This study focuses on a terrorist group established in Western Africa and more accurately in Nigeria. Muhammed Marwa, who posed as a Muslim preacher initially, started the group at around 1980. After his death, the existence of the group continued and became stronger hence attracting the attention of scholars and researchers. Therefore, this reading is going to explain in detail the Origin of Boko Haram, the importance of the media and other significant stakeholders in understanding how terrorist organizations work and the connections of this group to other terrorist groups like the AL-SHABAAB of Somalia. Similarly, the reading will evaluate the tools that the group uses to Mann attacks and offer approaches on how to fight terrorism in not only Nigeria but also the whole world. Finally yet importantly, this reading will offer recommendations on how the government and citizens of Nigeria should act and react towards the epidemic of terrorism.
According to Saul, terrorism is an act of carrying out violent actions committed by groups that view themselves as victimized by the society. Since governments have no formal connections with these groups, terrorists usually obtain finances from sympathetic organizations. Equally, they get moral backing from the supportive groups of the society and at times the government. To be more specific, such terrorist groups stage attacks on ordinary civilians and embassies with the aim of gaining public attention and installing fear to the ruling government and its citizens. Therefore, to succeed in combating these acts of terrorism, we must first understand the dynamics of such terrorist organizations.
Importance of Understanding Terrorist Organizations
Understanding terrorist organizations and how they operate is of great significance to the government and the society because it increases the chances of detecting and preventing a terrorist attack. As a result, there are those units operating in the society that have a great impact on terrorism and they need to study more about how these terrorist organizations operate.
First and foremost, the media is a critical unit that influences terrorism in a very considerable way. For instance, in Nigeria, the press communities face a challenge of evaluating the dynamics of Boko Haram’s operations. Similarly, it is up to them to design policy options that are meant to serve solely the interests of the society, the government, and the media. This is important because the three parties (media, government, and terrorists) see the responsibilities, role, and function of press communities differently. As a result, various perspectives affect Boko Haram’s conduct during violent acts, which result in both strategic and tactical advances in their operations by instilling fear and fame.
Also, the media should strive to understand terrorist organizations to ensure that it does not promote terrorism. For instance, for terrorist groups to be secure, they must have publicity in order to contact sympathizers of their actions, gain their respect and attention, and cause fear , this can only be achieved with the help of the media coverage. Therefore, the media plays a critical role in ensuring that its interests and actions are not at any point manipulated into promotion of terrorism or its methods of operation.
Secondly, by understanding the dynamics of terrorist organizations, it is possible to solve the conflict between the government and human rights activists more easily and efficiently. This may be possible because the chief aim of terrorism is the curtailment of human rights, the rule of law, and democracy. Therefore, human rights activists should fully understand terrorist organizations so as not to promote acts of terrorism in the name of fighting for the rights of one group while destroying the rights of others. For example, human rights advocates argue that strategies laid down against terrorism should address the cause of dissatisfaction among the members of different terrorist groups, e.g. Boko Haram. However, these causes revolve around education, discrimination, poverty, and political discrimination, yet most leaders, sympathizers, and financers of these groups are well educated. Therefore, it is necessary that the activist understand the terrorist organizations in order to avoid conflict of intention among them.
Thirdly, a conflict over equality has always been ranked high on the list of things that terrorists fear most. According to Salinas, Samuel, & White, it has been deduced that terrorists are afraid of the notion of empowering women. It is possible to presume that they believe that endowed women would never regard the vicious philosophy championed by their leaders as the rule of law. They also believe that educated women would possibly challenge the power structure of terrorist organizations, like famous Boko Haram. Therefore, with such vital knowledge, governments should consider women and girls empowerment, rights, and education a major policy to be implemented and observed at all times.
In addition, transitioning countries like Nigeria have been linked with terrorisms. Such counties implement a democratic political system that is believed to create a favorable environment under which terrorists can run their operations easily, without raising suspicion. What is more, transitioning countries are also believed to provide great prospects that allow the terrorist’s network to work productively with minimal detection. However, the studies show that one major reason these transitioning states are vulnerable to terrorism is the lack of non-state terrorism in authoritarian societies. It happens because states with a totalitarian regime have the authority to use any method of interrogation to gain evidence from suspects and apply maximum leverage to them.
Equally, understanding the ideology of terrorist organizations is of great importance. Philosophers and scholars should study terrorists’ ideology to reduce damage caused by their attacks or even prevent them. According to Ozeren, Gunes, & Al-Badayneh, the study of terrorist ideology helps a state predict terrorists’ actions, therefore, it works towards avoiding or preventing attacks from happening. However, this method is not very reliable because if a prediction is wrong, it means that another attack is being planned somewhere else, and the government may not have enough time to prevent it, which may lead to great fatalities.
Last but not least, security departments should most importantly strive to acquire as much knowledge regarding terrorist organizations as possible. These institutions are entrusted by the society and the state with the duty to protect the country and its citizens against any terror attacks. The knowledge on terrorist organizations is meant to provide the security department with skills that will make combating terror attacks an easy task for them. However, the security system should be highly protected to ensure that no leakage of critical information gets to wrong people’s hands. In case something like this happens, terrorist groups obtain the advantage to act ahead of the security department, hence making it very difficult to prevent attacks.
Boko Haram in Western Africa
This paper is going to present the information about a terrorist group named Boko Haram in detail. To be more precise, Boko Haram is an Islamic extremist group located in West Africa, in Nigeria. The group has gained fame in the past years due to its engagement in guerilla warfare in the northern part of Nigeria. Firstly, the aim of this paper is to scrutinize and provide adequate information about this terrorist group and terrorism in general. Secondly, after adequate study of the activities and operations of Boko Haram and other similar terrorist groups, the paper will formulate several recommendations that could be employed to assist in combating the terrorist group economically, politically, and military. This study has considerable significance to the field of international relations as it creates awareness about the existence of Boko Haram, which is one of the most notorious terrorist groups in the world. Similarly, the reading will help in the evaluation of reasons that motivate terrorists to commit violent actions.
Studies carried out over the past decades indicate that the main goal and intention of Boko Haram is to force the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria. To achieve this goal, the group has engaged itself in violent attacks against Christians living in the country as a way of coercing the government into accepting the creation of an Islamic state there. Similarly, the group is motivated to oppose the idea of westernizing Nigeria since it believes that by doing so, the wealth of the country will be concentrated among the members of a small partisan elite, mainly the Christians located in the southern part of the country. Therefore, in retaliation, the group has been involved in operations of massacring Christians as a way of installing fear and gaining attention, so that their pleas could be listened to. For the sake of being heard, they attack and eliminate citizens in Christian-populated areas and end up claiming the power to rule over those regions of the country.
Boko Haram is a terrible threat to the people living in western Africa. To be more specific, the highly affected countries in Western Africa are Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and above all Nigeria. Below is a map of the section of Western Africa that is highly influenced by terrorism, caused by violent acts of Boko Haram.
In Chad, the group’s invasion is evidenced by the many occasions when the military of Chad has had to fight with soldiers of Boko Haram on the Chad-Nigerian border, as they do not let the group escape or find hiding places in Chad. For instance, in 2003, Boko Haram increased its kidnappings operations that equally raised a lot of attention internationally. These kidnappings were carried out in the northern part of Cameroon, and in return, they caused many skirmishes along the Chad-Nigerian border. The skirmishes were between Boko Haram soldiers and the military of Chad that were fulfilling their duty to prevent the group from hiding in the country.
Similar actions of terrorism coming from this group have been experienced in Cameroon. For instance, on May 16, the group conducted a raid in the northern part of the country and abducted ten Chinese workers. The people were working under a contract in a construction company located in Waza, which is near the Nigerian boarder. During the raid, a soldier from Cameroon was killed. Similarly, explosives and vehicles belonging to the construction company were stolen. In addition, in July of the same year, two hundred militias attacked the home village of the deputy prime minister of Cameroon. As a result, his wife was abducted along with the family of the sultan of Kolofata. During that single raid, at least fifteen people died, among them soldiers and police officers of the Cameroon crown. The reason for kidnapping the deputy prime minister’s wife was a strategy to gain an advantage over him and the government. To be more precise, the militia group who abducted his wife gained the upper hand in manipulating the official’s actions and obtaining a ransom from the government for her release and the release of the 10 Chinese workers.
