Sri Lanka’s former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga warned Thursday that inequality can fuel "terrorism" during a speech in Nigeria, a country grappling with a deadly Islamist insurgency.
"Poverty, socio-political injustices cause frustration and anger among the marginalised groups," said the Sri Lankan leader, who led the south Asian nation from 1994 to 2005.
"The continued existence of inequality gives rise to violence and even terrorism," she added.
Boko Haram Islamists have killed hundreds in Africa’s most populous country since 2009, with analysts arguing that crippling poverty in the mainly Muslim north is underlying much of the violence.
Kumaratunga was invited to speak by the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, an independent think-tank that hosts an annual lecture by a prominent world leader.
She urged Nigeria, roughly split between Muslims and Christians and with some 250 ethnic groups, to "celebrate" diversity, adding that she had made efforts to reach out to members of the minority Tamil ethnic group while in power.
Sri Lanka’s 1972-2009 war with Tamil rebels claimed more than 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates.