Peace Dies, Boko Haram Rises

Athanasia Zagorianou, Global Education MagazineAthanasia Zagorianou

Strathclyde University, Master in Human Rights Law, Researcher & Member, Trustees Council, Citizens’ Rights Watch (CRW)

E-mail: nassia_izago@yahoo.gr, /  zagorianoua@gmail.com

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Abstract: This article examines the profile of the militant terrorist organization Boko Haram and the measures that the Nigerian government took to prevent the actions of this organization across Nigeria. With goal to inform the public about the criminal operations of Boko Haram against Nigeria’s peace and examine whether the Nigerian Government has properly confronted the situation within the country, this article provides a description of important factual information which is primarily based on the recent abduction incident of the 200 Chibok girls in Northeastern Nigeria. Aim of this paper is not only to condemn Boko Haram’s attacks against civilians but also to put pressure on the Nigerian government in order to take substantial measures to deal with terrorism. Based on the study of the relevant sources, it became obvious that the Boko Haram organization had been threatening the county’s security and peace long before the abduction of the Chibok girls. And while the terrorist organization has been the cause for many sufferings within the country, the Nigerian government and president Goodluck Jonathan have been unable to limit Boko Haram’s vicious operations and prevent its spread throughout Africa. The Chibok girls’ abduction was just one of the many abduction incidents that have taken place across the country. The spread of the unlawful killings, attacks and abductions have to come to an end. The government, the authorities and army forces have to stop ignoring these events and take the situation into their hands before it is too late.

Keywords: Terrorism, Peace, Security, Abduction, Boko Haram, Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria, Africa.

ΗΕιρήνηΠεθαίνει, Η Boko Haram Ανατέλλει

Απόσπασμα

Το άρθρο εξετάζει το προφίλ της τρομοκρατικής οργάνωσης BokoHaram και τα μέτρα που έλαβε η Νιγηριανή κυβέρνηση για να αποτρέψει τη δράση της οργάνωσης μέσα στη Νιγηρία. Με στόχο να ενημερώσει το κοινό για τις εγκληματικές ενέργειες της BokoHaram κατά της ειρήνης και να εξετάσει κατα πόσο η Νιγηριανή κυβέρνηση έχει αντιμετωπίσει την κατάσταση μέσα στη χώρα, αυτό το άρθρο παρέχει τη περιγραφή σημαντικών δεδομένων τα οποία κυρίως βασίζονται στο πρόσφατο περιστατικό της απαγωγής 200 Chibok κοριτσιών στην περιοχή της Βορειοανατολικής Νιγηρίας. Στόχος αυτού του άρθρου δεν είναι μόνο το να καταδικάσει τις επιθέσεις της BokoHaram κατα των πολιτών αλλά και το να ασκήσει πίεση στη Νιγηριανή κυβέρνηση με σκοπό την λήψη ουσιαστικών μέτρων για την καταπολέμηση της τρομοκρατίας. Βασισμένοι στη μελέτη των σχετικών πηγών, γίνεται εμφανές ότι η οργάνωση BokoHaram απειλούσε την ασφάλεια της χώρας πολύ πριν την απαγωγή των κοριτσιών. Και ενώ η τρομοκρατική οργάνωση έχει γίνει η αιτία για πολλά δεινά μέσα στη χώρα, η Νιγηριανή κυβέρνηση και ο πρόεδρος GoodluckJonathan έχουν παρουσιαστεί ανίκανοι να περιορίσουν τις βίαιες ενέργειες της BokoHaram και να αποτρέψουν την εξάπλωσή της στην Αφρική. Η απαγωγή των Chibok κοριτσιών είναι μόνο ένα απο τα πολλά περιστατικά απαγωγών που έχουν συμβεί στη χώρα. Η εξάπλωση των άνομων σκοτωμών, των επιθέσεων και των απαγωγών πρέπει να λάβουν ένα τέλος. Η κυβέρνηση, οι αστυνομικές και στρατιωτικές αρχές πρέπει να σταματήσουν να αγνοούν τα γεγονότα και να πάρουν τη κατάσταση στα χέρια τους πριν να είναι πολύ αργά.

