World Within Reach: Boko Haram

Kali Croke, co-news editor

Boko Haram, a militant jihadist group operating in Africa, has been terrorizing the northeastern Nigerian region for just over a decade since its inception in 2002. But despite their relative youth, recent attacks, kidnappings and insurgencies have killed at least 2,000 at the first half of 2014. Their movements are escalating.

The radical Islamic congregation has gained international notoriety not solely from localized actions; the group’s Wahhabist, anti-Western ideals (“Boko Haram” translating to “Western education is forbidden”) have been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL with similar intentions to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state under sharia law in Nigeria.

It wasn’t until 2009 that Boko Haram’s actions became truly militarized. For the preceding seven years, founder Mohammed Yusuf had kept their existence withdrawn, centered around religious teachings and fervent denunciations of corrupt government and police. But following the investigation of some of its members and the arrest and consequential death of Yusuf, the first terrorist attack was carried out in the state of Borno in early 2010.

Since breaking out over 700 prisoners (100 of which were members) in Borno’s capital Maiduguri in 2011, Boko Haram’s attacks have been relatively consistent. At the beginning of 2012, newly elected president Goodluck Jonathan closed the northeastern border of Nigeria and issued a state of emergency. As a result, over a million and a half civilians are homeless and or displaced, moving  south of northern Nigeria or leaving the country entirely out of fear of attack. However, refugees aren’t the only thing spilling over into neighboring nations; displaced people and Boko Haram’s operations have filtered into northern Cameroon, southern Niger and western Chad.

April of 2014 brought Boko Haram international media attention after kidnapping 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Borno. Despite a worldwide attempt at prompting the return of the captured women under the hashtag “Bring Back Our Girls,” only 50 have escaped.

As the jihadists have continued to infiltrate cities and nearby states, Nigeria’s military has long been known for being sufficiently funded but corrupt and under-equipped. Although the United States, France, Britain and China have contributed to training troops and providing necessary equipment, it is hard to say definitively that their assistance have heightened the morale and skill of the national army. That being said, earlier this month Nigerian troops succeeded in countering Boko Haram’s attempt and seizing Maiduguri, their most recent target of conquest.

Nigeria is not alone. The African Union’s recent announcement of a joint task force to counter Boko Haram could be just what Nigeria needs to stop the group’s advancements completely.

*Information from the BBC