The causes of Islamic fundamentalist violent movements in postcolonial Nigeria

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Abstract


Nigeria is one of the first African states to be confronted with the violent Islamist fundamentalist group popularly known as Boko Haram. It declared war on the Nigerian secular state in 2009, and implements a program, if successful, to transform the country into an Islamic theocratic state led by sharia (Islamic law), in the country where only half of the population are Muslims. The article starts with clarification of the structure of the Nigerian society from the linguistic perspective, and from the point of view of political cultures of different societies, which were colonized and came under one British colonial rule to 1960. This study analyses the history of Islamist fundamental movements starting from the late 1970s, and focuses on the latest such group - Boko Haram. The authors examine the social, economical, and political causes of the brutal violent conflict in the northeastern Nigeria, which was the heartland of the pre-colonial Kanem Bornu state and the center of Kanuri national culture. Finally, the authors identify social and political causes of the developmental chain of Salafist movements, particularly from 2009 when Boko Haram declared war against the Nigerian state in order to transform it into an Islamic caliphate; thus, there was a catastrophic human rights violation by the Nigerian Army in the name of fighting the Boko Haram terrorists. The authors do not suggest any decisions and do not provide any final conclusions - they admit the uncertainty of the current situation in Nigeria and call for the further research of internal politics tendencies under the new government led by President Buhari, who can either continue to solve the problems of the country by aggressive military means as two previous presidents of Nigeria, or, on the contrary, can prefer peaceful and conciliatory measures.


The background of the contemporary Nigerian society Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with almost 182 million inhabitants (in 2016). Linguistically, Nigeria is a diverse state with around two hundred fifty ethno-national groups, but the four largest national groups make up 62.6% of the population (Hausa - 18.2%, Igbo - 17.9%, Yoruba - 16.6%, and Fulani - 9.9%); if we add five other comparatively small groups (Kanuri - 4.2%, Ibibio-Efik - 2.7%, Tiv - 2.2%, Nupe - 1.1%, and Ijaw - 1.1%) the population of the nine largest national groups of the country represents 73.9% [10. P. 35]. A country with vast oil reserves Nigeria is the seventh largest oil producer in the world and of course the largest in Africa daily extracting 2.2 million barrels. Nigeria is a leading economic power of the continent. From the religious point of view, Nigeria is the fourth largest member of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) after Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and together with Turkey and Iran has the sixth largest number of Muslims in the world. Only Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Egypt have a larger Muslim population [30. P. 3]. Muslim fundamentalist movements were part of the violent conflict in postcolonial Nigeria, and the latest of these movements is Boko Haram, which forms part of the topic of this article from the historical sociological perspective. Nigerian population is approximately equally split between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south; according to some estimates the composition of the Nigerian people is Muslims 50%, Christians 40%, and Indigenous 10%; consequently, ethno-linguistic and religious diversity make Nigeria one of the most complex countries in the world. The name ‘Nigeria’, like many other state names in post-colonial Africa, was invented by colonial powers [6. P. 44; 24. P. 9]. Almost all African territories were colonized by western European states; Britain colonized this part of Africa in 1900 and Nigeria was a British colony from 1900 to 1960. The map of the contemporary state known as Nigeria was created in 1900 amalgamating both northern and southern British territories in one entity [29. P. 2]. Islam reached this part of the continent through traders from the east Africa in the late eleventh century [12. P. 29]. The first king of Kanem to accept the new religion was Humai ibn Salamna, who ruled the kingdom from 1068 to1080. Islam gradually spread to the west into the Hausa states, which also received Islamic influences from their western neighbours, beginning from the fourteenth century from the kingdoms of Mali and Songhay, as well as through the pastoralist Fulani, who moved into the region from the west in the fifteenth century. The new religion first penetrated the region through the acceptance of various kings’ courts, but coexisted with African indigenous religion for many centuries. The Muslims were only small minority groups in non-Muslim states by 1800 [40. P. 3]. Nigeria as one territory was governed by the British colonial government only from 1914 to 1960, for just forty-six years. Post-colonial Nigeria faced various types of internal violent conflicts and military dictatorship for long periods; in this article, we concentrate on violent religious conflicts between the Nigerian state and Islamic sectarian groups in northern Nigeria and analyze in detail the latest Islamic Jihadist movement, which calls itself “Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah lidda’Awati Wal Jihad” meaning “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”, but which is popularly known as Boko Haram . ‘Boko’ in Hausa language means “Western education” or “Western influence” and ‘haram’ in Arabic means “sinful” or “forbidden”. Nigeria is the country of 923,768 sq. km territory. Northern Nigeria covers a large mass of land, about 469,000 sq. km, 51% of the Nigerian land mass, and account for 38% of country’s population. The region is located mainly in the Sahelian belt, and is mostly arid with a low population density of 113 inhabitants per sq. km2. Nigeria is home to three out of four African language families. The northern part of the country is inhabited mainly by the Hausa nation, which belongs to Chadic sub-group of Afro-Asian language family. The northeastern region of the country belongs to the Kanuri people, who speak the Saharan sub-group of Nilo-Saharan language family. The vast central and southern region of Nigeria is home to many groups of the Niger-Congo language family. The Yoruba nation in the western and the Igbo people in the eastern regions are the most populous of the last-mentioned language family [14; 15]. The fundamental problem of contemporary Nigeria was embedded in the formation of the federal system during the process of independence achievement. Under the decolonisation negotiations the British Colonial Government refused to accept the demand of the Yoruba people for their own independent state and surrendered them and other peoples to the domination of northern Nigerian traditional authoritarian Muslim rulers led by Fulani families, forming the Federal state in 1960 from three regions (Northern, South-Western and Eastern), in which Northern Nigeria would have more than half of the Federal Parliament members [29. P. 6]. The northern political elite (military and civilian) practically dominated the political landscape of Nigeria until the death of President Yar’adua (who was also from aristocratic Fulani family) in 2010, when vice president and southerner, Goodluck Jonathan, became the President. One may ask how the former president Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba man from Southwest Nigeria, had ruled from 1999 to 2007. His critics assert that he was nominated not by his nation’s party but by the northern party, because he was a former military head of the state (1976-1979), and the majority of Nigerian military officers are from the north. Thus (it is said) they nominated and elected him to save themselves from political problems during his presidency. By contrast, the process of Islamization by the northern elite throughout Nigerian independence alarmed the non-Muslim minorities of the north and Christian migrants from the south. This expansion of Islam affected the relationship between the Muslim and Christian communities. The fear of Islamic hegemony was one of the reasons for the first military coup against the northern-dominated federal government in January 1966. This coup was led by Christian Igbo officers from the south-eastern region, and many northern political and military leaders were killed, including Ahmadu Bello. Immediately the remaining northern elite reorganized themselves and counter attacked, taking political power back into their hands in a July 1966 military counter-coup. The January military coup had a devastating effect on Igbo people living and working in the northern region of the country. A spate of massacres, many conducted by northern soldiers, took the lives of 80,000 to 100,000 easterners during this period, the worst occurring in September 1966 [11. P. 174; 17. P. 20-21]. The Eastern Regional Government tried to negotiate with the federal military government to restructure the federal system of Nigeria, but when the central government refused their demand the Eastern Province declared its independence from Nigeria and established the Biafra Republic. The Federal Military Government, controlled by northerners, declared war against the Biafra state, which lasted from 1967 to 1970, a two-and-half-year war “that rent the country along regional and ethnic lines, and killed between one and three million people, and nearly destroyed the fragile federal bonds that held together the Nigerian state” [11. P. 158]. The war ended with the defeat of Biafra due to the starvation caused by the Federal Army seaport blockade. Anthony Smith illustrated the problem of the Biafra and Kurdistan national movements as follows: “unlike Greece and Bangladesh movements like Biafra or Kurdistan have so far failed to gain independence not so much for lack of unity or leadership, but mainly because they have failed to find superpower sponsors willing to protect their cause” [17]. The military government led by northerners defeated the Biafra Republic in 1970. They controlled the military and political power of the country and its economic power through the state-owned petroleum wealth, which brings the lion’s share of national income to the state treasury. One of the military dictators, General Babangida, gravitated Nigeria to the International Islamic organizations. Babangida, a military dictator of Nigeria in 1985-1993, was a leading figure in the drift of the Nigerian politics into the open conflict between Muslim North and Christian South and the longest military ruler after Gowon in Nigerian history. General Babangida brought into public the Islamization project, which had been simmering for a long time when, following secret communication with the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in 1985, he sent a delegation of high officials of the military government to the OIC Morocco January 6-10 1986. Nigeria became a full member of the OIC in 1986, and this move instigated prolonged Muslim-Christian tensions and the rhetoric of inter-religious warfare. The state-led Islamization of Nigeria intensified