Boko Haram

Is the tide turning again Boko Haram

The Nigerian President adressing his troops

Before any conversation about this militant organization, we must first define exactly who and what we are talking about. The word Boko Haram means "Western education is forbidden" in the Hausa language, but it did not start as a terrorist organization. Originally it was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf as a group to rally the disproportionately poor northern Muslim communities. (Although Nigeria is the fastest growing economy in Africa, these communities are so poor that polio still exists in the north and abject poverty is increasing). Originally the group railed again government corruption and advocated for the creation of an Islamic state. In 2009 Yusuf was arrested and executed by the Nigerian government which pushed the organization to terrorism. Their followers are responsible for attacks, killings, drug trafficking, and bank robbery among other heinous crimes. However, they are most notorious for the kidnapping of about 200 female students from their classrooms sparking the #bringourgirlshome. They take a very extremist stance against women receiving any education.

However, recent developments show that the Nigerian army has had success in fighting this terrorist group. From the BBC, we learn President Goodluck Jonathan said “Boko Haram will be routed in one month. Nigerian troops had finally driven Boko Haram militants from Bama in Borno State, north-east Nigeria." Nigeria claims to have liberated 12 of the 14 states Boko Haram once had control over. In fact, last Friday, May 2, the Nigerian army was able to free over 160 women and children captured by the terrorists.

However, not everything is perfect in Africa's fastest growing economy. One criticism is that the army has just now started making gains against an organization that has been plaguing the northeast for years. As the BBC puts it "Questions of why the government had allowed the insecurity to fester until a few weeks to election before it could muster the strength to fight, are now being asked." Another concern is the role of the international community. Other African countries had promised to provide support, but Nigeria continues to reject this aid. It wishes to be seen as an independent nation that can handle terrorists on its own. Ultimately, the military gains Nigeria has seen against Boko Haram have been questionable but for now we can be thankful that the government is taking active steps against these horrific terrorists.


Who are the main opponents?

This conflict in particular really does boil down to a terrorist organization (Boko Haram) and the Nigerian army.

Any other countries involved or concerned?

Countries surrounding the region such as Chad are concerned about the regional stability. The international community also cares especially after the mass kidnapping of school girls.

How is this conflict being conducted ?

Boko Haram is a terrorist organization that uses fear to coerce many young people especially girls into suicide bombings. They also use guerrilla attacks and human shields to control towns. If they don't need or want the town, they burn it to the ground and kill those inside. The military is not as open about the way it conducts warfare. However, on multiple occasions they held back from attacking because they knew there were hostages inside buildings.

What was the cause of the conflict?

The cause is colonization. It drew really terrible borders with many different people living in the same place and disproportionately educated one area of the country. In this case, the south was where the vast majority of educated people are, is the place where colonization was most obvious. All the investment was done in this area. Furthermore, the north part was left relatively untouched so it was uneducated and has little infrastructure. Another issue is a massive religious divide which splits the country into north Muslim and south Christian. This divide is furthered by the massive economic gap between the two areas which makes it easy for a Muslim extremist group to rally poor northern Muslims against the rich Christians. Another issue is that all the oil in the country is in the south so the south is disproportionately benefited by resource allocation.

What efforts are being taken to solve the problem non-violently? Include your evaluation of the effectiveness of these peacemaking efforts or suggestion for what would be more effective.

There are very little resources in the way of nonviolent assistance. Even those are of limited affect because of the violence Boko Haram uses against them. The government does not negotiate for the hostages. For example, the organization killed nine women distributing polio vaccines. With very little stability, infrastructure, and resources, it is nearly impossible for a peaceful option to be pursued. Personally, I think that fighting this war is simply the best option. I am usually against the use of armed forces but in this case, I do believe that the Nigeria government is taking the correct course of action at least for now. Once Boko Haram has been eradicated, then non peaceful ways (such as education, vaccine infrastructure) should be used to make sure no other extremist organization can take advantage of these people again.


Abuja, Chris E. "Is the Tide Turning against Boko Haram? - BBC News." BBC News. BBC, 21 Mar. 2015. Web. 03 May 2015.

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