19 Ağustos 2014 Salı

Boko Haram: Origins, Causes and Dynamics

The group Boko Haram was established by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in the northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram gains its name from the Hausa language meaning that “Western education is a sin!” which constructs the main pillar of the group Book Haram’s ideology. Boko Haram rejects the Western system came to Nigeria during the colonial period and the legitimacy of the Nigerian Government. Its original name in Arabic is “Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad” meaning in English “the Congregation of the People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad.” The current leader of the organization is Abubakar Shekau. Muhammed Yusuf established an educational complex consisted of a school and mosque in Maiduguri in northerneast in Nigeria in 2002. The complex was very active between the period of 2002 and 2009 which provided free education for poor and unemployed youths came from northern Nigeria and the neighbouring countries, including Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. 

The complex also offered a wide range of social programmes for the poor students that aimed to reduce the number of unemployment and poverty in northern Nigeria. Particularly, poverty, unemployment, the widespread corruption and underdevelopment have driven many poor and students for the enrolment of the educational complex of Muhammed Yusuf. The conflict erupted between Boko Haram and the Government in July 2009 after the group rejected the application of a national law related to the use of motorcycle helmets. Most members of the group have motorcycles and do not want to use motorcycle helmets during driving. After this incident, the Nigerian security forces killed seventeen members of the group and the leader of Boko Haram Muhammed Yusuf was arrested and killed in a brutal way by the Nigerian security forces. With the killing of the leader of book Haram, the group changed its strategy to attack the government and launched a massive attack against the Government, including schools, prisons, police stations, government buildings, churches and mosques in the country.  The 2009 conflict between the two forces left 1000 people dead and 700 people wounded in the country.  The group changed its headquarters and moved to Kanamma in Yobe State, near the border of Niger. In May 2013, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in the States of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa located in the north where the Boko Haram actively exists.

The genesis of Boko Haram goes back to the Maitatsine uprising of 1980. Muhammed Marwa (died in 1980) known Maitatsine was a controversial preacher in Nigeria, interpreted Islam contradictorily. For instance, he rejected the hadith and the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed and even the prophethood of Muhammed. He forbad the use of technology such as radio, cars, watches, and bicycles for his followers. In 1979, he eventually declared himself a prophet. He attracted many poor and unemployed youths known as the Yan Tatsine in northern Nigeria in the early 1970s. In December 1980, the Maitatsine movement attacked the police forces and various religious figures in the society, including the Islamic communities in Kano, claimed that Islamic communities were corrupt and politized. The movement also rejected the legitimacy of the Kano State and threatened peace and security of the states in the north.[1]
Five thousand people have been killed during the Maitatsine uprising of 1980 and the leader of the Yan Tatsine was killed in this conflict as well. The uprising of 1980 did not wipe out the Maitatsine movement and the movement grew and spread over the different cities in northern Nigeria after this riot. Musa Makaniki became the leader of the Yan Tatsine after the killing of Maitatsine, arrested in 2006 by the Nigerian police.  Violence continued since the death of Maitatsine in 1980. For example, over three thousand people have been died during the conflict in Maidaguri and Kadua in October 1982. In early 1984, one thousand people were killed in a clash in the city of Yola. In 1985, several people were killed in another riot. Some analysts argue that Boko Haram emerged as an extension of the Maitatsine group, had many similarities between the Maitatsine movement and the Boko Haram in terms of their philosophy, objectives, and organizational planning. [2]
Ojobi argued that Maitatsine was not Muslim; he was a Christian and had a special mission to distort the religion of Islam and spread violence among the Muslims.[3] The Maitatsine movement had a profound impact on Nigerian political, economic, and social scenes in the 1980s and still it has continued until today. Around ten thousand people, including the members of the Maitatsine movement, the Nigerian army and police were killed during the uprisings of the Maitatsine. Second, the government increased its control over the religious activities in northern Nigeria. Third, the riots in the north marginalized and stigmatized the Muslims in particular, and the whole society in the northern Nigeria in general[4]     

The president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan claimed that Boko Haram killed over twelve thousand people and left eight thousand people injured and crippled since 2009.[5] The group’s first attack on the international community took place on the UN building in Abuja 26 August 2011, killed 21 people and 73 injured. The group captured over 250 girls in April 2014 from the Government Secondary School in Chibok in Borno State. Though the Nigerian Government has deployed about 20,000 troops to rescue the abducted girls from Boko Haram, it has not been rescued yet. After the incidence of the abduction of the Nigerian girls, the international community has paid more attention of the group of Boko Haram. Boko Haram has not only challenged the legitimacy of the secular state but also destabilised peace, security and stability[6] and threatened the Western interests in the country.

