The Star Tribune quotes Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham on Boko Haram’s social media strategy and the slow US response to the growing threat of the Nigerian group:
A less noted social media dynamic occurred in January, according to J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. Around that time, Boko Haram’s social media sophistication spiked. The reason? The influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to which Boko Haram pledged allegiance this month.
Boko Haram’s brutality (and a “criminally incompetent” Nigerian military, according to Pham) has created such security issues that the conflict has crossed into neighboring nations Chad and Cameroon. In Nigeria, it was a factor in postponing the Feb. 14 presidential election, now set for Saturday. Nigerians will choose between Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s feckless president, and Muhammadu Buhari, whose coup against a democratically elected government in 1983 made him Nigeria’s military ruler for two years.
Not exactly Jeffersonian democracy. As for our elected leaders, Pham said U.S. policymakers were slow to recognize the threat posed by Boko Haram. No longer — and for good reason, said Pham. As yet it is not a direct threat to the U.S. homeland or U.S. interests or persons; “nevertheless, given its geographic location — the soft underbelly of Europe — the importance of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the largest economy and the engine of a large part of the continent,” he says, so that “all of our other efforts, whether it be on the security side, the economic development side, the trade and investment side, are endangered.”