Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues

Wake Up World! Boko Haram is Here to Stay!

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Annielle Makon

Although Boko Haram (translated means “western education is a sin”) has been functi since 2002, until recently it did not have international name recognition.  Boko Haram is considered a terrorist, militant, and Islamic group, based in northeast Nigeria, but they also carry out activities in neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. [1] Boko Haram, led by Abubakar Shekau, has been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS.[2] They have caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions, they are fighting to overthrow the government and create a pure Islamic state rule by sharia law.[3]  They have been labeled as a terrorist organization by several countries (including the United States), yet that is as far as the international community has gone in dealing with their actions (aside from the infamous #BringBackOurGirls Twitter campaign). Boko Haram acts with impunity. As they continue to gain notoriety, Nigeria and the international community need to start paying attention to them, hold them accountable for their actions, and resolveto prevent any future attacks from Boko Haram.

Boko Haram

Between July 2009 and June 2014, Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 civilians. [4]  Since 2009 Boko Haram have abducted more than 500 men, women and children, famously, including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.[5] Their most horrific act was the massacre of 2,000 civilians in January 2015.[6] Most of the victims were women, children and elderly people who could not escape after fighters drove into the town firing rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons at local residents.[7] Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by the terrorist group have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.[8] 650,000 people had fled the conflict zone by August 2014, an increase of 200,000 since May; by the end of the year 1.5 million had fled.[9] Yet, Nigeria and the international community have failed to actively thwart Boko Haram efforts.

Should the World Care? Yes, absolutely!

Boko Haram Pie Chart

Boko Haram’s latest attack is part of a growing trend. Violence has drastically increased since 2009.[10] The number of deaths is rising year to year and that is an indication that the threat is growing in a relatively short time span. Boko Haram has killed as many people as the Islamic State.[11] The United States has made active strides to thwart ISIS because they pose a threat to the United States interest abroad and attempting to avoid another Middle Eastern conflict.[12] Yet, nothing has been done about Boko Haram. The violence is increasing because they have been left unattended to wreck havoc in Nigeria. Nigeria’s government is unable to combat Boko Haram alone. Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in 2013 and, even after the state of emergency, Boko Haram attacked several military bases, bombed a busy bus terminal in the capital, Abuja (twice), and launched the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from Chibok.[13] Nigeria military lacks the modern equipment, training and motivation to sufficiently fight Boko Haram.[14]

As long as the world views Boko Haram as simply Nigeria’s problem, nothing will prevent them from committing more terrorist acts.  Many believe that Boko Haram is focus on Nigeria, with no interest in attacking the West.[15] However, the danger of this belief is that there is no guarantee that they will be satisfied with just turning Nigeria into a pure Islamic state.  What will the world do when Boko Haram is no longer isolated in Nigeria?

Boko Haram Attacks Graph

What Can or Should Be Done?

First, and foremost, reform needs to start within Nigeria.  President Goodluck Jonathan needs to focus on the issue of security and increase funds for the military to adequately train and equip these forces to combat Boko Haram.  Additionally, there needs to more effective allocation of national funds to the areas targeted by Boko Harm. Furthermore, the Nigerian government needs better intelligence gathering resources so that they can better prevent Boko Haram’s attacks. Most importantly, Nigeria needs to request and accept assistance from the international community. The United States has agreed to help combat Boko Haram by providing military and intelligence assistance.[16] France, too, can play role in pressuring neighboring Cameroon, Niger, and Chad to ramp up information sharing and cooperation through the Multinational Joint Task Force.[17] The Nigerian government needs to put the priority of its citizens ahead of its own need to portray itself as a regional power of West Africa in order to combat Boko Haram.

Annielle Makon is a third year student at the University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. Candidate (’15). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While studying Political Science, Annielle developed a passion for human rights and international relations. In addition to being a CICL Student Fellow, Annielle is an Associate Editor on the Journal of International Law. Annielle also interns at Amnesty International in the Sub-Saharan Africa unit.

[1] Andrew Walker, What is Boko Haram?, United States Institute of Peace (March 30, 2012),  http://www.usip.org/publications/what-boko-haram.

[2] Id.

[3] Farouk Chothia, Who are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists? BBC News Africa (January 21, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13809501.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Sophia Kleeman, One Chart Shows Why the World Should Care About Boko Haram, WorldMic  (January 13, 2015), http://mic.com/articles/108328/one-chart-shows-why-the-world-should-care-about-boko-haram?utm_source=policymicTWTR&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Chothia, supra note 5.

[14] Chothia, supra note 5.

[15] Walker, supra note 1.

[16] Jason Warner & Jacob Zenn,  After kidnappings, Nigeria must step up, The Boston Globe (May 15, 2014), http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/05/15/boko-haram-kidnappings-nigeria-must-step/p69X3KAaGqTVpX4WnKMr2K/story.html.

[17] Id.

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Author: Ius Gentium

Ius Gentium is a legal forum for the University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows to write on and discuss international and comparative legal issues.

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