between 1999 and 2002, when twelve Northern states imposed Shari’a law. Although this was unconstitutional according to the Nigerian Federal Constitution, the Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo did not acted against this group of states to respect the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution [7. P. 6-7]. Boko Haram origin and development There had been many sectarian Islamic movements before the establishment of Boko Haram, among them Jamaát Izalat al-bida wa Iamat al-Sunnah (“Society for the Eradication of Evil Innovations and Re-establishment of Sunna”), which was founded in 1978 and is known as the Izala movement officially registered in 1985 (opposes the Sufi tradition, which it considered a ‘bida’ (innovation) practised by the Sufi brotherhood) [23. P. 14], the Izala movement primarily attacked Sufi Muslim groups, accusing them of innovation and apostasy. It fought against innovations such as the Sufi genuflection in greeting elders, the keeping of concubines by traditional leaders, the celebration of the prophet’s birthday, the recital of praise songs to the prophet, a range of local customs and traditions, the submission of the faithful to the authority of Sufi Sheikhs, the visiting of the graves and tombs of dead scholars, and the promotion of women’s rights [3. P. 15]. Izala and other Islamic reformist groups in the north shared the broadly common stated goals of promoting a purist version of Islam based on Shari’a, eradicating heretical innovations, and, in many cases, establishing an Islamic state in the north. Among the Islamic organizations which joined Izala was the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (the MSS, based in universities, established in 1954 to protect interests of Muslim students attending Christian missionary schools; its aim and membership have expanded significantly over the years), which is widely regarded as a platform for young radical preachers, and the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. As Izala was established, another more radical Islamic movement emerged, nicknamed “Maitatsine” (meaning “the one who curses” in Hausa language), led by Mohammed Marwa, a young preacher from northern Cameroon. Marwa and his followers refused to accept the legitimacy of the secular state. His popularity increased and his followers’ ranks were swelled by unemployed urban youths, as relations with the state authorities deteriorated. Violent conflict between Maitatsine and the police broke out in December 1980, at an open air rally in Kano city in which many hundreds of people including Marwa died, and it spread to other states. The movement was suppressed by the state but pockets of violence continued for several years [11. P. 208]. The latest wave of the Islamic Jihadist movement, which wants to change Nigeria from a secular to an Islamic state under Shari’a is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad known as Boko Haram, which first appeared in 2002 [27. P. 2]; however, many authors trace its roots back to 1995 [1. P. 98]. Boko Haram’s first known leader was Abubakar Lawan, but when he left to study at the University of Medina, Mohammed Yusuf became leader of the movement. Yusuf was a charismatic and popular Malam (Quranic scholar) who spoke widely throughout the north. His interpretation of the Quran led him to oppose Western education, particularly the basic theories of natural science, which according to his view contradict the holy book: “evolution, the big bang theory of the universe’s development and elements of chemistry and geography should be forbidden” [8. P. 7]. Mohammed Yusuf was a member of the Borno state Shari’a Implementation Committee under Governor Mallah Kachallah (1999-2003), but he was not satisfied with the official implementation of Shari’a and called for an authentic Islamic revolution: this is one reason, apparently, why the group became a violent movement. Before we discuss the particular economic, social and political situation in North-Eastern Nigeria first let us cite Falola’s description of the civil and military governments of his country: “Three different regimes, two military and one civilian, oversaw the growth of the oil economy in the period between 1970 and 1983, but all three mismanaged government funds and contributed to the development of a kleptocracy that continues to plague Nigeria today. While a small class of politicians and entrepreneurs has become exceedingly wealthy via the oil economy, the majority of Nigerians remain mired in perpetual poverty” [11. P. 181]. Nigeria is a very rich country in terms of natural resources, industrious human resources, water resources and fertile soil. Nigeria has become a ‘king’ of petroleum: oil and gas exports account for more than 98% of export earnings and about 83% of federal government revenues and also provide 95% of foreign exchange and about 65% of government budgetary revenues. Nigerian oil reserves are estimated at between 22 and 35.3 billion barrels. Its reserves make Nigeria the tenth most petroleum rich state, and the most affluent in Africa. Nigeria’s crude oil production averages more than 2.2 million barrels a day. The problems of Nigerian (military and civil) government are not limited to mentioned above; the chronic one is the corruption of state officials, in the hierarchy of state administration. One Nigerian scientist characterized his country’s leadership in the following words: “Unfortunately, the political class saddled with the responsibility of directing the affairs of the country have been the major culprit... Regrettably, since independence a notable surviving legacy of the successive political leaderships, both