Boko Haram took the lives of 70 innocent Cameroonians in the border town of Fotokol on 4 February. In keeping with their recent terrorist attacks, Boko Haram is a powerful terrorist organization currently breaching the peace of the four neighbouring countries of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. Despite the lasting impact Boko Haram has had on western Africa, the party’s present objective has drastically deviated from their formative year of 2002.
In 2002, Mohammad Yusuf founded Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Borno state, northern Nigeria. Originally a religious group, Yusuf established a house for Islamic prayer and an Islamic school. These two facilities were used to attract poor Muslim families from Northern Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. “Boko Haram” linguistically means “Western education is forbidden” while their official meaning is “people committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and Jihad.”
In the early stages of development, Yusuf promoted Boko Haram as a religious alternative to the government and as an aspiration for a unified Islamic state. Despite a growing economy, Nigeria fails to overcome three major issues that allow for poverty perpetuation: income inequality, ethnic conflict, and political instability. It is Nigeria’s uncontrolled poverty that has served as a breeding ground for Yusuf and Boko Haram’s loyalists. Over seven years, Boko Haram grew both in terms of financial and communal support.
In 2009, at a routine checkpoint, a fight broke out between Boko Haramists and the Nigerian government, which concluded with the deaths of a few Haramist members. Boko Haram retaliated with organized attacks on police headquarters in Maidguri and Bauchi. By the end of August 2009, over 1,000 Nigerians were killed, heavy artillery violence spread through the north of Nigeria and Boko Haram founder Mohammad Yusuf was killed while in police custody.
In the wake of Yusuf’s death, Boko Haram was declared dissolved by the government—a clearly premature declaration.
Abubakar Shekau, who was Mohammad Yusuf’s deputy leader, studied Islam as a clergyman and has taken the reigns of Boko Haram.
Under Shekau, Boko Haram has upped the level of violence from guerrilla warfare to organized, country-wide attacks and kidnappings. Boko Haram has attacked churches, schools and the UN headquarters in the capital Abuja, Nigeria. By 2013, the Islamists had taken general control over Borno state, which allows them a greater vantage point for future propagation.
Despite Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s early success against Boko Haram in the northern states, Boko Haram continues targeting schools that offer a western education. In 2014, the Chibok girls’ school was raided, 3267 female students were kidnapped which resulted in the temporary social media outcry of “bring back our girls”—however, the world moved on to newer tragedies and the fate of the girls was left in the hands of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is a powerful terrorist organization with a similar agenda to ISIL and Al-Qaeda as Shekau has acknowledged the financial support both Jihadist organizations have donated. With 2.6 million Nigerians being displaced since the beginning of Boko Haram attacks, Shekau has not relaxed as the Islamist party has pushed across borders into northern Cameroon. Attacks have not slowed while Western Africa is calling for an African Union to form in hope of a combined effort against Boko Haram. Similar to ISIL, Boko Haram is relentless, gruesome, and holds no limits in their hopes of carving out a new caliphate within Western Africa.
bloc quote: It is Nigeria’s uncontrolled poverty that has served as a breeding ground for Yusuf and Boko Haram’s loyalists.