THE BOKO HARAM INSURGENCY IN NIGERIA

INTRODUCTION

With the world still in its healing phase from the deadly pandemic, a prolonged threat still lurks around the corner. A threat that would once again instil global hysteria, destruction, instability, and fear.Yes, we are talking about the infamous organization of Boko Haram. So, what is Boko Haram? What are their purpose and goals? Why are they of so much relevance nowadays? We will cover all of these in this blog.

What is Boko Haram?

Boko Haram, officially named Jamā’atAhl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wahwa’l-Jihād is a Nigerian militant Islamist group, infamously known for its notorious killings and brutality. This military group is based in northeastern parts of Nigeria, and also has camps active in areas of Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon.

Origin: Founded in 2002 by Mohammad Yusuf, this military group was structured as a religious complex that admitted poor Muslim youths in the name of Islamic education. The unbalanced gap in wealth distribution among Nigerian citizens is well known. The accumulation of wealth is vested only among the elite Nigerian society, leaving the rest of the population under poor economic and social conditions.[1] Due to this, there’s an increase in unemployment, illiteracy, and inadequate living conditions. Thus, because of these very poor living conditions, the institution got to attract poor Muslim families and individuals from neighbouring countries, which eventually became the breeding grounds for Jihads.

Purpose: Ideologically, this military group opposes Western education and thus absolutely restricts themselves from preaching any kind of secular education and democracy. Intending to establish an Islamic state, they are determined to overthrow their current government and replace it with a regime based on Islamic Law.[2]

A brief timeline of their activities

For the first seven years, Mohammad Yusuf successfully administered his operations peacefully by withdrawing from the public eyes and building remote base camps in the north-eastern part of the country. However, in July 2009, Yusuf, while trying to fledge from his base, got arrested by the police and later reported to be dead while in custody.[3] Now, with the death of its founder, further actions and plans were officially handed over to their newly appointed leader, AbubakarSekhau. Thus, began a new era of an uprising. Under the appointment of the new leader, in the summer of 2010, the group targeted and attacked a prison in Bauchi, also known as the Bauchi Prison Break, releasing 700 inmate members, out of which approximately 100 of them were members of Boko Haram.[4] Consistently progressing with their regime, on 29th May 2011, Boko Haram launched an attack during the inauguration of President Goodluck Jonathan leaving several of the citizens, taking part in that event, severely injured.[5] Following that event, they launched another attack on 26th August 2011 against a well-known international organization, i.e., at the UN headquarters in Abuja where reportedly 23 people died and delivered wounded injury to 76 staff.[6]

The year 2012 had the deadliest attack that was carried out by Boko Haram. More than 185 residents lost their lives during a coordinated shooting led by the group. They mainly targeted the police and official government, creating an atmosphere of terror among the common residents. By 2013, Boko Haram had gained control over most of the areas under rural government. With the ever-surging thirst for power and recognition, Boko Haram next kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, from which 57 of the girls successfully managed to escape from the captivity.[7] The Chibok kidnapping in 2014 gained global media attention and a special pronouncement from former First Lady Michelle Obama with the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls”, spreading awareness, showing how brutal the conditions in Nigeria have become ever since Boko Haram rose to power. Meanwhile, seeking more domination, Abubakar pledged an alliance to the ISIL’s head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al-Qaeda’s head Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar by voicing support towards these groups through a video message which was posted in Boko Haram’s official Twitter page.[8]

A Sudden Divergence and relationships with other militant groups

Things took a different turn for the military group when, in February 2015, a successful offensive by a coalition of military groups from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, ambushed the bases of Boko Haram in Nigeria, killing 81 civilians, 13 Chadian soldiers and 6 Cameroon soldiers.[9] In retaliation, Boko Haram also launched a massacre in the town of Fotokol in northern Cameroon, leaving several civilians to lose their lives and many severely injured. But, in March 2015, the Nigerian Army finally caught Boko Haram under their palm when they successfully defeated the group in the Battle of Konduga. Just a year after, in 2016, the group experienced a fissure when its leader, AbubakarSekhau, retraced his steps back from ISIL’s alliance. What started with a potential allyship turned into bitter enmity when ISIL’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi attempted to remove AbubakarSekhau from the position of leadership in Boko Haram and pass on Abu Musab al-Barnawi. This did not sit well with AbubakarSekhau as he rejected this move which further strained the relationship, leading to the split among the groups.[10] As of 2019, Boko Haram is considered the deadliest terrorist organization in sub-Saharan Africa and according to Global Terrorism Index, this organization ranks as the second deadliest terrorist group in the world.[11]