civilian and military, that have managed the affairs of the country at different times, has been the institutionalization of corruption in all agencies of the public service, which, like a deadly virus, has subsequently spread to the private sector of the country” [25. P. 3]. This institutionalised corruption in state structures suffered by the population of Nigeria is one of the main causes of country’s problems. The civilian and military governments were no different on the question of exploiting state properties for private gains. The Second Republic came into existence after a long period of military governments (1966-1979) with the election of President Shehu Shagari (from former Sokoto caliphate Fulani aristocratic family with the title of Turakin Sakwato), but he was not interested in stopping the looting of state properties by elected government officials. “It was estimated that over $16 billion in oil revenues were lost between 1979 and 1983 during the regime of President Shehu Shagari. It became quite common for federal buildings to mysteriously go up in flames, most especially just before the onset of audits of government accounts, making it impossible to discover written evidence of embezzlement and fraud” [9. P. 27]. President Shehu Shagari was incapable of stopping his officials from embezzling state monies, and finally in 1983 he was removed from the state power by another group of military men led by General Muhammadu Buhari, delivering the economy from the grip of the corrupt politicians of the Second Republic. The aim of this military coup was to halt corruption and restore discipline, to foster integrity and dignity in public life. The Military Government of Muhammadu Buhari promised to bring corrupt officials and their agents to the court of law. To fulfill its commitment, it arrested and brought the government state governors and commissioners to face tribunal inquiries. The uprooting of corruption in Nigeria faces many enemies; the General Buhari government was toppled by General Ibrahim Babangida in a bloodless palace coup on 27th August 1985, and he became the longest-serving military ruler after Gowon. His government did not attempt to stop corruption; on the contrary, corruption reached an alarming level and became institutionalized during his rule. Government officials found guilty under anti-corruption military leaders (Generals Mohammed Murtala and Buhari) found their way again to government positions and recovered their seized properties. As one observer pointed out: “Not only did the regime encourage corruption by pardoning corrupt officials convicted by his predecessors and returning their seized properties, the regime officially sanctioned corruption in the country and made it difficult to apply the only potent measures, long prison terms and seizure of ill-gotten wealth, for fighting corruption in Nigeria in the future” [13. P. 5]. General Babangida was forced out of power by intense public opposition to his rule, handing over state power to a non-elected military-civilian Interim National government on 26th August 1993. This group, however, was soon removed from power by the worst military dictator and the head of kleptocracy, General Sani Abacha on 17th November 1993. General Sani Abacha further deepened the corrupt practices which had become institutionalized during General Babangida’s rule, and under his leadership he and his family, along with his associates, looted Nigeria’s coffers with reckless abandon. As one author comments: “The extent of Abacha’s venality seems to have surpassed that of other notorious African rulers, such as Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire. It is estimated that the embezzlement of public funds and the corrupt proceeds of General Abacha and his family amounted to USD 4 billion” [9]. General Sani Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 to 1998, ruined the economy of the country, and is said to have died of a heart attack. He was replaced by General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who within a year handed power over to a democratically elected civilian government led by President Olusegun Obasanjo, former military ruler of Nigeria (1976-1979). The period between the Second and Third Republics was an era when corruption was practically institutionalized as the foundation and essence of governance. The Third Republic was not able to free itself from corruption and mismanagement. According to Transparency International report of 2013 [20], Nigeria is consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt countries. Former World bank Vice President for Africa Obiageli Ezekwesili reported that Nigeria has lost more than $400 billion to large scale-corruption since independence in 1960 [22]. This money was stolen from government coffers instead of building the country’s economy for the betterment of the people of Nigeria. The political elite of the country are from different national groups, political and religious communities; when they agree on how to share the spoils all is well, but when they disagree, they politicize, manipulate and instrumentalize ethno-religious and regional differences. With the failure of governance and development, an ever increasing number of ethnic militias, separatist groups and millenarian religious movements are being mobilized, both for self-defense and for pressing ideological and practical goals [8. P. 1]. Bad governance, continuing economic deterioration, rising inequality and social insecurity are fertile ground for radical extremist groups. The origin of Boko Haram can be seen from this background of the social-political problems of North-Eastern Nigeria. To point out