Via CNS News:
Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday underlined the issue of poverty as a recruitment tool for extremist groups like Boko Haram, although analysts and Nigerian officials have for months been reporting that the organization is forcibly conscripting civilians, including children, into its ranks.
During his recent Africa trip leaders had told him that much of the challenge in confronting violent extremist groups like Boko Haram lies in fighting poverty, Kerry said at a Council of the Americas conference in Washington.
“They all talked about poverty and the need to alleviate poverty, and that much of this challenge comes out of this poverty where young people are grabbed at an early stage, proffered a little bit of money,” he said.
“Their minds are bended, and then the money doesn’t matter anymore. They’ve got the minds, and they begin to direct them into these very extreme endeavors.”
The Islamist terrorist group has waged a violent campaign against Nigerian Christians and government targets since 2009, but shot to global prominence in recent weeks with its kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in the country’s north-eastern Borno state. Its leader has described them as “slaves” and is threatening to sell them or “marry” them off.
Kerry’s comments on poverty as a key factor follows others by State Department officials in recent years, focusing on socio-economic issues rather than the religious element when discussing Boko Haram.
“It is important to note that religion is not the primary driver behind extremist violence in Nigeria,” then-assistant secretary of state for African affairs Johnnie Carson told a Senate committee in March 2012. He said Boko Haram “attempts to exploit the legitimate grievances of northern populations to garner recruits and public sympathy.”