The End of Boko Haram (Part Two)

The End of Boko Haram (Part Two)

 

Since the fight against Boko Haram began, millions of people have been affected. Within the last year, there have been some military victories, on the part of the governments fighting Boko Haram; however, within the same period, Boko Haram has began to use a new tactic that has further exacerbated the lives of millions of people. Suicide bombers are becoming a common strategy used by the group within Nigeria and it’s neighboring countries. At the moment the attacks have no clear end in sight. As part of the End of Boko Haram series, Paxcely Marquez investigates what is known about deployed suicide bombers and what is being done to curtail their impact.  

Generally speaking, the utilization of suicide bombers has occurred when there’s a weakening and/or lack of soldiers on the ground. At the moment, that seems to be the case for Boko Haram. Within the last year, they have lost controlled territory – of almost the size of Belgium – to Nigerian and other governments’ military forces. Their desperate attempts to regain dominance, has forced the proliferation of mostly female suicide bombers. Since most women in the region dress conservatively, they can travel with more ease with a bomb strapped onto them, compared to men. However, this opens them to becoming further susceptible to physical harassment by security forces. In order to end the continued worsening situation, we need to look into who these female suicide bombers are.

Who are they?

There are multiple answers to this question. What is currently known is that the suicide bombers the group is using are mostly young women and children, some as young as 10 years old. However, that seems to be the main consensus between those on the ground. Since the matter is still developing, there are multiple conclusions as to who these young women and children are.

Jeff Attaway / Creative Commons License
Jeff Attaway / Creative Commons License

 

Based on interviews with former hostages, some of the potential suicide bombers are women and children kidnapped and held hostage by Boko Haram. Once kidnapped, they are psychologically manipulated into relying on their captures. It begins by being forced to forget who they were, receiving gifts by Boko Haram members, and pushed to convert to Boko Haram’s interpretation of Islam. Recent examples as the February 9th bombing of  Dikwa refugee camp illustrates that some suicide bombers are in fact former hostages and aware they are carrying bombs, as indicated by the third bomber. However, not all hostages are designated to be suicide bombers. Many of them are married off to militants, used as sex slaves, and forced to do manual work for the group.

Other reports indicate that the suicide bombers are women and children donated to Boko Haram for this specific purpose. On December 10, 2014, Zaharau Babangida was sent to Kano, Nigeria to detonate her bomb with two other suicide bombers. She decided not to, but the two other girls did, which later resulted in Babangida’s arrest. She explained to the authorities that her father donated her to Boko Haram to serve as a suicide bomber. When she initially refused, she was threatened with death if she did not complete the assignment.

Babangida’s experience is consistent with what Mausi Segun, a researcher of Human Rights Watch, said when asked by NPR if Boko Haram’s suicide bombers were originally abducted, “It’s very doubtful, from our own research, that the group would be willing to use youth that they have abducted – one, because I think that in their warped thinking, the place and the reward of a suicide bomber is martyrdom.”

Garry Knight / Creative Commons License
Garry Knight / Creative Commons License

 

For survivors, what is being done to help them?

Unfortunately, besides having to recover from their inhumane experiences, survivors are now experiencing stigmatizing by their families and communities. Many of them believe that the women have become radicalized and the already existing stigmatization of rape has hindered survivors’ abilities to return back to their previous way of life.

As a result, the Nigerian government has implemented the Countering Violent Extremism Programme of the Office of the National Security Adviser. The program is designed to de-radicalize former captives primarily through trauma counseling. So far, only one Nigerian activist has been able to visit the facility near Abuja and speak with the staff and former captives. At the moment, it is unclear how affective the program is and if the women and children are free to leave or are obligated to stay.

Other approaches, such as those made by Choice for Peace, Gender and Development, an NGO, primary focus is to help the family members of those taken and/or killed to cope with their situations. Hafsat Mohammed, the founder, has also worked on a grassroots level with other community leaders, of multiple religions, to help promote peace within the region.

A continued emphasis on peace to youth and reintegration of survivors is needed. Potentially, this solution can deter future suicide bombers from completing their task.

 

 

 

 

 

 


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

The End of Boko Haram (Part One)

The End of Boko Haram (Part One)

In 2015, the Internationally-based Institute for Economics and Peace released their Global Terrorism Index, which identified Boko Haram as the deadliest terrorist group in the world. However, all existing strategies – up to now – have not hindered the group’s ability to continue its expansion throughout the Lake Chad region. Paxcely Marquez’s analysis on Boko Haram’s ability to continue using its current recruitment and financial tactics, while hindering multiple governments’ responses, will help shed further light on potential solutions to ending the insurgency.

