Article written

  • on 23.09.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Explaining Nigeria’s Boko Haram and its violent insurgency 0

The Islamist insurgency in Nigeria – led by Boko Haram – has entered a dangerous new phase in recent weeks, with the extremists overrunning towns in the country’s northeast. Much of the world learned of the group after they kidnapped 276 school girls from their dormitory in the town of Chibok earlier this year, but for years its steadily worsening attacks have been wracking parts of the country.

Boko Haram must be understood in the context of Nigeria’s current conditions: it is Africa’s most populous nation, largest economy and biggest oil producer, but astounding levels of corruption have left it without basic development and infrastructure.

Disparities between the country’s north, which is mainly Muslim, and its south, which is mostly Christian, are also important in understanding the conflict. Today much of the north badly trails the south in terms of education and wealth due to a complex list of historical, cultural and other factors.

Here is an explanation of Boko Haram and its violent insurgency:

2003 Beginnings 

The group now known as Boko Haram began to emerge in 2003, when a collection of like-minded Islamists retreated to a remote area of the northeast called Kanamma. Here they violently clashed with authorities.

They had been followers of a young, charismatic preacher named Mohammed Yusuf. He had a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an and believed that the creation of Nigeria by British colonialists had imposed a Western and un-Islamic way of life on Muslims.

It is unclear whether Yusuf played any direct role in the violence in 2003 and early 2004. He later denied it, saying the youths involved had simply studied the Qur’an with him.

Meaning of Boko Haram

Yusuf founded his own mosque in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. Outsiders gradually came to know his Salafist sect as Boko Haram, based on their understanding of his teachings.

The most commonly accepted translation of the name, a phrase in the indigenous lingua franca Hausa, is: “Western education is forbidden”. It could have a wider meaning though, since “boko” may also signify “Western fraud” or similar interpretations.

The group has since said it wants to be known by a phrase that translates to “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad”.

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By Mike SmithAfrica Check

Photo credit: Capital Afrique


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