can no longer be controlled.

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