As well, Nigeria has been facing the greatest threat arising from the endless attacks planned and implemented by Boko Haram militants on the Nigerian soil. Therefore, because the group’s origin is Nigeria, this state has tried to control and prevent more fatalities caused by Boko Haram. These efforts have failed terribly because more and more tragic attacks have taken place. For instance, in April 2014, notorious Boko Haram carried out a raid and kidnapped school girls from Chibok in Nigeria. Despite the cries coming from the parents of the missing children, Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram in Nigeria, made clear that his intentions were to sell the girls into slavery.
Over the past decades, studies have shown that Boko Haram use different methods and tactics to attain attention, finances, and respect among the society and the whole world. For instance, it is evident that the group has specialized in and capitalized on kidnaping operations to attract the government’s attention through encouraging negotiation for the release of the kidnapped girls. Other than just attention, through kidnapping, the militant group is also able to get finances in the form of ransom paid by parents and relatives of kidnapped victims. This money finances the group’s operations and helps to purchase guns and explosives used to conduct attacks.
Firstly, this strategy is evident from the raid conducted in Cameroon early this year. The terrorist group raided two villages that led to the death of an unidentified number of residents and abduction of 60 - 80 people, among them 50 young children of around 10 - 15 years old. Boko Haram later used these children to gain leverage in negotiations with the government and demanded a certain amount of money to authorize the release of the abducted children.
Secondly, it is evident that the militant group uses the art of conducting animal like activities with an intention of inspiring fear and respect in the residents of that country. Such inhumane actions may be backed up by the massacre they planned and carried out on 3 January 2015 in the province called Baga in Nigeria. The massacre claimed the lives of more than 2000 citizens of Cameroon. As a result, this attack was branded as one of the Nigeria’s army biggest failure due to high losses of equipment and a high number of fatalities.
Boko Haram has also employed kidnaping techniques as one of the ways of recruiting new young soldiers into the organization. This approach is evident due to the many cases of missing youths whose bodies have never been found. After great research, scholars deduced that these youths were abducted and recruited to join the organization. Evidently, they had no choice.
Furthermore, the terrorist group has also taken advantage of easily available Internet access to demonstrate how inhumane they are by recording video clips of their followers killing innocent citizens. As a result, many Nigerian citizens have fled their home country out of fear of being attacked any time. This move has been immediately ranked as a win of the terrorist organizations because their major motive of uploading such a video is to create tension among citizens and pressure on the government. Also, the terrorist group has used the readily available Internet network to communicate with sympathizers, financers, and other terrorist organizations. As a result, the security system finds it difficult to track their location.
Last but not least, the media has for a long time been manipulated and unknowingly used by Boko Haram to spread terrorism. This happens when terrorist groups allows journalists from press communities to record militant activities without obstacles. By freely demonstrating such activities, the militant group emerges as a winner since many insecure citizens choose to abandon their country in search of security. Therefore, the media should critically evaluate its policies to ensure that the intentions are not misplaced, hence stopping being one of the promoters of acts of terrorism in Nigeria and the world in general.
Connections to other Groups
As a result of several incidents that have occurred in the past years, the government of Nigeria and the board against terrorism in the world deduced that Boko Haram is connected to other terrorist group conducting terrorist acts in other regions of the world. That is why, terrorism has been branded a world epidemic and not a problem of a single nation because these groups are conjoined, therefore, they are financing each other and helping each other in raids.
According to Ridley, the connection of Boko Haram with other groups is confirmed by the following instances. First, in 2011, when the United States raided Bin Laden’s compound, letters from Boko Haram were found in the building, which means that there was communication between him and the leaders of Boko Haram. Secondly, in July 2014, Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, acknowledged support from ISIS by releasing a 16-minute video that voiced promised backing from the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. These examples are just a few of many other occasions that prove the connection between Boko Haram and other terrorist groups. It is the world’s responsibility to ensure that this group is condemned and terminated.
The leadership of these militant groups has in the past decades used different approaches to make sure that the organization stayed united and focused on the objective as much as possible. Studies indicate that most leaders are educated individuals, hence they possess great skills and knowledge that help them in manipulating and brainwashing their followers. For instance, the leader of Boko Haram Shekau is believed to have traveled widely in countries like Egypt, Sudan, and Somali in search of Islamic knowledge. As a result, he can preach Islamic ideologies and exercise great influence on his adherents.