When President Muhammadu Buhari ran for the Nigerian presidency in 2015, he ran on a platform to rid Nigeria of Boko Haram. Once he was elected, even people that did not vote for him, expected concrete results from their newly elected President, regarding the fight against Boko Haram. The fact that he’s Muslim, originally from Nigeria’s north, and has a military background were factors they believed would help end Boko Haram’s insurgency. His self-imposed deadline to eliminate the group by December 31, 2015 has come and gone; yet, Boko Haram continues to exist and attack villages, towns, and regional capitals within and outside of Nigeria. One of the most recent attacks was the quadruple suicide bombing in Bodo, a Cameroonian village in Far North region. Before trying to tackle this issue, it’s important to understand the origins of Boko Haram and the impoverished vacuum that has helped the group’s expansion throughout the region.

Boko Haram has roots dating back to 1995 as a non-violent movement, but that changed in 2002 through their leader Mohammed Yusuf. The group has used multiple names throughout the years, including its official Arabic name Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” However, locals began to use the name Boko Haram, which in Hausa can be loosely translated to, “Western education is forbidden,” because of the group’s initial focus to oppose western education. In Maiduguri, Mohammed Yusuf began to preach his radical form of Islam, which helped to build the groups’ strength in numbers. He did this through his mosque and Islamic school, while keeping in mind the group’s ultimate goal of establishing its own caliphate. In 2009, Yusuf was killed by Nigerian security forces, which paved the way for his more radical deputy Abubakar Shekau to lead Boko Haram. Since 2009, Boko Haram has expanded its scope of attacks and influence throughout Nigeria and in neighboring countries Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Throughout its existence, Boko Haram has taken advantage of the impoverished northern region by using tactics, unfortunately, already seen in other conflicts.

European Parliament / Creative Commons License
European Parliament / Creative Commons License

 

Boko Haram’s recruitment tactics have primarily focused on disaffected youth, unemployed high school and university graduates, and destitute children. Unfortunately, this focus is a result of social and economic problems that are continuously seen throughout Nigeria, where 110 million people live in extreme poverty, while the country’s wealth is held by a small portion of the population, and corruption is widespread. Of course every country has their problems, however, Nigeria’s lack of opportunities and social services for youth are exasperating young peoples’ abilities to live successful lives. According to United States Institute of Peace’s Special Report on Boko Haram, a few young people chose to freely join Boko Haram for multiple reasons Some of the most common reasons indicated in the report were, “ignorance of religious teachings opposed to violence, unemployment and poverty, difficult upbringings, and illiteracy.” At the same time, others have been forcibly conscripted and/or kidnapped, such as the over 200 Chibok school girls that were kidnapped in 2014 and reportedly forced to marry fighters.

Besides having some wealthy members, Boko Haram has used multiple methods to finance its operations including, “membership dues, donations from politicians, financial assistance from foreign terrorist groups, raiding of banks, and ransom from kidnapping. It also has extorted money from residents of areas it has controlled, as well as from wealthy persons whom they have intimidated into paying protection fees to avoid being attacked by them.” At the same time, they have increasingly focused on neighboring Cameroon for both recruitment and financing since many of their initial financial support from individuals stopped once Boko Haram began to increase their attacks. Increasingly, Cameroon’s Far North region has not only become an important supply line for weapons from Libya and Chad, but has historical significance to a potential caliphate.

Michael Fleshman / Creative Commons License
Michael Fleshman / Creative Commons License

 

Cameroon and Nigeria’s northern regions are similar culturally, religiously, and linguistically. At the same time, their woes with their southern capitals link the northern regions closer to each other. Although my experience in Cameroon was limited to just two years in the Grand North, I saw and experienced those woes through multiple facets, including a lack of infrastructure, extreme poverty, a lack of social services, and illiteracy, which can prevent people from living safe and successful lives. Although military intervention is necessary – at this time – all affected countries need to work on providing social services to all and relocation services to all IDPs, providing youth with access to quality education and job opportunities, and collaborating with community leaders to stop Boko Haram’s influence. Otherwise, Boko Haram will continue expanding and thee groups demise will take even longer.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

Big Brother is Watching, Act Accordingly

Big Brother is Watching, Act Accordingly

Civil liberties are under serious threat in the West. In the fight against terrorism abroad, governments are stripping away our liberties at home in order to keep us safe. In the pursuit of terror the state has amassed considerable power and can peer into almost every facet of our daily lives. Every phone call we make, every text that we send and every site that we browse is potentially stored in databases of which the size is inconceivable. Sean Mowbray argues that the key fight to maintain our rights is being fought on the internet.

We live in an era where online communications are an essential part of our daily lives. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter on average consume at least one hour of our day. It is essential to safeguard fundamental rights while there is still the possibility of doing so. We are at a tipping point as politicians state unequivocally that our security is the paramount priority and that it often trumps even basic human rights.

©Steve Rhodes /Creative Commons License
©Steve Rhodes /Creative Commons License

In response to the Charlie Hebdo attack the UK the government used the threat of a similar incidence to push forward with its surveillance agenda. Current Prime Minister David Cameron said, ‘are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read? My answer to that question is: ‘No we must not’’. This position succinctly summarises the debate, the need to balance the fear of terror with our own basic democratic and human rights.

