Reportedly, hundreds of girls in northeast Nigeria were kidnapped from school by the Islamist group Boko Haram. The kidnapping follows a promise from Boko Haram’s leader that he would attack schools and take girls. Among its demands, the group wants a stricter form of Sharia law and the Nigerian government’s downfall. Last month, because of these attacks, Nigeria’s Borno state closed its schools and sent tens of thousands of children home. Boko Haram is blamed for other deadly attacks on schools in the area and numerous bombings, including one in the capital of Abuja earlier this week that killed at least 70 people. Crisis Group’s Africa Director, Comfort Ero, provided WBEZ-Chicago with some context behind the attacks.
Showing posts tagged as "nigeria"
Showing posts tagged nigeria
"After the politicians created the monster…they lost control of it."
—from our latest report on Boko Haram, northern Nigeria’s Islamist insurgency.
Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency
Abuja/Dakar/Nairobi/Brussels | 3 Apr 2014
In an environment of poverty, injustice and lack of political will for reform, Boko Haram’s growing strength and dissemination is increasingly putting local and regional stability at risk.
In its latest report, Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, the International Crisis Group examines the emergence, rise and evolution of a movement whose four-year insurgency has killed thousands, displaced close to a million, destroyed public infrastructure and weakened the country’s already poor economy, particularly in the North East. The government’s failure to provide security and basic services makes poor youth, in particular, an easy recruitment target for anti-state militias. As Boko Haram’s network expands into Cameroon and Niger, a military response is not enough. Only deep political and socio-economic reform can ease the injustices that fuel the insurgency.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
Boko Haram’s evolution since 2002 is strongly linked to failed governance, economic hardship, rising social inequality, corruption and impunity. Most Nigerians are poorer today than at independence in 1960. Poverty is most dire in the north, where Boko Haram, the latest of many northern fundamentalist movements, has tapped into Muslim revivalism and hopes to establish an Islamic state.
Since 2010, the group’s campaign has grown, targeting not only security forces and politicians, but also civilians, traditional and religious leaders, public institutions, the UN presence and schools. It is more dispersed than ever, with many leaders in Cameroon and Niger, both of which are poorly equipped to address an armed Islamist threat. Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, seems to have little control over its factions, including Ansaru, which focuses on foreign targets.
Insecurity in much of the north may also worsen political violence and undermine the credibility of the 2015 elections, further damaging government legitimacy.
Federal and state governments must end impunity by prosecuting crimes by security services, government officials and Boko Haram members alike, and urgently develop and implement a socio-economic intervention program for the North East region.
Civic education to halt politicisation of religions, effective development and anti-corruption efforts, and police who are seen as partners to citizens are all vital.
“Boko Haram’s insurgency is tapping into governance, corruption, impunity and underdevelopment grievances shared by most people in the region” says EJ Hogendoorn, Deputy Africa Program Director. “It’s a serious challenge and a manifestation of more profound threats to Nigeria’s security. Yet, the government’s response is largely military”.
“Radical reform of governance and political culture is a big agenda, one some Nigerian elites have not yet demonstrated they have the will to address”, says Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director. “But if they do not, Boko Haram, or groups like it, will continue to destabilise large parts of the country”.
Nigeria: Boko Haram’s Deadly School Attack
In the early hours of Tuesday 25 February, about 50 gunmen from the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram stormed a co-educational, federal government boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, about 65km from the state capital, Damaturu. The attackers locked a dormitory and set it on fire, killing many students inside. Students who tried to escape were shot or knifed to death. In all, there were 59 fatalities; all killed were males; some female students were abducted, others ordered to quit school and go get married or be killed in future attacks. The school’s 24 buildings were completely burned down.
What has been the government’s reaction?
President Goodluck Jonathan has called the attack “a callous and senseless murder … by deranged terrorists and fanatics who have clearly lost all human morality and descended to bestiality”. A military spokesman in Yobe State, Captain Lazarus Eli, said troops were “in pursuit of the killers”, but military authorities offered no further details. Many commentators on social media and radio/television talk programs dismiss these reactions for being insufficient.
What is the local reaction?
This incident, and several other attacks this month, are seen as further examples of the failure of the government and the military to protect Nigeria’s citizens. The rising casualties from recent attacks are fuelling an already considerable anger, not only in the north east, which is worst hit by the violence, but across the country.
Why are the militants increasingly targeting civilians?