For the same reason, terrorist leaders have put in place a policy that allows great punishment for unbelievers. The commanders are very successful in ensuring that very few individuals backslide or deviate from the group’s objective due to fear of the punishment that follows such behavior. For instance, Boko Haram beheaded its eleven members in Miringa village in the northeastern part of Nigeria. These inhumane punishments were administered because those eleven militants wanted to surrender to the government as they were tired of murdering their people.
Tools Used by Boko Haram
Similarly, Boko Haram has gained popularity in the recent years thanks to its actions, attracting more sympathizers and financers. Its success is because of its access to expensive, effective tools that it uses to conduct violent attacks in Nigeria and Western Africa. For instance, in September 2014, the Nigerian military captured a “quad barreled ZSU-23-4 Shilka” on a truck ready for transportation by the Boko Haram organization. This is a highly effective anti-aircraft firearm. Secondly, during the same period, heavy weapons were recovered from Boko Haram training bases. Among them were T-55 Tanks and several Panhard ERC-90 commonly known as “Sagaie” in the military language. The recovery of these tools was a major setback to the group because it did cost them a great fortune to purchase them and were also among the most effective war tools they owned.
Their popularity has equally attracted financers hence enabling them to purchase dangerous weapons that they use in raids and attacks. Moreover, the group takes most arms from raiding police bases and from killing police officers. Examples of the tools acquired from raiding military camps include hand operated grenades, rifles, bullets, vehicles, and tankers that are used to commit massive attacks. Below is an image showing members of the Boko Haram organization and the tools they use in attacks.
However, Boko Haram does not only use tangible tools to acquire its success. To be more specific, its psychological effect on the common citizens also plays a major role in achieving its success. For Boko Haram to be noticed and receive all the attention it requires, it must psychologically torture the public through conducting inhumane acts like beheading individuals or cold blood killings. For instance, on July 12, 2012, Boko Haram almost succeeded in turning the Christians living in Nigeria against innocent Muslims living in the same country. To achieve this, the group conducted attacks on Christian churches while equally looting and killing only those individuals who belonged to the Christian religion. Therefore, it is evident that they used provoking as a tool in their favor since these actions resulted to The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) issuing a warning statement. To be more specific, it indicated that due to the pressure impacted on the Christians, it could no longer hold or abstain its members from responding violently due to the mutilating and killing of their fellow Christian members.
Strategies to Combat Terrorism
Primarily, Nigeria and other countries facing terrorism should advocate for and embrace the multi–faceted approach to the predicament linked with Boko Haram. According to Ginkel, this approach campaigns for a strong character among citizens to overcome terrorism. Therefore, if Nigeria wants to successfully combat terrorism, willingness to do so must come from within its citizens, not just the government, and the military forces. Nigerian citizens should resolve to use all the strength of charisma they have to join the government in the fight against terrorism. The ideology of citizens towards terrorism must be changed, and only with the help of this strategy can the fight against terrorism in Nigeria officially start. This approach against terrorism will be highly successful because the public will know how to react when an attack happens. What is more, they will learn the art of community policing, and these activities will considerably help the government detect any abnormal behaviors resulting from terrorism.
In Addition, Nigeria should try its best to equip its military forces with not only up to date fighting equipment but also with learned and experienced advisors of combating terrorism. It is up to the government to make peace with more advanced countries like U.S.A that in return may find it necessary to fund or donate equipment and personnel that Nigeria requires to effectively fight Boko Haram. Therefore, with all the necessary tools, the government will surely overcome the power that this group has attained over the country’s territory, and in due time peace in Nigeria and Western Africa will be regained.
Finally yet importantly, Boko Haram’s financial chain must be broken to destabilize its financial position, making it hard for the terrorists to conduct attacks. This can only be achieved by educating the sympathizers of this group on the effects of terrorism. First, this will motivate them to withdraw from financing the group. Second, the arrest of known promoters of Boko Haram either politically or economically should be done by the government so as to reduce the number of promoters of terrorism who harbor Boko Haram’s members.
In conclusion, the government of Nigeria should pardon those youths who were forcefully made to join Boko Haram. This concession will motivate a great number of young people who are already in the organization to abandon it and engage in productive activities to regain Nigeria’s economic position it had before the war with terrorists. The policy should come hand in hand with the radicalization of the youth that without any doubt will have a positive impact on the condition Nigeria is in with regard to terrorism.