Boko Haram: a new paradigm to West Africa security challenges

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Abstract


Since 2010 Boko Haram uprising, it has transformed into a powerful regional terrorist group whose terrorist act of bombing and kidnapping had attracted the world attention. Rapidly Boko Haram has become the second most dreaded terrorist group in the world after Islamic States (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria. The group’s tactics shifted and diversified from attacks on government installations to more damning quest through bombings, robberies, kidnappings, assaults on churches and mainstream Muslim targets, leading to occupation of villages and towns, indicating greater confidence and capacity to form a territory within the territory of Nigeria and declare an “Islamic Caliphate” in Nigeria which is their utmost objective. This article reviews the activities of Boko Haram Islamic Militant terror group operating in the northern region of Nigeria, the result of its frequent attacks in the region, governance and economic activities had been brought to a halt. This article also analyses the roles played by international community and the efforts of the Nigeria government in resolving the crisis. The article further points out the continuous attacks of Boko Haram if unchecked its will threaten the relatively peace and security in the West Africa region.


INTRODUCTION Nigeria is the most populous country of the African continent with estimated population of 180 million people and one of the largest too in terms of land mass, is currently under threat of disintegration and loss of statehood. Meanwhile, even as recently as early 2014, the country ranked first in Africa's GDP growth, ahead of a successful South Africa. It would seem that the natural resources and geographic location (access to the Atlantic Ocean) could make Nigeria a leading country of the continent. However, the high level of corruption, weakly developed industry and infrastructure, ethnic and religious confrontation, and as a consequence - the centrifugal tendencies, in contrast, is gradually turning republic in to “realm of chaos”. And this is clearly the main component of “controlled chaos” was the main problem today in Nigeria - the proliferation and spread of the influence of radical group “Boko Haram”. The declaration of Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist group in the heart of Sub-Sahara Africa in 2013, by US Home Land Security drew the attention of world’s leaders, though the activities of the group started long before now in Nigeria, but has operated underground. However, attained international status because its activities went on unchecked, spreading to other neighboring countries i.e. Chad, Cameroun, Niger, Benin and Mali, this development has endangered the relatively peace and security situation in the West Africa region. The extensive threat of Boko Haram in the West Africa region resulting from the vicious and consistent attacks in villages, towns, cities and governmental institutions had brought economy activities in areas affected to a halt and insecure for inhabitants to go about their normal daily activities. Boko Haram has grown from extreme rag-tag religious group to full-fledged regional terrorist group with allegiance to Islamic States in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) thereby undermining the security in the Sub-region. The subject, objectives, goals and literature review are stated for easy understanding, comprehension and clarity. The purpose and subject matter of this research article is to point out and review the activities of Boko Haram terrorist group and how it constitutes a modern security threat to West Africa region, also to examine the efforts and role played by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Mali and the international community to confront this security challenges pose by Boko Haram. The scope of this article is restricted to activities of Boko Haram within Nigeria and West Africa axis. The relevance of this research article is the entirety of the work based on the in-depth analysis carried out in curbing the menace of terrorist group. The literature reviews are works of experts, writers and international analysts on security, terrorism, and international relations, the data and information gathered formed the opinion and general conclusion of the researcher. According to Africa Centre for Strategic studies (2012), Boko Haram, a mainly local group in Nigeria, has become the second most dreaded terrorist group in the world after Islamic States (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, the foremost players on the terror-front in the West African region [Pham 2012]. This assertion was buttressed as a result of the deadly attacks in Nigeria and thereby countries. In the view of US Home Land Security Brief in 2014, through the US Secretary of State, John Kerry issued a press statement to denounce the activities of the sect, unspeakable violence and acts of terror like the ones committed by Boko Haram last week in northern region of Nigeria are horrific, wrong, and have no place in our world[78]. However, Council for Foreign Relations (2015) declared Boko Haram terrorist group as an armed revolt against government corruption, abusive security forces, and widening regional economic disparity. Though, as the council rightly pointed out, these are indicators for revolt in any society, not the case in this situation because Boko Haram lacks ideological base[79]. African Security Review (2010), a monthly Scientific Journal, viewed Boko Haram terrorist group as a militant sect whose ideology cannot be understood, in view of the social, religious, economic, and political setting of northern Nigeria. While murky, some accounts link the group’s origins back to the “Maitatsine uprisings of the early 1980s[80]. Political analyst agreed that societal degradation played a major role in the insurgent uprising. BOKO HARAM IN PERSPECTIVE The declaration of Boko Haram as a terrorist group has added a new paradigm to Nigeria security challenges in particular, and West Africa region in general, like most insurgent groups in Nigeria, emerged from a background of an age-old conflict, which can be described as a conflict between different identities in the country. The movement for ethnic identity often leads to international conflict. The point that a country has numerous ethnic or religious groups does not make conflict unavoidable. “Boko Haram”, which in the local Hausa language means “Western education is forbidden”, officially calls itself “Jama’atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad”, which means “people committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teachings and jihad” [Freedom C. Onuoha 2010]. Although the