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When Muhammadu Buhari addressed the African Union in Johannesburg on Sunday, he spoke of a “continent under siege” from terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and Al Shabab, and of the dividend to be gained from effective democracy across the continent. As Nigeria’s new president prepares to appoint his cabinet and wage battle against extremism in the north of the country, his actions will have far reaching impact in Africa.
Gains against the Islamist group would be important in the Africa-wide fight against insecurity. Boko Haram poses a threat not only in Nigeria, but in Chad, Cameroon and Niger and has a destabilizing effect on the region.
Nigeria’s fight against terrorism is by no means unique in Africa. Government forces in Mali, Algeria, Kenya, and elsewhere have all struggled to contain violent extremist groups. Even before his inauguration, Buhari took a strong stance against Boko Haram by combining forces with neighboring countries and by moving the army’s headquarters to the center of the insurgency, Maiduguri.
Gains against the Islamist group would be important in the Africa-wide fight against insecurity. Boko Haram poses a threat not only in Nigeria, but in Chad, Cameroon and Niger and has a destabilizing effect on the region. Military success in Nigeria could provide a model for Kenyan forces to emulate in their fight against Al Shabab.
During his campaign, Buhari also promised to wage war on corruption in Nigeria. As in the fight against extremists, Buhari has quickly adopted an uncompromising position that, if maintained, should embolden the citizens and communities of other African nations to demand more transparency from their leaders.
Buhari’s electoral victory and the peaceful handover of power from former president Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress heralds a new era in Nigerian and African politics. Never before has Nigeria’s ruling party been peacefully ousted by the electorate. The perceived strengthening of Nigeria’s democracy sends positive ripples across Africa. If the continent’s most populous nation (and one of its most ethnically and linguistically diverse) can make democracy work, it lays a solid foundation for democratic governance elsewhere.