some empirical facts about the economic situation in North-Eastern Nigeria: the breeding ground of Boko Haram is Borno state in the North East, which has the highest poverty rate (86.4%), whereas Niger state in North Central has the lowest (43%). The North East, Boko Haram’s main operational field, has the worst poverty rate in the whole country. The people are living in grinding poverty, while Nigerian legislators are among the world’s best paid parliamentarian: a Nigerian legislator earns about $189,000 per year. The Nigerian state failed to fulfill its basic responsibility, particularly in the North, where key human development sectors - education, health, the judiciary as well as the security agencies - are underfunded or underperforming. In the north of the country, millions of Almajiri (Qur’anic) students are sent to Quranic schools far from their families and have to beg for alms or work as domestic help to pay for their upkeep. Rapid urbanization and increasing poverty may lead to the abuse of this practice and foster criminality. In northern cities like Kano and Kaduna many Almajiri have graduated into Yandaba, adolescent groups that once socialized teenagers into adulthood but have in many cases become gangs. “In 2005, the National Council for the Welfare of the Destitute estimated there were 7 million Almajiri children in northern Nigeria, mostly in the far northern states” [8. P. 4]. The way in which the Nigerian state has robbed the future of its young generations is indicated by Education Minister Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai’s statement that “Nigeria had an estimated 10.5 million out-of-school children in 2012, 3.6 million in 2000 and 42% of the primary school-age population” [8. P. 4] The health system of Nigeria is also in bad condition: in 2013 the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index ranked Nigeria’s health-care system 40th of 53 African states. Senior government officials were not interested in developing the health system for their people because they have power and money from tax payers to go overseas for their treatment. For this privileged ruling elite Nigeria spends $200 to $500 million annually on foreign medical care. Alienation from the economic privileges and the hopelessness of periphery groups has manifested itself at different times and in different areas of the country. Some groups have organized themselves on ethno-national and religious identities as their unifying ideology. Violent conflicts between the Nigerian armed forces and Boko Haram The aim of Boko Haram is to create an Islamic state in Nigeria that it believes would address the ills of society including corruption and bad governance. Abu Qaqa, the group’s spokesman, explained the plan as follows: “Our objective is to place Nigeria in a difficult position and even destabilize it and replace it with sharia”. He went on to say that the group’s agenda is “to take Nigeria back to the pre-colonial period when the Shari’a law was practised.” “Yusuf (the late leader of the organization) was always political, wanting an Islamic government, but not violent” [37. P. 5], so what turned this group into a brutal and violent organization, which butchers Muslims and non-Muslim people? The brutality of Nigerian law-enforcement authorities was among the main causes of the radicalization of Boko Haram which counter-attacked the state because security forces killed the movement’s leader Mohammad Yusuf. As Ola Bello argues: “'First, the response of Nigerian law-enforcement authorities to Boko Haram’s activities has been heavy-handed; the 2009 military crackdown in which the group’s spiritual leader, a charismatic preacher, Muhammed Yusuf, and his followers were brutally confronted by the police and army Joint Task Forces (JTF), marked a watershed in a group’s already escalating violence. Initially detained, then extra-judicially executed in police custody, Yusuf’s demise fueled local sympathy towards his sect. Other extreme tactics in pursuit of Boko Haram have also alienated segments of Nigeria’s northern elite” [4. P. 2]. The reorganized Boko Haram took as its mission the fight against the “unjust” secular state, and they could rally behind the brazen execution of their leader. For example, in September 2010 a Boko Haram member told the BBC’s Hausa radio service that “we are on a revenge mission, as most of our members were killed by the police” [28]. Boko Haram declares: “Our war is with the government that is fighting Islam, with the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that are killing Muslims,... and those who helped to fight us even if they are Muslims. Anyone who is instrumental to the arrest of our members is assured that their own is coming” [36. P. 10]. Since July 2009, the jihadist movement has claimed responsibility for many actions taken in its name, such as the killing of Muslims, Christian clerics and worshippers, politicians, journalists, and lawyers, as well as police and soldiers. The jihadist movement has also reached the capital city - Abuja - bombing the United Nations building and National police headquarters and claiming responsibility for these actions. The group has expanded its targets to other institutions, such as churches, school buildings, newspaper offices and prisons, freeing hundreds of its member prisoners. Most of the people said to have been killed by Boko Haram were members of security forces (soldiers, police, and SSS (State Security Service), local government officials, clerics and Islamic scholars, lawyers, journalists and traders, as well as unarmed civil defence and immigration officials [36. P. 11]. The killings have taken place wherever their