In Nigeria, Boko Haram Continues To Elude Authorities – And Definition
In the days and weeks since Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls, many analysts and commentators have asserted that the terror group’s main target is women and girls, particularly those who seek to be educated. But Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute argues that while #BringBackOurGirls “has become a trending hashtag, it may be missing the point.”
“Reading the speech of Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau, it is clear that for him, the target may have been the girls, but the motivation was not simply to prevent girls from receiving education or a desire to attack Western education more broadly, but rather to launch a much broader attack on Christianity,” contends Rubin.
He cites a recent speech given by the group’s leader, Abubakr Shekau, that lays out the roots of the group and its mission.
“To the people of the world, everybody should know his status: it is either you are with us Mujahedeen or you are with the Christians… We know what is happening in this world, it is a Jihad war against Christians and Christianity. It is a war against western education, democracy and constitution. We have not started, next time we are going inside Abuja; we are going to refinery and town of Christians. Do you know me? I have no problem with Jonathan. This is what I know in Quran. This is a war against Christians and democracy and their constitution, Allah says we should finish them when we get them,” said Shekau.
Whether Boko Haram’s mission is rooted in anti-women or anti-Christian sentiments, the conditions which have allowed it to thrive are not likely to change, says David Francis of The Fiscal Times.
In a recent article, Francis asserts that despite Nigeria’s growing economy, the northern part of the country has remained mired in poverty and mistrust, which has allowed Boko Haram to flourish.
“Without the benefits of an expanding economy, infrastructure in the north is nearly non-existent. The lack of infrastructure also contributes to public health problems, including polio, which has yet to be eradicated there. This combined with political corruption — Nigeria ranked 144 out of 177 countries on Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perception Index — makes the region ripe for extremism, according to a 2012 Human Right Watch Report,” says Francis, who notes “the reason the group is so difficult to stop is simple: its members simply have nothing to lose.”
Adopting a different position, Barnaby Phillips contends Boko Haram has achieved the one thing that Britain, Nigeria’s colonial ruler, had been unable to accomplish – uniting the nation.
Since its independence in 1960, Nigeria has experienced its share of civil wars, which have divided the country. However, since the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls, he writes, the nation has come together to call for action from the government.
“Nigerians reacted with indignation. Regardless of whether they are Christian or Muslim, was the cry, all the girls must be released immediately. Spurred on by this domestic pressure as much as by international concern, Nigeria’s government feels compelled to act. Unwittingly, Boko Haram has succeeded in that most elusive of goals: uniting Nigerians,” Phillips contends.
And Nigerians appear to be acting to combat the terror group as the government continues to stumble over its own feet. According to BBC News, villagers in the northern region of Kala-Balage killed as many as 200 Boko Haram fighters, while in another region, Nigerian soldiers fired on the convoy of a top military commander.