via Lindsay Sawyer.
From World Policy Journal. h/t to Jason Warner.
There were reports that 135 people were killed in Borno state on Wednesday and Thursday but there was no comment whatsoever from the government or the military. To some analysts, it seems attacks in the north-east are sufficiently remote to be ignored even though entire villages are being massacred, sometimes without any military response.
A bombing at an Abuja bus station, possibly coordinated by Boko Haram, killed at least 70 people this morning and inspired me to read the new Crisis Group report on Boko Haram that came out last week.
The report explains the emergence of Boko Haram as a result of a series of broken political promises, exacerbated by government extrajudicial killings of Boko Haram leaders. Mohammed Yusuf, a charismatic preacher and early leader of Boko Haram, allegedly entered into an agreement with Borno gubernatorial candidate Ali Modu Sheriff in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Yusuf and his large youth following provided much support for Sheriff’s campaign. Sheriff won, but the Sheriff-Yusuf alliance was tenuous. Sheriff followed through on some promises, but did not implement Sharia in Borno to the extent that Yusuf wanted. By 2008 the alliance had fallen apart, and the Borno state government charged Yusuf with terrorism. In 2009 Yusuf was killed, though how this happened is not totally clear.
Some more current interesting points from the report:
- Crisis Group portrays the Civilian Joint Task Force (vigilante groups with strong state support) as both highly effective, but with the potential to become extremely dangerous in their own right.
- “With its rank and file decimated, Boko Haram reportedly has resorted to forced conscription and recruiting of criminals and thugs (area boys), paying them for attacks, sometimes with a share of the spoils.” (page 17)
- “Another apparent obstacle to dialogue is the involvement of fraudsters. Shehu Sani, director of the Civil Rights Congress, a prominent human rights group in the north, claims that on a number of occasions the government was deceived by people who presented peace proposals that were scams. Several shadowy individuals claiming to be speaking on behalf of Boko Haram have been disowned by the sect. Some observers assert that government officials seeking to make private gain sponsored these impostors.” (p. 36-37)
“They were slitting people’s throats with knives. Both women and men were killed – especially the men who didn’t agree to fight for them,” she said.
“Those that tried to escape were shot but they hardly ever used their guns to kill. They usually used knives. About 50 people were killed right in front of me.”
“One of the captives stood up and said: ‘You only die once. Who is ready to make a run for it?’ Six of us jumped into one of the Boko Haram vehicles in the camp – a Volkswagen Golf.”
“They chased us on motorbikes, shooting at the car until we got close to Bama town. Then they left and we got out of the car to continue on foot as there was a curfew in place. It was only then that I realised the three people on the backseat had all been shot dead.”
On who Boko Haram members are:
One of the great fears people have today stems from not knowing exactly where Boko Haram has a presence in the country and whom you can trust.
A businessman from Borno state told me he had helped the Nigerian police arrest 11 Boko Haram members in the capital, Abuja.
Some working on market stalls, he believes, are sent to be the eyes and ears of the group. It is a worrying indication of Boko Haram’s desire to maintain a presence way beyond the north-east of the country.
International Crisis Group has an informative Q&A on the recent Boko Haram university attack in Yobe. They are coming out with a full report on Boko Haram mid-March.
In the early hours of Tuesday 25 February, about 50 gunmen from the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram stormed a co-educational, federal government boarding school in Buni Yadi, Yobe State, about 65km from the state capital, Damaturu. The attackers locked a dormitory and set it on fire, killing many students inside. Students who tried to escape were shot or knifed to death. In all, there were 59 fatalities; all killed were males; some female students were abducted, others ordered to quit school and go get married or be killed in future attacks. The school’s 24 buildings were completely burned down.
What are the [general] implications for the 2015 elections?
The Independent National Electoral Commission warned in December 2013 that it might not be able to conduct elections in the three states (Adamawa, Borno and Yobe) under emergency rule if the attacks continue into next year. These states are among sixteen in which the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is quite strong. Some opposition politicians are already alleging that Jonathan is allowing the poor security situation to persist, or even deteriorate, in order not to hold polls in those states. A general or presidential election that leaves out these three states could give Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) a significant advantage at the polls. If Jonathan wins re-election that way, the opposition will likely vigorously challenge his victory; the 2011 post-election violence in the north killed more than 1,000.
However, conversely, there are those who believe the government’s management of the conflict reflects poorly on the Jonathan administration and therefore continued attacks could dim the president’s chances of re-election.
Katie Rhine, a an anthropologist from University of Kansas and my moral compass/guiding light/model researcher/inspiration in Nigeria, tells us how to avoid being extorted on the road in Lagos. She first explains how to avoid getting pulled over in the first place, and then offers step-by-step instructions to diffuse the situation. Some excerpts:
Step Six: Ask the police man, “Well, what can we do?” He will say he has to call his oga [boss]. He will ask you for an exorbitant amount of money [Say 50,000 naira (~$420)]. Tell him that the government gave him this job because they have complete faith in him that he is a responsible and competent person. Tell him that there is no need to call his boss. This is also a good time to try and let him know that you too would have to call your oga at the top [boss], and neither of you want to delay one another, when the matter can be settled between the two of you.
Step Seven: Pull out the wallet you keep inside your dashboard explicitly for these occasions. Keep a few thousand naira in there at most. Show him this wallet and tell him that this is all the money that you have, and even then, you can’t give him all of it, because [and point at your fuel gauge] you are going to need to buy petrol along the way (or any other need for this money that you can think of). And, in addition, this isn’t even your money. It’s the money your boss gave you in case an emergency happens on the road. In fact, you are going to have to account for that money when you reach the office, but you think you can take care of that inconsistency. Offer him 1000 naira.
Step Eight: He may tell you that that is not enough and that you should carry him to the ATM machine to take out money for him. In this case, you should tell him that you don’t use those things. As a foreigner, say they won’t work for you. In fact, your employer takes care of these needs and doesn’t leave you with cash. Try not to let the negotiation to reach the point of going to an ATM. Tell him to please just take the money you have.
Step Nine: Give whatever money is in your wallet. If you only lose 2000 naira or so, you should feel ok about yourself. You tried.
Nigerians make up less than 1 percent of the black population in the United States, yet in 2013 nearly one-quarter of the black students at Harvard Business School were of Nigerian ancestry; over a fourth of Nigerian-Americans have a graduate or professional degree, as compared with only about 11 percent of whites.