targets were found: in market places, in the street, in people’s homes and outside mosques, by guns or explosives wielded by perpetrators escaping on motorbikes or tricycles. They have claimed responsibility for gun and bomb attack on churches, shopping centers and bars. Boko Haram has also targeted individuals, because “they were said to have given information to the security forces about Boko Haram members, or assisted in the arrest of members. Boko Haram has itself used warnings to people against passing information to the security forces” [36. P. 11]. Boko Haram declared that one of its enemies is the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), it has targeted the spiritual meetings centers of Christians. According to numerous reports published in 2012, more than 20 churches had been attacked and over 200 people killed in the attacks on churches across central and northern Nigeria since 2010. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for many such attacks and has on numerous occasions explicitly stated its intention to target Christians. Boko Haram also uses suicide bombers to target churches, for example on 10 June 2012 they used a suicide bomber to drive a car into a church in Jos (capital of Plateau State). Boko Haram took responsibility for this action by a statement sent to journalists: “We are responsible for the suicide attack on a church in Jos…The Nigerian state and Christians are our enemies and we will be launching attacks on the Nigerian state and its security apparatus, as well as churches, until we achieve our goal of establishing an Islamic state in place of the secular state” [36. P. 12]. In terms of religion, Nigeria is divided into three main regions. The southern part of the country is dominated by a population of Christian faith and the northern part of the country’s population are Islam believers, while between lies a ‘middle belt’ in which various violent conflicts have taken place. These fall into two categories: first, there have been attacks by Muslims to influence the population of the region and expand their religion, and there have also been counter-attacks by Christians; secondly, there is conflict between different ‘ethnic’ communities, which in Nigeria were categorized as autochthony, or ‘indigenes’ and ‘non-indigenes’ or ‘strangers’ [19. P. 47-48]: since 1999, over 10,000 people have been killed in inter-communal violence in the north and middle belt. In the central part of Nigeria in Plateau state, the sight of some of the most protracted communal and sectarian violence, there have been significant incidents of violence in 1994, 2001, 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2011, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,000 people. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in its 2012 report summarizes the violence acts between Muslims and Christians: “Since 1999, more than 14,000 Nigerians have been killed in religious related violence between Muslim and Christians” [38. P. 107]. The same Commission, according to its annual report of 2015, says that the violent conflict between Christians and Muslims in the country, particularly in the Middle Belt states, has resulted (1999-2015) in more than 18,000 people being killed, hundreds of thousands displaced, and thousands of churches, mosques, business, homes and structures damaged or destroyed. On 14 April 2014, Boko Haram attracted the International Community’s attention when it abducted a total of 276 school girls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, a rural town in Borno state. Of these 57 have escaped, while 219 are unaccounted for. The Chibok Secondary School girls were nearly all Christian, according to Christian leaders in the area. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau declared that the young women and girls from Christian homes would be sold as slaves in the market. On a video obtained by AFP news agency, Abubakar said that “the girls should not have been in the school in the first place, but rather should get married… God instructed me to sell them, they are his properties and I will carry out his instructions” [26]. The worldwide campaign to free these students, in which the US President’s wife Michelle Obama participated, took the slogan “It’s time to bring back our girls” and increased the awareness of the World community about the brutal Jihadist movement. Boko Haram’s victims were believed to be held in the large Sambisa Forest reserve and around the Gwoza hills in northeast Nigeria on the border between Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. The horrific suffering of these women and girls was narrated by some who escaped from Boko Haram captivity, describing how “for refusing to convert to Islam, they and many others… were subjected to physical and psychological abuse, forced labor, forced participation in military operation, including carrying ammunition or luring men into ambush; forced marriage to their captors, and sexual abuse, including rape” [37. P. 1]. Boko Haram uses many methods of terrorizing such victims to convert from Christianity to Islam. These include placing a noose around their necks and threatening them with death until they renounce their religion; others are repeatedly threatened with whipping, beating, or death unless they convert to Islam, stop attending schools, and comply with Islamic dressing rules, such as wearing veils or the hijab. Boko Haram, according to a video released by its leaders in 2013, suggested three key motives for the initial abductions: 1) to retaliate against the government for its alleged detention for family members, including the wives of the group’s leaders; 2) to