Author: Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos
Institution: Chatham House
Publication Date: September, 2014
Keywords: Nigeria, Conflict, Counterinsurgency
This document is useful in highlighting how the failures of the previous Nigerian Government contributed to the escalation of violence of Boko Haram, and provides possible measures that could be introduced by both the Government and the International Community to address the crisis.
The Chatham House paper aims to document the origins of Boko Haram and explains why and how a movement that was originally non-violent, has transformed into a national and international threat.
It warns the reader of the growing regional tensions in Nigeria, reflecting a growing North/South divide along religious lines, which may further polarise the view of Muslim and Christian citizens and communities (pg. 23 – 25). Many Northern citizens have felt increasingly isolated by the military’s failure to effectively combat Boko Haram and the police force’s inability to protect the civilian population, which has been accompanied by increased military repression and related abuses. (pg.15 -17).
One of the crucial elements needed to tackle Boko Haram, is for the State to win civilians’ trust. The paper argues that Boko Haram is primarily a Nigerian problem and as a result, a solution must come from within. The Nigerian Government must act to strengthen critical state institutions including local government, policing, criminal justice and the armed forces. It proposes that the International Community should help support national dialogue, encourage better witness protection, provide institutional support for inter-agency cooperation (e.g. the Multilateral Joint Task Force) and increase the provision of humanitarian relief. Solutions must come from within and the International Community should only influence rather than dictate local policy and response (pg. 27 - 31).
Another important issue that emerges from this paper is the danger of turning groups with extreme ideologies, into groups willing to use extreme violence. Nigeria’s response, including military intervention and a state of emergency has only intensified the violence, and contributed to the transformation of Boko Haram into a terrorist group. It is important to note that in order to effectively combat extremist groups, the employment of military force alone is not sufficient. Military responses must be coupled with political efforts to diminish the threat posed by Boko Haram.