Africa, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria

Boko Haram: The Face of Religious Extremism

The Boko Haram insurgency came to global attention in 2014 when over 200 school girls were reported to be kidnapped by the terrorists. The girls who were in school preparing for a test were attacked at midnight by armed militia who then forced them on to trucks and ferried them away into their forest hideouts. A great public outcry followed with many pointing fingers at the government’s incompetence in providing security.

Others accused President Goodluck Johnathan of deliberately failing to take action in an attempt of trying to cover up the massive corruption in his government. Though some of the girls have been released, more than 100 are still believed to be held by the militia and have been married off to the fighters. Surprisingly, one of the girls refused to be released with the others saying she was contented with her current life including having a husband.

Boko Haram: Most Dangerous Terrorists

The Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group operating mainly in north eastern Nigeria. It can also found in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. It has been labelled as the most dangerous terrorist group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index, a name earned from the merciless and extensive butchering of innocent people. Statistics show the group has killed over ten thousand people and has led to the displacement of over two million people in less than a decade. The group further swears allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The group which was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 and originally began as a school for poor Muslim families. It is generally accepted that the move by Yusuf to develop the school was due to the massive corruption in the government at the time and its inability to govern independently without western influence.

With time, the group started to take on extremist views on application of the Islamic sharia law. It became more radical and developed militia-like characteristics. The government however chose to ignore this despite concerns raised concerning the group.

Is Boko Haram Protected by the Government?

Slowly the group became increasingly powerful and even gained support and funding from some prominent individuals in the government. For instance, Governor Ali Modu Sherrif of Borno state has been accused of employing the terror group’s services in order to gain political mileage against his opponents.

He would in turn fund the group. In 2009, Yusuf the leader was arrested. He died in the hands of the government. This caused unintended consequences as the extremists were angered and threatened to retaliate. Since then, they have been launching attacks on government agencies, police stations, schools and churches.

The Nigerian army, which is tasked with containing the terrorists has tried to make efforts. This is however not without reinforcements from other armies across the world. In a very unfortunate confession, the soldiers admitted of their inability to stand up against Boko Haram. They said that the terrorists were better equipped and far more powerful than the army. They further lamented of poor pay while the army officials kept enriching themselves with money set aside for the army. The soldiers were therefore often demoralized.

In early 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari was elected into office. He promised to clean the forces and refresh the war against Boko Haram. Despite the efforts, the extremists continued to launch fresh attacks where many were killed or left wounded. They have also been using abducted children for suicide bombing. For instance the UNICEF reports that 27 cases of child suicide bombing were recorded in the first quarter of 2017 alone.

The End of an Era?

The Nigerian army in late 2016 announced that the group has lost control in majority of the regions. The USA, Britain, China, France and Colombia has offered assistance to Nigeria in military equipment, specialized training and even satellite data to help curb the militia. Other African countries including member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have provided troops to reinforce the fight against Boko Haram.

Internal wrangles have also led to the weakening of the group. The ISIL revoked the leadership of Abubakar Shekau and announced Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the new leader. Shekau contested the decision and failed to accept it. This led to splitting of the group with each leader taking a bunch of the fighters. Clashes continued amongst themselves further weakening them.

Though efforts have been made to contain the insurgency, Boko Haram is still a menace and a threat to many innocent people. Many families have lost their loved ones while others now have to live with permanent scars. The extremist group still continues to thrive and occasionally launches attacks. These have however been termed as kicks of a dying horse, but only time will tell.

About Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer based in Kenya. He's also a professionally trained health officer and a great enthusiast of science and technology. Besides writing, he enjoys doing motivational speaking and possesses strong opinions on life. He's a lover of people and enjoys good company. He's also a devoted Christian, but respects the beliefs of others.

All Articles