Article by Christelle Mekoh
April 14, 2014, an abduction took place at Government Secondary School, Chibok, in the Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State, Nigeria. Who were abducted? 300 girls. This headline took the world by storm and created an international campaign known by many as “Bring Back Our Girls”. The #BBOG movement was born!
Fast forward to 2015, only 57 girls escaped, over 200 are still missing. According to Amnesty International, the “Islamic” terrorist group has kidnapped 2,000 women since the beginning of last year, while over 1,600 people have been killed since June this year. The world might have been outraged by the abduction of the Chibok girls but, compared to the thousand of missing girls and women in the region, it’s a drop of water in the ocean!
Earlier this year, the killing of 17 victims in 3 despicable terrorist acts prompted a unity march of 1.5 million people, including 40 world leaders in Paris. During the same week, 2,000 civilians, including women and children, were killed in Nigeria. As recently as last week even deadlier attacks rocked the world. An orchestrated string of bombs hit Paris, killing close to 150 people and wounding over 350 others. The terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the slaughter. And, as if to punctuate the horrific violence that took place in France, Boko Haram has (yet again) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that took place on Tuesday in the northeastern region of Nigeria. 32 people died and 80 people were wounded in a marketplace in Yola, the capital of Adamawa state.
These unfortunate events raise the question, who are Boko Haram? Here are five things you need to know about the terrorist organization:
1. Boko Haram means “Western education is sinful”.
According to Wikipedia, Boko Haram, which calls itself Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah andJamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād’ is an Islamic extremist group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad based in northeastern Nigeria, they are also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group’s leader is Abubakar Shekau. The group had alleged links to al-Qaeda, but in March 2015, it announced its allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
2. Boko Haram used to be a peaceful group.
This is, obviously, no longer the case. There were an estimated 3600 people killed by the group between 2010 and 2013, while more than 1500 have died in the insurgency this year.
3. Boko Haram “joined” ISIS but they are not a priority.
This is no longer a traditional war where you know who your opponent is. How can you win the war against an opponent constantly changing its tactics and hiding among the local populations? How can you win a war when your opponent is equipped with the latest army artillery? One thing is for sure: Boko Haram’s motives have changed. They now want to do in Africa what ISIS is doing in the Middle East by creating chaos and destabilizing governments and countries.
4. Their numbers are both horrifying and sobering.
Their latest trend is using women and girls to stage vengeance attacks. To date, there have been 53 female suicide bombers in 2015. And they are on the verge of making history with a grisly record for the most female suicide bombers by any terrorist group.
Not a week goes by without news of a new terrorist attack somewhere in the world. In West Africa Boko Haram is behind most of them, especially in villages in Northern Cameroon near the Nigerian boarder, Chad and Niger. People lives will never be the same in Lagos, N’Djamena, Yaoundé, Abuja, Maroua, Niamey or Douala.
5. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
That’s what the late Madiba aka Nelson Mandela used to say. Boko Haram is against what they call “western education” because they understand the force it has. They’ve killed Muslims, Christians, people of all walks of life; in bars, churches, markets, schools and more.
For more information on what’s being done in the fight against Boko Haram in the regionwatch this report.
And there you have it. The Nigerian Government has issued a December deadline for ridding the region of Boko Haram: does that seem feasible? Can they really be defeated? What do you think African and world leaders should do ?