Letter to Ambassador Entwistle

December 10, 2013

The Honorable James F. Entwistle

Ambassador of the United States of America

Embassy of the United States of America
Plot 1075 Diplomatic Drive
Central District Area, Abuja, Nigeria

Dear Mr. Ambassador,

On behalf of the Working Group on Nigeria, we would like to congratulate you on your assumption of duty as ambassador to Nigeria and to wish you a happy human rights day. The Working Group on Nigeria is a coalition of U.S. organizations working in Washington, the UN, ICC and other fora concerning the precarious situation in Nigeria.  In addition to advocacy, our members also engage in relief and humanitarian assistance.

We applaud the U.S. Department of State’s designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, a position for which we have long advocated. With this full recognition of the gravity of the threat, it is our hope that this is a turning point in strategy and policy that will help bring an end to the deadly terrorism targeting religious minorities.

Based on 2012 data, Nigeria accounted for almost 60 percent of all Christians killed globally.  Our statistics also show that overwhelmingly more Christians than Muslims have been targeted and killed by Boko Haram. Our database shows that last year’s attacks on Christians represented 46% of the total, on government and law enforcement personnel 20%, on Muslims 3%, while other categories accounted for the rest.

The fact is that all too many citizens of the world have lost their lives at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists. They have targeted and killed citizens from over 15 countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Norway, North Korea, Ghana, Kenya, China, Cameroon, Mali, France, India, Ghana, South Korea, Lebanon, and Syria. Nigerians have suffered the full range of persecution from abduction and forced participation in atrocities to sex slavery and death.  Thousands of lives have been lost in this largely silent slaughter in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram. The time has indeed come to help bring an end to this senseless violence and pre-genocide.

We heartily applaud the FTO designation, but we strongly feel there is still more to be done. We respectfully suggest the following:

  • The U.S. has spent millions on interfaith dialogue and not on de-radicalization programs or even relief. We encourage the U.S. Department of State to look into and consider programs of relief for victims and de-radicalization for perpetrators.
  • Nigeria’s President announced that he would not provide compensation for victims. We ask that the U.S. Department of State urge President Jonathan to emulate America’s post-9/11 victim-compensation fund for Nigeria’s citizens. Desperation and destitution in the face of impunity are potential drivers for retaliation and urgently need to be mitigated.
  • USAID’s PEACE Project researches extremism in target countries. Despite data that puts Nigeria at the forefront of terror activity, USAID has not made Nigeria a priority country. In fact, it lists Nigeria specifically as an example of a country that does not suffer extremism, and yet it does not make an effort to study the situation to prove or disprove its assumption. We ask you to urge USAID to consider designating Nigeria as a priority country for extremism research.
  • In regard to regional security cooperation, the U.S. Department of State looked beyond the oil-producing region to include northern Nigeria in its Binational Commission. Please consider providing technical assistance to the Nigerian Army utilizing America’s lessons learned from combating the Taliban insurgency. Nigeria is a strategic security partner in the region and globally, and it currently participates in numerous U.N. peacekeeping operations worldwide. This is all the more important as Boko Haram is modeled on the Taliban, and Boko Haram’s insurgent strategy in the mountains of northeast Nigeria closely mirrors that of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
  • The embassy should work with the government of Nigeria to contain proliferation of post-Qaddafi and post-northern Mali arms. Although the U.S. consul general in Nigeria did publicly raise concerns, it is unclear if strategic containment mechanisms or weapons buy-back programs were initiated.
  • We urge the embassy to re-evaluate the analytic framework of Boko Haram terrorism, which focuses on underlying causes and ignores ideological drivers. Boko Haram professes to be a religiously motivated organization, and it has repeatedly declared its intentions to overthrow the state and establish a radical Muslim theocracy. The U.S. State Department’s reporting on this issue has fallen short of accurate portrayal and analysis, which in turn impacts appropriate problem-solving measures.
  • We urge you to consult more robustly with NGOs and coalitions such as ours that are active on the issues and in the affected communities in order to build a more comprehensive narrative and concerted response to the common threat. We particularly welcome the call of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission’s last regional security summit for inclusion of NGOs in future dialogue.

Ambassador Entwistle, we wish you a safe and productive tour of duty in Nigeria in these most trying of times. We thank you for your service and wish you Godspeed as you work to support and strengthen the U.S. relationship with Nigeria.


Brent McBurney, Esq.

Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director

Laolu Akande
Executive Director

Dr. Kemi Onanuga
Regional Coordinator

Christian Solidarity International
Dr. John Eibner, CEO

Nina Shea, Director
Center for Religious Freedom

Kanayo K. Odeluga MD., MPH
Executive Director

Faith McDonnell

Jeff King

Ann Buwalda, Esq.
Executive Director

Scott Morgan


Katharine Gorka
Executive Director

Cover image by EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)