backgrounds of Boko Haram are sketchy, the beginning of the militant sect cannot be understood without mention to the social, religious, economic, and political setting of northern Nigeria. While murky, some accounts link the group’s origins back to the “Maitatsine uprisings of the early 1980s, which left thousands dead and cut a path of destruction across five northern Nigerian states”[81]. The group was founded in the mid-1990s as a religious study group, Boko Haram did not begin to transform into the insurgent group it is today until a young and charismatic Nigerian civil service employee named Mohammed Yusuf assumed control. Calling themselves the Nigerian Taliban, Boko Haram adopted a “live-off-the land” lifestyle and established a camp in a remote area of northeast Nigeria, which the group dubbed “Afghanistan”[82]. From 2002-2009, Boko Haram engaged in low-level conflict with local police forces and non-compliant villagers. In 2009, a crackdown on Boko Haram members from Nigerian police forces in Borno state erupted into fighting. On July 26, 2009, sect members launched an attack against a police station in Bauchi state, resulting in the death of 39 Boko Haram members, two police officers, and one soldier [Pham 2011]. This ignited a five day stand-off between Boko Haram and security personnel that saw violent attacks and battles spread across four northern Nigerian states: Bauchi, Kano, and Yobe, climaxing in a final battle in the city of Maiduguri in Borno state. On July 30, 2009, the battle of Maiduguri ended when Nigerian security forces captured and killed Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in what human rights groups have deemed an extrajudicial killing. Yusuf’s execution was videotaped by soldiers and later broadcasted on television. In total, nearly 700 people were killed in the uprising”[83]. The death of Yusuf marked a turning point for the Boko Haram. It was forced underground and many of its leaders reportedly fled to other parts of Nigeria, including Bauchi state, as well as neighboring countries. THE UPRISING SINCE 2010 Since the Boko Haram uprising in 2010, after the extra-judicial killing of the group’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, which prompted the group to regroup after a year of undergoing dangerous transformation, under the new leadership of Abubakar Shekau with a more militant agenda and brutal tactics. The dreaded terrorist group has killed more 20,000 people and caused serious refugees crisis in the region, Nigeria is the worst affected, with more than 2 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in Nigeria while thousands of others are living across the borders between Nigeria and its neighbors, Chad, Niger and Cameroon. This became apparent as a result of frequent suicidal bombing, kidnapping and killing by the terrorist group, made the people to flee their villages, towns and city to other safer place. Though, the rate of bombing and killing are subsiding due to well-coordinated military response from Nigeria troops and multi nationals joint military task force, but in the height of Boko Haram vicious attacks in the northeast of Nigeria, Borno State became a de facto war zone, and were able to carried out attacks on governmental structures and taking over military installations i.e. military barracks, military armory and military armor vehicles, this led to the admission that “Boko Haram’s attacks are occurring at their greatest frequency since the sect emerged from hiding in 2010. The sophistication of its tactics, use of the Internet, and its attack on the U.N. headquarters in Abuja, and the Kidnapping in April, 2014 of over 200 school girls all point to a dangerously evolving organization”[84]. The group’s tactics shifted and diversified from attacks on government installations to more damning quest through bombings, robberies, kidnappings, assaults on churches and mainstream Muslim targets, leading to occupation of villages and towns, indicating greater confidence and capacity to form a territory within the territory of Nigeria and declare an “Islamic Caliphate” in Nigeria which is their utmost objective. “In May 2013, the government declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. In its current phase since July, the insurgency has mimicked the tactics of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, declaring a local caliphate and shifting approach from guerrilla-style attacks to the conventional capture and consolidation of territory” [Aly, Johnson 2015]. Appraising the activities of Boko Haram since the beginning of the uprising in 2010 till date, the intensity of it attacked in Nigeria and its neighboring countries was alarming, Nigeria's police and army barracks, politicians, schools, markets, religious buildings, public institutions, and civilians were not spared. The heinous crime against humanity by the Islamic sect was noted by international observers, “Many people have been killed in Boko Haram-related violence, and 1.5 million have been displaced. Some experts view the group as an armed revolt against government corruption, abusive security forces, and widening regional economic disparity”[85]. In the height of frequent Boko Haram attacks in 2014, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry issued a press statement to denounce the activities of the sect, “unspeakable violence and acts of terror like the ones committed by Boko Haram last week in northern region of Nigeria are horrific, wrong, and have no place in our world. Last Saturday, a brazen attack on the village of Izge, Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon took the lives of more than one hundred innocent people. Not less than a week had passed before Boko mounted another attack in Bama, setting 1,500 buildings ablaze, killing more than 115 people and leaving many others injured. We support Nigerian authorities' efforts to investigate these cowardly acts and to bring the perpetrators to justice”[86]. The rising scale of attacks by Boko Haram is alarming giving serious concern to international observers and security experts around the globe. This is clearly the most deadly battle that Nigeria has confronted in decades. It is being fought on a scale that is comparable to serious civil strife in other parts of the world. The levels of casualties, internal displacement, social disruption and government failure are fomenting a widespread crisis, spilling over the borders of neighboring states such as Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The Boko Haram ranks first among the world’s terror groups in terms of the number of fatalities in 2014 according to the US Department of State annual terrorism report for last year. “Although ISIS was responsible for the greatest amount of attacks last year, it was a close second to Boko Haram in number