There was the Bornu Empire (1380-1893) prior to British colonial period in the current region of north-eastern Nigeria. The majority of the population during the period of the Bornu Empire was Muslims and known as Kanuri-Muslims. The Kanuri people are an African ethnic group living in the territory of the Bornu Empire and the most of whom today speak the language of Hausa and Arabic. The geographic areas of the Bornu Empire laid into the southeast Niger, western Chad and northern Cameroon and the Kanuri-Muslims today still exists in these places. With the beginning of the British colonial history in Nigeria in the 1900s, the Kanuri people increased living in this region their loyalty to the Bornu Sultanate and founded a Nigerian political party in 1954 called the Borno Youth Movement that aimed to fight against the colonial power of Britain and establish a local administration in the region.[7] Many Kanuri people in northern Nigeria sympathized and supported the members of Boko Haram, believing that the group is fighting against the corrupt authorities and the leaders who have cooperated with the former colonial powers for their own self-interests.
It is important to underline that Nigeria is among the poorest countries in the world despite the fact that it has vast natural resources. Especially, poverty and deprivation in the northern Nigeria is extremely deeper than the south. In addition, unemployment, underdevelopment, maternal and infant mortality rates in the north are higher than the south. Importantly, the level of participation of the political mechanisms in the north is very low. Brutal and unjust policies of the State of Plateau against the Muslims and Islam living in have led to the emergence of irritation against the State in particular and the Federal government in general.[8] According to Boko Haram, politics in northern Nigeria especially and in the Federal Republic of Nigeria generally have been controlled by corrupt politicians and therefore corrupt institutions of the government have failed to serve for the citizens of Nigeria. 

Brutal and inconsistent policies of the security services have marginalized the poor people and unemployed youths throughout the country. Extreme poverty, the high unemployment rate, and underdevelopment are the result of the corrupt administration in the country. The organization particularly emerged to stop the widespread financial and moral corruption cross the country and to create a new political system based on the Islamic law which aims to create a good society. Book Haram believes that the elite created by the Britain during the colonial period are spiritually and morally corrupt and they only focus on their own self-interests rather than the interests of the Muslim community.[9] In 2010, the US announced it a terrorist organization. The president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan also declared it a terrorist organization. The organizations’ main targets to attack are especially the government buildings and Nigerian security forces but the organization has expanded its targets to include public places, schools, churches and even international institutions since August 2011. For example, it bombed the UN in Abuja in August 2011, twenty-three people killed.   

Islam and Christianity are the two dominant religions in the country. The genesis of the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian Government is not religious, but it is political. The religion of Islam is exploited by both the Federal Government and Boko Haram. Both sides misrepresent the religion of Islam and the Islamic community. The attacks on the mosques and churches made by Boko Haram showed that the group does destabilize the unity and solidarity and threaten peace, security and stability cross the country.[10] It can be argued that the main purposes of the conflict between the two are to control over the natural resources and the political power of the country rather than creating an Islamic State in the country.


[1] Niels, Kastfelt, “Rumours of Maitatsine: A Note on Political Culture in North Nigeria”, African Affairs, Vol. 88, No., 350, (Jan., 1989), p. 83-4.
[2] Abimboloa Adesoji, “The Boko Haram Uprising and Islamic Revivalism in Nigeria”, Africa Spectrum, Vol. 45, No., 2 (2010), p. 96-8.
[4] Niels, Kastfelt, “Rumours of Maitatsine: A Note on Political Culture in North Nigeria”, African Affairs, Vol. 88, No., 350, (Jan., 1989), p. 84-5.
[6] Abimboloa Adesoji, “The Boko Haram Uprising and Islamic Revivalism in Nigeria”, Africa Spectrum, Vol. 45, No., 2 (2010), p. 96.
[7] Akinola, Olojo, “Nigeria’s Troubled north: Interrogating the Drivers of Public Support for Boko Haram”, Research Paper, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – the Hague, 2013, p. 4.
[8] Andrew Walker, “What is Book Haram”, Special Report, United States Institute of Peace, 2012, pp. 13-14.
[9] Ibid. pp. 1-7.
[10] Akinola, Olojo, “Nigeria’s Troubled North: Interrogating the Drivers of Public Support for Boko Haram”, Research Paper, International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – the Hague, 2013, p. 7-9.

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