Boko Haram explained

We received a string of bad news from Nigeria in the past two weeks, from the terrorist attacks in Abuja to the abductions in Chibok.

Accordingly, Boko Haram, the radical group held responsible for these events has made the headlines. I picked a few stories providing context, and giving different analysis and recommendations to deal with the group.


Who are Boko Haram, and how did they come to be? explains the origins and history of the movement

This is currently Boko Haram’s structure: a cellular structure, and no centralised command, and seemingly no unity of purpose. This “lack of unity” makes them particularly difficult to negotiate with, as you cannot tell who exactly represents the group. When someone attempts to negotiate on behalf of the group (think Baba Fugu Mohammed), he is quickly hunted down and killed. So, as things stand, the extremist elements within Boko Haram are the ones fully in control of the narrative.


Why Fear Boko Haram is a great piece from Eliza Griswold, centered on the abduction of schoolgirls last week

For Boko Haram, it is about dismantling the fragile existing society by attacking its essential institutions: schools.


Boko Haram claims to oppose Western education because it threatens the purity of northern Nigeria’s centuries-old Islamic society. Their atrocities mask a legitimate grievance that most of Nigeria’s 177 million people share. Despite Nigeria’s vast oil wealth, its citizens enjoy few basic government services, including education. Most government schools require tuition, and only those with the means to pay can attend. Schooling is as much a symbol of the hope for a prosperous future as it is a practical means to achieve it. These institutions become easy targets for mobs of disenfranchised young men like the members of Boko Haram.


The Abuja Bus Station Bombing: A Sign of Boko Haram’s Rise or Fall? focuses on the bombing, and discusses the recent weakening on the movement.

Nigeria is not winning in the battle against Boko Haram, but neither are the Islamist militants. The Abuja bombing is more a sign of the group’s decline than ascendency.


A group which had been touted as being better equipped and trained than the Nigerian military, and which had exhibited this superiority in brazen and sophisticated attacks against hardened targets, was now waging a more conventional and risk adverse form of guerrilla warfare. Although high-profile attacks have not ceased in their entirety, as witnessed by the December 2013 attack at the Borno Air Force base and the more recent assault on the Giwa barracks, these incidents have been sporadic and mostly limited to the city of Maiduguri where Boko Haram has always maintained a strong operational presence.

While spiralling casualty figures show that the Nigerian army is certainly not winning the battle against Boko Haram, it would be wrong to suggest that Boko Haram is exactly winning either. Although tragic and brutal attacks continue relentlessly, the tactics employed by the Nigerian army have, at the very least, stymied the Boko Haram’s geographical expansion and curtailed its ability to execute attacks against targets of strategic security and/or governmental importance.

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