Because they are soft targets. The militants accuse communities – especially those with significant Christian populations – of collaborating with government security forces. Their terror tactics are intended to compel compliance with their ideology. (For more on the historical and ideological roots of the movement, see our 2010 report Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict.)
Why are they targeting schools?
They say secular, state schools are the main conduits through which Western values, which they consider un-Islamic and therefore corrupting, are being transmitted to the local society.
President Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 2013 and launched a military offensive in May to crush the rebels. Why is this not working?
The military operation has been difficult for several reasons. First, this is an unconventional, asymmetric war (in which the attackers generally avoid direct combat but attack soft targets like schools and remote villages). Second, the military initially had little or no capacity (training, equipment, special units, etc.) for operations against such insurgents. Lastly the terrain is vast and difficult. The three states where Boko Haram is most active (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, all covered by the state of emergency) total 154,000 sq km: larger than the U.S. state of Georgia and nearly two thirds the size of the UK. The number of soldiers deployed would need to be considerable to provide adequate protection to all possible targets, especially remote communities. Yobe State Governor Ibrahim Geidam and Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima have recently criticised the military’s performance, insisting more resources are needed to defeat the increasingly well-armed and apparently emboldened insurgents. The military’s performance has been compromised by rivalries with other security agencies. There are indications of possible sabotage by military elements who support, or are sympathetic to, Boko Haram’s demand for an Islamic state to counter the corruption and dysfunction of the current government. Military authorities also suggest they are not getting maximum cooperation from the security forces of neighbouring countries, particularly Cameroon.
What are the implications for the 2015 elections?
The Independent National Electoral Commission warned in December 2013 that it might not be able to conduct elections in the three states (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) under emergency rule if the attacks continue into next year. These states are among sixteen in which the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is quite strong. Some opposition politicians are already alleging that Jonathan is allowing the poor security situation to persist, or even deteriorate, in order not to hold polls in those states. A general or presidential election that leaves out these three states could give Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a significant advantage at the polls. If Jonathan wins re-election that way, the opposition will likely vigorously challenge his victory; the 2011 post-election violence in the north killed more than 1,000.
However, conversely, there are those who believe the government’s management of the conflict reflects poorly on the Jonathan administration and therefore continued attacks could dim the president’s chances of re-election.
Boko Haram recently said it will strike oil installations in the Niger Delta and assassinate leading political figures nationwide. How serious is this threat?
Security sources say they do not underestimate Boko Haram’s capacity for wreaking havoc. In 2011, Boko Haram carried out suicide-bomb attacks on the national police force headquarters as well as the complex housing all UN agencies in Abuja, the Nigerian capital – about 850km away from the attackers’ base in Borno State. (See our commentary at the time.) No target anywhere in the country is entirely secure. Boko Haram cells have been uncovered in the south, including Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Some suspected members were arrested recently in Port Harcourt, the largest city in the Niger Delta and hub of the country’s oil industry. The possibility of the group striking oil facilities cannot be ruled out.
If the group is planning to attack oil installations in the Niger Delta, would they do this on their own or possibly in collaboration with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)?
Collaborating with MEND is highly unlikely. The two groups have strikingly opposing ideologies, interests and goals. Boko Haram views MEND as part of the “infidel” southern Nigeria; MEND views Boko Haram as part of a “Hausa/Fulani/Islamist” plot to dominate the country (especially the oil-producing areas) for its own purposes.
Desert Encroachment Fuels Nigerian Religious Fight Over Land | Dulue Mbachu
Shehu Bello leaned on a staff as he stood guard over his two dozen head of cattle grazing outside Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, and spoke grimly about his two main adversaries: farmers and desertification.
The encroaching Sahara Desert has pushed Bello, a 29-year-old Muslim, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south from his home town of Shinkafi in search of pasture, and into conflict with communities that see grazing cattle as a threat to their crops. He moved to the Abuja area in 2011 when two of his nephews died and 20 head of cattle were stolen in a clash with farmers.
Fighting between the mainly Muslim herders and largely Christian farmers has killed about 8,000 people since 2005 in the so-called middle belt region that marks the informal divide between northern and southern Nigeria, according to the Brussels-based research organization, International Crisis Group. The violence has fused at times with the four-year-old insurgency of the Boko Haram Islamist group that’s seeking to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, in the country.
FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Photo: Jeff Attaway/flickr
What next for Al-Shabaab? | Global Public Square
Do the two U.S. raids in Africa this month signal a shift from drone attacks?