Λέξεις Κλειδιά: Τρομοκρατία, Ειρήνη, Ασφάλεια, Απαγωγή, BokoHaram, GoodluckJonathan, Νιγηρία, Αφρική

Introduction

Thinking of the word “peace”, the first thing that comes to mind is its opposite, “war”. Most of us, when we talk about a peaceful environment, we are usually thinking of a place free of war and conflicts. Looking behind the words, I realize that the value of the word “peace” is much deeper than I thought, raising this really significant question for humanity: “Does the nonexistence of war in a country indicate the existence of peace?” The answer naturally occurred to me while I was thinking that the “word” war does not only indicate conflict but also terrorism, poverty, fear and discriminations. A peaceful environment is not only a place free of wars and conflicts but also a place free of any kind of fear, violence, poverty, torture, terrorism, hostility and discrimination. A place where health, human rights, the integrity and dignity of human beings are the main priority of the society and is governed by the fundamental principles of equality, social coexistence, injustice and democracy.

Nigeria, one of the most populous countries in the African region, faces the threat of terrorism now more than ever. Boko Haram, a militant group which mainly attracted global attention in 2014 due to the abduction of 276 Chibok schoolgirls, still strikes the country with its violent attacks and threatens Nigeria’s security.

Boko Haram

People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad (in Arabic language: Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad), commonly known as Boko Haram, is an Islamist terrorist group that has spread terror and panic to the citizens of Nigeria with its violent attacks, abductions and killings (Maiangwa, 2013, pp.55-56). Boko haram, which has been loosely translated from Hausa language as “Western Education is a sin /is forbidden” was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf (Farouk, 2014 & Maiangwa, 2013, pp.55-56). In 2009, the leader of the group was killed while in police custody during his effort to escape (Boyle, 2009) and Abubarak Shekau took his place in the organization (Farouk, 2014). Based on BBC’s data, Mohammed Yusuf was “a wealthy and well-educated man” who had explicitly rejected the Western ideas and supported the creation of a strict Islamic state ruled by Sharia (Boyle, 2009). In 2009, in his last interview with the BBC, Yusuf declared his beliefs against education and rejected the Darwin’s evolution theory by saying:

There are prominent Islamic preachers who have seen and understood that the present Western-style education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our beliefs in Islam […] Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism.”(Boyle, 2009)

The terrorist group which has also been claimed to have links with Al-Qaida and other militant organizations, opposes the spread of Western education and influences in Nigeria with main goal to bring down the Nigerian government and impose Islam across the country (Yan, 2014). In November 2013, Boko Haram was officially recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States (U.S.) State Department. (Al Jazeera, 2013 & U.S State Department, 2013)

Boko Haram Strikes – Government is missing

On April 14th, 2014 the terrorist organization abducted more than 200 Chibok schoolgirls from the Government Secondary School in Borno State, Nigeria. At the same time, Boko Haram’s bombing attack in Abuja (capital of Nigeria) cost the lives of many civilians. (Thornhill et al, 2014)

News of this heartbreaking incident shook the international community. Ironically, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan did not seem to be shocked. On the contrary, he decided to keep silent and it took him more than three weeks to make a statement regarding the abductions (Yan, 2014). The public criticized the passive and inactive position of President Goodluck Jonathan regarding the situation. A massive wave of protests and the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign started spreading worldwide, asking for the government to take action for the return of the girls (Gumuchian et al, 2014 & Jones et al, 2014) In the meantime, the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), France, Canada, Israel and China committed to provide assistance to Nigeria in the effort to save the girls. (Adah et al, 2014 & Sherwood, 2014) Since 2009, Boko Haram’s attacks have been spreading terror and panic to the citizens of Nigeria. The victims of these attacks are estimated in the thousands, while the government has done little towards preventing them. Under the atrocities of Boko Haram’s organization, in 2013 Goodluck Jonathan stated Borno, Yobe and Adamawa (states in the Northeastern Nigeria) in a state of emergency (Ervine, 2013). This state of emergency in Northeastern Nigeria did not stop Boko Haram from slaughtering more than a hundred Christian men and schoolboys in that region, two months before the abduction of the schoolgirls. On the 4th of May, the president eventually decided to break his silence stating that he would do his best to bring the girls back and asking for “[the] maximum cooperation from the guardians and the parents of these girls […] [as], they have not been able to come clearly, to give the police clear identity of the girls that have yet to return”. (Abubarak & Levs, 2014)

In response, on the 5th of May Abubakar Shekau, head of the Boko Haram, released a video in which he said:

“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women” (Abubakar & Levs, 2014)