punish students for attending Western schools and forcefully convert Christian women and girls to Islam; 3) for tactical reasons, such as to lure security forces into an ambush, force payments of ransom, or for prisoner exchange [37. P. 3-4]. Other researchers revealed that collective punishment was started by the Nigerian Government, and that “security forces’ actions often increased the death toll. Security forces are accused of excessive use of force, committing extra-judicial killings, mistreating detainees in custody, arbitrary arrests, and using collective punishment” [2. P. 103], which supports the claim of Boko Haram’s leaders that the government has imprisoned many of their family members. According to one study, in 2012 Abubakar Shekau cited the arrest of wives and children of Boko Haram members as one reason for Boko Haram’s specific violence against Christian women and children, and this was likely a personal issue for him: “more than 100 women and children detained by security forces in 2012 included Shekau’s wife, the wife of the commander in Kano, the wife of the commander in Sokoto who gave birth while in prison, and the wife of the suicide vehicle bomber who attacked the ThisDay [Nigerian newspaper] media house in Abuja” [3. P. 18]. The aim of Boko Haram is to expand its ideology by cruel force, particularly targeting the weakest groups of the society, specifically Christian women and children. According to the research published in 2013 [3] Christian women and children suffered from different kinds of gender-based violence in six states of Northern Nigeria. The main forms of violence perpetuated against this group were: first, kidnapping and forced marriages, with compulsory conversion to Islam; second, domestic violence, in the case of a Christian convert, to punish un-Islamic practices like Christian prayers, Bible readings, attending Bible study groups or church activities. Third, there is also some evidence of rape as mean to deflower (deprive of virginity) Christian girls and force them to marry Muslim old men. Fourth, Christian girls are physically abused in some places for not covering their heads, abuse which includes beatings, rape or even having acid thrown in their unveiled faces, which is becoming a common form of assault. The oppression of women is many-sided, for instance, to weaken them economically: Christian women’s shops and business premises have been burnt, a practice based on the Islamic principle that the role of the woman is at home. Additionally there is the marginalization or exploitation of women who are either widowed or left on their own because of their husbands’ imprisonment, disappearance or death [3. P. 18]. The activities of Boko Haram are not limited to Nigeria; on February 19, 2012 it kidnapped a seven-member French family, who were working for the French GDF Suez gas firm in Cameroon, transferred them to Borno (Nigeria) and issued two proof-of-life videos showing the family. In the second video, a Boko Haram leader, Shekau said: “We are holding them hostage, because the leaders of Cameroon and Nigeria detained our women and children under inhuman conditions”. The abducted French citizens were freed, after one year at a village in Borno state near the Cameroon border, in return for a $3 million ransom and the release of 16 members of Boko Haram from a Cameroon prison [5]. The magnitude of the Boko Haram horror against identified groups, specially targeting Christian women and children, has been studied and published in Abuja by three authors in six Northeastern Nigerian states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe). This identifies what is commonly called Gender-Based Violence (GBV), such as the killing of Christian women and children, the rape of Christian women and children, the destruction of the properties belonging to Christian women and the abduction of women and children [3. P. 26]. The main question is how to solve the devastating violent conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian state? As many researchers show, and Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet and political activist, the first African Nobel Laureate in literature in 1986, in his interview with Al Jazeera, discussed in detail, the finger of blame points to the northern Nigerian political elite who conceived Boko Haram as foot soldiers to discredit the ruling elite, but now the Jihadists are out of their control and they ask the government to defeat them [35]. *** We are waiting to see what model of conflict resolution the new government will use under the new President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim by creed and a former strong military ruler from the opposition party, who was elected from Northern Nigeria and assumed the presidency on 29 May 2015. However, further research is needed on the ongoing war between Boko Haram and the new government of Nigeria led by President Buhari. Time will tell if the tendency of the two previous presidents to solve the internal problems by aggressive military means continues, or if attempts will be made to solve it in a peaceful and conciliatory manner, through addressing the grievances of the people, particularly in the North East. The new government must ask itself, who benefits from the violent conflict and how Boko Haram managed to spiral up from a small Islamic sect in Maiduguri to one of the most brutal radical movements in the world in 2015.

A Kumsa

Charles University

Author for correspondence.
Email: alemayehu.kumsa@fhs.cuni.cz
Prague, Czech Republic

J Šubrt

Charles University

Email: jiri.subrt@ff.cuni.cz
Prague, Czech Republic

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