Recent Events

After a decade worth of brutality and involvement in several acts of kidnapping, and extortion, the group’s leader AbubakarSekhau, as of 2021, is claimed to be dead. Boko Haram’s rival group ISWAP made this public claim when they reported that the military group’s leader, AbubakarSekhau detonated himself as he didn’t want to surrender himself to ISWAP after the latter had asked him to form an allegiance once again.[12] 

CONCLUSION

Now rendering a leaderless group, this indicates a new beginning for Boko Haram under a new leader. Or, a feasible opportunity for the rival groups to take advantage of such a position to undertake such a massive force of the group under its wing to join forces together. Such upcoming forces will again ground for brutality and terror as they did before if the national and international response to the situation isn’t timely. Various awareness campaigns and remedies hosted by the citizens can seem to do a very minuscule impact. With much stronger communication resources, an effective national administration and a definite action plan are required to curb this ruthless force of terror.

Author(s) Name: Adrika Mitra (Calcutta University, West Bengal)

References:

[1]ZainaabUsman, ‘Nigeria’s economic transition reveals deep structural distortions’ (African Arguments, May 1 2014) https://africanarguments.org/2014/05/nigerias-economic-transition-reveals-deep-structural-distortions-by-zainab-usman/ Accessed  April 3 2022

[2]‘Boko Haram’ (Counter Terrorism Guide) https://www.dni.gov/nctc/groups/boko_haram.html Accessed April 3 2022

[3] ‘Nigeria sect head dies in custody’ (BBC, July 31 2009) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8177451.stm Accessed April 4 2022

[4] Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica  ‘Boko Haram- Revival and onslaught of attacks’ (Britannica October 29 2021) https://www.britannica.com/topic/Boko-Haram Accessed April 4 2022

[5] Boko Haram claims responsibility for bomb blasts in Bauchi, Maidduguri (Vanguard, June 1 2011) https://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/06/boko-haram-claims-responsibility-for-bomb-blasts-in-bauchi-maiduguri/ Accessed April 4 2022

[6] Ibrahim Mshelizza ‘ Islamic sect Boko Haram claims Nigerian U.N bombing’ (Reuters,  August 29 2011) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nigeria-bombing-claim-idUSTRE77S3ZO20110829 Accessed April 5  2022

[7] ‘Nigeria says 219 girls missing in Boko Haram kidnapping still missing’ (Fox News, December 11  2011) https://www.foxnews.com/world/nigeria-says-219-girls-in-boko-haram-kidnapping-still-missing Accessed April 6 2022

[8] ‘Boko Haram voices support for ISIS’ Baghdadi’ (Alarabiya News, July 13 2014) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boko_Haram#Rivalry_with_ISIL Accessed April 6 2022

[9] ‘Chad troops killed in Boko Haram counter-attack’ (Newws24, February 5 2015) https://www.news24.com/News24/Chad-troops-killed-in-Boko-Haram-counter-attack-20150205 Accessed April 6 2022

[10] Miguel Medina ‘Boko Haram’s Sekhau vows to fight IS group rival for leadership’ (France 24, August 9 2016)https://www.france24.com/en/20160809-boko-haram-shekau-vows-fight-group-leadership-barnawi-islamic-state Accessed April 7 2022

[11] ‘Boko Haram Insurgency’ (The Organization for World Peace) https://theowp.org/crisis_index/boko-haram-insurgency-2/ Accessed April 8 2022

[12]Mayeni Jones ‘AbubakarShekau: Nigeria’s Boko Haram leader is dead, say rival militants’ (BBC News, June 7 2021) https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-57378493Accessed April 9 2022

 

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