of fatalities”[87]. In furtherance of its core objective of turning the Nigeria territory to an Islamic state, the Boko Haram terrorist group recently launched its own radio station in order to spread its Islamic and anti-government propaganda messages to the people. The establishment of an FM radio station has added a new dimension to their mode of operation. This confirmation was made known by Hausa service of the Voice of America. “Residents in Tolkomari, which is in the far northern part of Cameroon, have confirmed receiving broadcast messages from the sect via the radio station on 96.8 frequency modulation. The VoA report said the station broadcast mainly propaganda materials to counter media reports of victories by troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic against the Boko Haram militants”[88]. Though, frantic efforts by the Nigerian and Cameroonian governments are ongoing to stop it broadcast and commenced investigations towards locating the radio station, which is said to be on the Nigeria-Cameroun border. BOKO HARAM INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS Boko Haram, a local radical Islamist Militant group in the northern Muslims dominated part of Nigeria has metamorphosed into international terrorist group having link with already established terrorist groups in other regions in the world. “In the aftermath of the United Nations (UN) Headquarters 2011 bombing in Abuja, Nigeria. According to Ambassador Anthony Holmes, Deputy to the Commander for Civil Military Activities (DCMA) of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), stated that “members of Boko Haram are being trained by Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). They are also believed to have ties to the Somalian militant group al Shabaab”[89]. This assertion was in line with the increased sophistication of attacks executed by Boko Haram, have led to concerns from the U.S. Intelligence Community and other stakeholders of the view of Boko Haram ties with other terrorist groups outside the region. In furtherance of the conviction of Boko Haram links with Al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Somalian militant group al Shabaab, the US declared Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist group in 2013, in her descriptions of the situation, Assistant to the US President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said: “In the last several years, Boko Haram and Ansaru have been responsible for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria, including dozens of attacks on churches and mosques, targeted killings of civilians, and the 2011 suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja that killed 21 people and injured dozens more”[90]. This designation of Boko Haram as a terror group by the United States was to create extra security alerts to the activities of the sect in order to closely monitor its dealing with other terrorist group. In continuation of its core objectives of making Nigeria an Islamic State and turning the group to a global brand, Boko Haram pledges allegiance to Islamic States (IS) terrorist group which took control of large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq last year. The IS group aims to establish a “caliphate”, a state ruled by a single political and religious leader according to Islamic law, or Sharia. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is known to his followers as Caliph Ibrahim. In his declaration message of allegiance to the Caliphate, the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said: “We announce our allegiance to the caliph... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity. We call on Muslims everywhere to pledge allegiance to the caliph”[91]. CONFRONTING BOKO HARAM The battle against Boko Haram launched by the current government led by President Buhari is yielding positive result, having decimated the activities of Boko Haram, reclaiming back territories once occupied by the Boko Haram group, his political will and determination to confront the activities of Boko Haram had restored confident and moral back to the military to fight the insurgent Boko Haram terrorist group. Previously, before now, Nigeria government had spent billions of dollars in the fight against the terrorist group to stop it from operating from its territory with no positive result. Also, the government of Nigeria had participated in numerous peace summits in order to find a lastly solution to the Boko Haram crisis. One of such security summit was held in France in 2014 tagged Security Summit on Nigeria and Boko Haram, agreement was reached on an action plan to share intelligence and surveillance “that the sect is a threat to West and Central Africa and alleged that the group has links to other militants including al-Qaeda's North African arm and in order to find those young girls”[92] in the words of French President François Hollande, host of the summit. The summit has led partnering countries to take stronger measures to eradicate the Boko Haram terrorist group of abducting nearly 300 girls in Nigeria. In his submission at the summit Cameroon President, Paul Biya said, “We're here to declare war on Boko Haram”[93]. The summit was part of moves by Nigeria government’s attempts at securing assistance from the international community to rescue the girls and end the Boko Haram insurgency, with United States, UK, France and Israel offering a helping hand. In pursuance of supports in the fight against Boko Haram terrorist group, the newly elected President of Nigeria, President Muhamadu Buhari attended the recent 41st G7 summit in Germany to discuss the region security issue with the G7 leaders, who in turn pledged to assist Nigeria in its fight against the insurgent. Specifically the Canadian leader at the summit Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “Like other G7 members, Canada is concerned about the emergence of ISIS-affiliated groups elsewhere in the Middle East, in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa, including Boko Haram in Nigeria”[94]. The Nigeria’s Military Forces had carried out series of military operations against the Boko Haram, in a bid to step up its military operations against the insurgent, the Nigeria government relocated its Military Command Headquarters from the seat of power Abuja to Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, the epicenter of the insurgence. In addition to enhance the regional joint military operations against the Boko Haram, the Nigeria government recently held a regional security summit under the Lake Chad Basin Commission in June in Abuja with affected countries i.e. Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin, whereby the Nigeria government pledged financial support of One Hundred Million US Dollars to aid the operation of the Military Joint Task Force (MJTF) put in place to fight the threat of Boko Haram, “the meeting is aimed at reviewing the current security situation arising from the activities of Boko Haram across their common borders and to agree on the adoption of a draft resolution by the African Union and the United Nations Security Council for establishment of an appropriate legal framework for cross border military operations against Boko Haram insurgency in the region”[95]. Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat to peace and Security in Africa. It is one of stimulating factors of destabilization, increasingly in conflict situations. To solve various challenges associated with the activities of terroristic groups, strong measures in all directions to respond are needed: from the activation of the development process to ensure good governance and the rule of law, as well as the promotion of human rights to addressing the conditions conducive to terrorism. In demonstration of its seriousness attached in the fight against terrorist groups in Africa by the US government, the US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced at news briefing at the African Union Summit in June, 2015, “We are having discussions with President Buhari on how we might bolster our support. We have already been working with them and providing information. We are providing some training and support and we’ll love to work with the new administration to see how we might increase the level of support to Nigeria”. She further stresses the financial commitment of the US government towards the fight against Boko Haram. “At the same time, we’ve just announced at the venue of the AU, five million dollars contribution to the Multinational Joint Task Force. We are also providing some equipment and support and we have a number of meetings with the countries who are members of the Multinational Joint Task Force to look at other areas we might support”[96]. In May 2014 the United States deployed a small group of military advisers to help find the kidnapped girls, and France sent soldiers to Niger to help coordinate military action in February 2015. The African Union authorized a joint force of 7,500 from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger to fight Boko Haram. The United Nations Organization provides assistance in connection with all the four components of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. The UN provided necessary measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, to prevent terrorism and counter-terrorism; strengthening state capacity to prevent terrorism and fight it and strengthen the role of the United Nations in this regard; and ensuring respect for human rights and the rule of law in the fight against terrorism. Agencies, funds and programs of the United Nations also provide technical and other assistance to implement the provisions of the various resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions on counter-terrorism. CONCLUSION In conclusion, the motivations and strategic objectives of Boko Haram remain unclear, the increasing sophistication of the group’s attacks and the acceleration in its lethality underline the importance of a strong, coherent response and the consequences of Nigeria’s failure to mount such a response. The attack of Boko Haram continues to be unabated thereby creating other area of security concerns i.e. refugee’s problem, economic crisis, and disease epidemic. Boko Haram, as it is understood, is a very small group of individuals who simply consider themselves to be the followers of their slain leader Mohammed Yusuf. Despite our lack of understanding of Boko Haram, the movement appears to have significant sympathy among many Nigerian Muslims. Coupled with the grievances that plague the north, the environment is ripe for recruitment. Recent evidence alludes to the sect’s potential desire to join the ranks of international jihadist organizations. American, Nigerian, other African, and European officials have all expressed concern over the sect’s communication with AQIM and al Shabaab. An alliance, or at the very least cooperation between the groups, can prove costly for the stability of Africa, the Sahel, and American interests. The coming on board of a new president in Nigeria and his vigor and determination to end the reign of terror unleashed by Boko Haram that has gone unabated as part of his campaign promises and in his inaugural speech. The Military Joint Task Forces (MJTF) put in place by the regional leaders to provide security and protect the lives and property of the people of north-eastern-central Nigeria and the sub region will go along to rebuild the regions, relocate the internally displaced persons back to their homes and restore normalcy to the affected states and countries. It’s not excluded, that “NGOs, which play the role of actors in public diplomacy and have a direct impact on the foreign policy process”, could help to prevent the increasing group attacks and stabilize the situation in Nigeria [Bokerija 2013]. REFERENCES Aly Sergie M., Johnson T., 2015. Boko Haram. USA, Council for Foreign Relations. Available at: http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/boko-haram/p25739 (date of access: 15.05.2015). Bokerija S.A., 2013. Nepravitel'stvennye organizacii (NPO): osobennosti funkcionirovanija i razvitija v RF. [Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs): Peculiarities of Functioning and Development in the Russian Federation]. Vestnik Rossijskogo universiteta druzhby narodov, no. 2, pp. 33-44. Freedom C. Onuoha, 2010. The Islamist Challenge: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Crisis Explained. African Security Review, Lagos, Vol. 19, no. 1, Available at: http://www.academia.edu/606822/The_ Islamist_challenge_Nigerias_Boko_Haram_crisis_explained (date of access: 15.05.2015). Pham P. J, 2011. Foreign Influences and Shifting Horizons. Science Direct Journal, Vol. 55, Iss. 2, Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S 003 0438711000068 (date of access: 15.05.2015). Pham P., 2012. Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat. The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, Dakar, no. 20, Available at: http://africacenter.org/wpcontent/uploads/2012/04/AfricaBriefFinal_20.pdf (date of access: 15.05.2015). Дата поступления статьи: 11.10.2015 For citations: Bokeriya S.A., Omo-Ogbebor D.O. Boko Haram: a new paradigm to West Africa security challenges. Vestnik RUDN. International Relations, Vol. 16, No. 2 (June 2016), pp. 274-284. Для цитирования: Бокерия С.А., Омо-Огбебор Д.О. Боко Харам: новая парадигма угрозы безопасности в Западной Африке // Вестник Российского университета дружбы народов. Серия «Международные отношения». - 2016. - № 2. - С. 274-284. © Bokeriya S.A., Omo-Ogbebor D.O., 2015