It’s not possible to tell at this point. The two raids underscore one limitation of drones: they cannot be used in urban settings where the possibility of killing civilians is very high. This would not only violate international humanitarian law, but would be counter-productive, since it would turn the population against the United States and its allies and possibly radicalize others into joining jihadi groups like Al-Shabaab.
FULL ARTICLE (CNN)
Face à Boko Haram, “une bataille directe et sans précédent” | Hélène Sallon
L’armée nigériane a commencé, jeudi 16 mai, son assaut contre des camps du groupe islamiste Boko Haram, avec l’objectif de reconquérir des zones tenues par les insurgés. Le président nigérian Goodluck Jonathan avait décrété l’état d’urgence dans trois Etats du nord-est du pays (Borno, Yobe et Adamawa), mardi, en assurant que des “mesures extraordinaires” étaient nécessaires pour répondre à la violence croissante. Le président a présenté comme “une déclaration de guerre” les dernières violences revendiquées par le groupe et il a pour la première fois reconnu que Boko Haram avait pris le contrôle de certaines parties de l’Etat de Borno. Depuis 2009, Boko Haram mène une insurrection sanglante dans le nord du Nigeria, qui a fait quelque 3 600 morts.
Lire tout l’article (Le Monde)
Photo: Commonwealth Secretariat/Flickr
Doubts over claims Boko Haram chief likely dead | AFP
Doubts persisted on Tuesday over a Nigerian military claim that the leader of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram may have been killed, with questions raised over the timing of the announcement.
A security task force in northeastern Nigeria issued a statement on Monday saying Abubakar Shekau, declared a “global terrorist” by the United States, “may have died” from a gunshot wound after a clash with soldiers on June 30.
FULL ARTICLE (GlobalPost)
Photo: AK Rockefeller/Flickr
Mali crisis shines light on Nigeria’s shadowy insurgency | AFP via Channel News Asia
LAGOS: Mali’s struggle against Islamists now being targeted by French and African forces has raised fresh questions over an insurgency in nearby Nigeria and ties between extremists in both countries.
Nigeria plans to send some 900 troops to Mali as well as command the African force being deployed there despite also dealing with violence back home by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.
While the Islamist advance in Mali has sparked international fears that it could become a safe haven for Al-Qaeda-linked militants and criminal gangs, many observers caution that Nigeria’s situation is vastly different.
Photo: United States Navy/Wikimedia Commons
from 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2013 | Foreign Policy
by Louise Arbour
Sahel: Mali, Nigeria, and beyond
Instability in the Sahel region of Africa increased on a number of fronts in 2012, and attempts to stem that trend will be high on many countries’ agendas in 2013. Mali — where a military coup toppled the government in March, while separatists and al Qaeda-linked fundamentalists took over the country’s north — tops the list of regional troubles.
The coming year will see both the rollout of a necessary international intervention in Mali, and possibly more important, a political process to reunify the country. On the former, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and the African Union have already approved a mission of 3,300 soldiers to help the Malian state wrest control of the northern part of the country from Islamist fighters, pending international endorsement of such a move by the U.N. Security Council.
Fear of an intervention without end has led to reluctance in many quarters about deploying an international force in the vast northern desert. But the risks of inaction are just as great. Getting boots on the ground will take some time, as will the desperately needed restructuring and training of Malian units by a separate EU mission.
On the political side, it is necessary to make sure that the process of reuniting the country is truly inclusive. Some of the groups controlling the north are clearly beyond the pale — they are terrorists, and they are not interested in coming to the negotiation table. Others may be more amenable to a deal. But much depends on the Malian government’s political and military leadership, which remains shaky after the interim prime minister was forced to resign by the military in December. The new and ostensibly more consensual prime minister might facilitate a national dialogue aimed at designing a roadmap to resolve Mali’s political crisis and organizing for elections in 2013. However, with the military coup leaders showing a worrying propensity to remain enmeshed in civilian political life, the country’s future remains uncertain.
The Sahel region also has another deeply worrying conflict in northern Nigeria, where the radical Islamist group Boko Haram has been blamed for thousands of deaths in recent years. The government’s response has been an uneven mix of confused talk about possible negotiations and heavy-handed, often indiscriminate, security efforts that may have aggravated the violence and sent more recruits into the hands of the extremists. Without concerted attention and a dramatic about-face in government policy, look for 2013 to be another bloody year in northern Nigeria.
Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection/Flickr