He also claimed that girls should not attend school but instead they have to get married by the age of 9. There was also a follow-up video showing approximately 130 girls dressed in Islamic attire and asking for the release of prisoners-members of the terrorist organization in exchange for the girls (Nossiter, 2014). The Government explicitly rejected the release of the prisoners and appealed to foreign governments for aid whilst Abba Moro, interior minister said to Agence France-Presse (AFP) as cited in The Independent “The issue in question is not about Boko Haram giving conditions.” (Withnall, 2014) The Nigerian president claimed to be determined to end terrorism and bring the girls back while the army announced that they know the location of the girls and they aim to save them (Dixon, 2014). In reality, both have been proven unable to confront the Boko Haram crisis and have both failed to deliver their promises and bring the girls back to their homes until now. Even though the president was to visit Chibok town, he constantly postponed it, causing frustration and anger for Nigerians, who have started to doubt the government’s credibility. During his interview at the African Security Summit in Paris, Goodluck Jonathan stated that a visit to Chibok “does not solve any problem” (Channels Television, 2014). In the meantime, every day Nigeria faces more and more of Boko Haram’s violent attacks. Latest news reveal that in June Boko Haram stroke again in Borno State, Northeastern Nigeria causing the death of approximately 200 civilians (Deutsche Welle, 2014). Additionally, the recent abduction of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali’s spouse by Boko Haram and the launch of their attacks in Cameroon show that the terrorist group has greater plans. According to Boko Haram crisis: Nigeria’s female bombers article by Clothia Farouk (2014) Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram is accused of unleashing a new weapon of war – the female suicide bomber strike […] Boko Haram had turned some of the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April into human bombs” (as cited in the BBC news). The situation has not even slightly improved since the abduction of the Chibok girls. In contrast, I noticed in disappointment that the inability of the government to tackle the issue effectively has led to the escalation of Boko Haram’s assaults, slaughters and kidnappings and to the development of more cruel ways (such as female suicide bombers) that have spread more terror across the country. Local testimonies suggest that abduction of women is a common phenomenon in the country while the authorities have stated that they are not aware of previous abductions. Mr. Goodluck Jonathan’s great promises for the end of terrorism and the preservation of peace within the country have been proven broken. The reasons behind the government’s inactivity are still a mystery. Rumors about political and economic interests, increasing corruption, bribing (among governmental representatives, police officers and soldiers) and poorly conducted police investigations make me doubt about the government’s intentions regarding the Boko Haram situation. However, it is worth to wait and see whether this time the government will take some real action and respond efficiently to this crisis before it is too late.

Conclusion

Through the observation and examination of the Nigerian crisis due to the violent operations of the Boko Haram organization and the Nigerian government’s response to the issue, I consider that Boko Haram does not only constitute a serious threat against Nigeria’s national security but it also jeopardizes the security and peace of the whole continent. As it became apparent from the article, Boko Haram has already implemented more vindictive ways to spread the terror and to achieve its ambitions. Seeing the terrorist group expanding its ruthless acts of violence across the Nigerian borders and the government of Nigeria still being unable to take proper action on the issue, new concerns have risen not only about the fate of Nigerian civilians but also about all African citizens.

To conclude, some ideas for further research could be revolved around the following issues: the possibility of Boko Haram to expand its terroristic operations throughout Africa and the reasons behind the government’s inability to properly tackle the issue.

References

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Adah et al, (2014). #BringBackOurGirls: World Rises Against Boko Haram. Leadership. Available at: http://leadership.ng/news/370098/bringbackourgirls-world-rises-boko-haram

Boyle, (2009). Nigeria’s ‘Taliban’ enigma Joe” BBC News. Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8172270.stm

Dixon, (2014). Nigeria says it knows location of kidnapped girls. Los Angeles Times. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-nigeria-schoolgirls-20140527-story.html

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Farouk, C (2014).Boko Haram crisis: Nigeria’s female bombers. BBC News. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-28657085

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My Visit To Chibok Will Not Bring Back Our Girls- Jonathan. (2014). Channels television Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0gqo4x984A#t=27

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Withnall, (2014).Nigeria ‘rejects Boko Haram prisoner exchange offer’ after video message appears to show kidnapped schoolgirls for first time. The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/nigeria-rejects-boko-haram-prisoner-exchange-offer-after-video-message-appears-to-show-kidnapped-schoolgirls-for-first-time-9354671.html

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This article was published on 21stSeptember International Day of Peace, in Global Education Magazine.

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