Svetlana Alexandrovna Bokeriya

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia

Author for correspondence.
Email: bokeria_sa@pfur.ru
Moscow, Russia

Osasuyi Dennis Omo-Ogbebor

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia

Email: 1032124386@pfur.ru
Moscow, Russia

  • Aly Sergie M., Johnson T., 2015. Boko Haram. USA, Council for Foreign Relations. Available at: http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/boko-haram/p25739 (date of access: 15.05.2015)
  • Bokerija S.A., 2013. Nepravitel'stvennye organizacii (NPO): osobennosti funkcionirovanija i razvitija v RF. [Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs): Peculiarities of Functioning and Development in the Russian Federation]. Vestnik Rossijskogo universiteta druzhby narodov, no.2, pp.33-44.
  • Freedom C. Onuoha, 2010. The Islamist Challenge: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Crisis Explained. African Security Review, Lagos, Vol.19, no. 1, Available at: http://www.academia.edu/606822/The_Islamist_challenge_Nigerias_Boko_Haram_crisis_explained (date of access: 15.05.2015)
  • Pham P. J, 2011. Foreign Influences and Shifting Horizons. Science Direct Journal, Vol. 55., Iss. 2, Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S 003 0438711000068. (date of access: 15.05.2015)
  • Pham P., 2012. Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat. The Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, Dakar, no. 20, Available at: http://africacenter.org/wpcontent/uploads/2012/04/AfricaBriefFinal_20.pdf. (date of access: 15.05.2015)

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