Violence in northern Nigeria has flared up periodically over the last 30 years. Mainly in the form of urban riots, it has pitted Muslims against Christians and has seen confrontations between different Islamic sects. Although there have been some successes in conflict management in the last decade, the 2009 and 2010 troubles in Bauchi, Borno and Yobe states involving the radical Boko Haram sect show that violence still may flare up at any moment. If the situation were to deteriorate significantly, especially on Christian-Muslim lines, it could have serious repercussions for national cohesion in the build up to national elections in April 2011. To deal with the risks, community-level initiatives need to be reinforced, a more subtle security response should be formulated and the management of public resources must be improved. While some in the West panic at what they see as growing Islamic radicalism in the region, the roots of the problem are more complex and lie in Nigeria’s history and contemporary politics.
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