Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has declared a state of emergency in Nigeria due to Islamic extremists taking over many villages and towns in the northeast.
Military troops are being sent to the area to fight increasingly hostile militias, which the government has declared to be an open rebellion. The extremists, now controlling certain regions in the country, have been taking women and children hostage.
Jonathan spoke to the country via radio and television, where usually the threats of rebel militias are downplayed to comfort citizens. However, the president called this conflict a “war” started by extremists attempting to “destabilize the Nigerian state.” The rebels have been raising flags other than Nigeria’s, taken as a declaration of war against the state.
In the past two years, upwards of 1,500 citizens have died from extremist attacks. Rebel militias have been gaining increasingly more sophisticated weapons for mass killing, some suspected to have been stolen from state military supplies.
This violence is in addition to ongoing ethnic conflicts, with dozens of casualties from clashes, and the recent death of several Nigerian police officers in an attempted raid of militia forces. The Islamic insurgent groups are demanding their members who are in prison to be freed and the implementation of Islamic Sharia law. Some of the groups have reported ties with al-Qaeda.
It is unknown if the president’s declaration of emergency will have any effect, as just over a year ago Jonathan did the same with no response from the enemy forces, reports Time. In fact, the Nigerian military had been accused of killing civilians in retaliation for alleged ties to rebel militias. The ongoing violence between the state military forces and Islamic extremist groups threatens to tear apart the weak central government, as well as the country itself, if no further action is taken.
Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, is planning to pay a visit further south to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the violence of rebel groups against the government has raised multiple human rights issues.
The World Bank plans to send an aid package totaling about $1 billion to the war-torn country where hundreds of thousands of refugees have already fled. Thus far, Ki-moon has made no mention of intentions to address Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.