This ‘fear’ is a recurring symptom amongst Western governments and is driven by the same blatant hypocrisy that is used to defend atrocious foreign policy decisions. Constructing security features at home that directly erode the foundations of our democracy is portrayed as an attempt to increase our security. And that these structures are eroding our rights is undisputable. In a 2014 report Human Rights Watch reported that journalists in the US are increasingly feeling pressured by the possibility of potential surveillance and that many ‘are being forced to adopt the tactics of drug dealers and criminals just to do their job’.

Whether by curbing the investigative powers of journalists or frightening sources from talking to the media, the potential for infringing upon the freedom of the press is there and to some extent it is already weakening one of the essential pillars of Western democracy.

The position of fear held by politicians such as Cameron is entirely understandable in the currently dangerous climate as international terrorism is a real and present danger. However, the expansion of such powers relies significantly upon a strong degree of trust existing between the state and the citizen which is far from present. There is little reason to believe in the benevolent intentions of the surveillance services as abuses have been rife.

©Steve Rhodes /Creative Commons License
©Steve Rhodes /Creative Commons License

The USA and UK have been exposed as running elaborate and prolonged observation and data gathering operations on both their own citizens and those outside their national boundaries. In the USA the NSA routinely broke the law in its surveillance of Americans. In the UK, GCHQ was found to have broken the law during its ‘Prism’ surveillance programme which ran for seven years between 2007 and 2014.

Now the British intelligence service has been absolved of the crime as the public is sufficiently aware of its actions. Meanwhile, the surveillance continues. We are also seeing a form of observational creep as surveillance laws have been adjusted to encapsulate minor offences and have even been used by the BBC to catch out those not paying the license fee.

Concern has been raised around the extent of the surveillance programmes by UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay who warned in 2014 that governmental surveillance programmes have been ‘emerging as a dangerous habit rather than exceptional measures.’

To suggest that these are only temporary powers is wrong. Power tends in one direction and once held by intelligence services they will only to seek to increase and expand on them. It began with tapping of phones and the recording of messages and now it has spread to the reading of messages, emails and soon perhaps even encrypted messaging.

Online privacy should be as much a basic right as privacy in the ‘real’ world because ever more frequently the two are synonymous. Too often the debate comes down to a shrug and an ‘I don’t do anything wrong so why should I be worried’ response. Potentially every online action will be monitored and stored for later use, it is similar to having someone standing over your shoulder while browsing the web or snapchatting or instagramming. When the physical is removed, people often lose sense of the uncomfortable.

We can see that the Big Brother state has arrived in the West. It has happened under our watch. In the coming weeks the focus of our attention will be upon other issues such as immigration or the economy. But a greater threat is faced by all of us and that is the threat of unaccountable state power being amassed which allows the government to snoop into our everyday lives. It is not a major talking point in this election and is unlikely to become so. But without the implementation and enforcement of serious regulation abuse of current powers will only continue to occur and our basic right to privacy will continue to be blatantly disregarded. At this moment in time nobody is watching the watchers and until that changes Big Brother will remain firmly in the West, watching us all.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

The young and the restless: a critique of security threat analysis

The young and the restless: a critique of security threat analysis

In our second article exploring the ramifications of youthful populations for society, MSC Security Studies student Rosemary Schwitzer explains the damaging effects of the ‘youth bulge’ theory, used to predict social unrest around the world.

 

Newsweek
A cover from Newsweek in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Photograph of original © Hector Sanchez/Creative Commons license

In October 2001, Newsweek magazine published a report entitled ‘The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us?’, calling for analysis of the reasons behind 9/11. Accompanying this article was the image of a young Arab boy grasping a rifle, in addition to others showing Arab youth involved in anti-American protest and violence. Within the article, it was stated that ‘disoriented young [Arab] men’, searching for simplicity within the mix of tradition and modernity of their daily lives, are naturally drawn to fundamentalism.

Whilst this may appear a perfectly innocent article suggesting motives for the terror attacks, it is in reality a dangerous contribution to an already thriving collection of discourses defining youth in certain regions of the world, especially young men, as security threats. Its usage of dichotomising terms such as ‘them’, ‘we’ and ‘us’ works to divide the world into two parts – one considered threatening and the other stable – ignoring the complex reality of our ever more interconnected world. Its alarmist nature serves to incite concern amongst populations in the ‘developed’ world that the ‘dangerous’, ‘undeveloped’ portion will spill over and create widespread insecurity. Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.

The Kenya terrorism threat is not just for tourists

In light of the increasing terrorist threat from al-Shabab in Kenya, Emma Forrest assesses the dangers for Kenyans as well as British tourists and reflects on her time volunteering in the country.

Keep reading →


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

***

Have an opinion on this or another topic? Why not write for our blog? Click here to find out more and get in touch.