Recently, the African nation of Nigeria has made international news based on the kidnapping of several hundred women and girls from educational institutions across Nigeria. The group that has claimed responsibility for these kidnappings is the Boko Haram, “Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram - which has caused havoc in Africa's most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and now abductions - is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.” (Chothia) What is interesting about these events is the fact that the international community is having difficulty negotiating any sort of release for the female hostages due to the fact that the Boko Haram are not a nation-state or really associated with any nation-state(They are native to Nigeria but are not part of the Nigerian government). This indicates that non-state actors are having an increasing impact on how the international community functions and also indicated that if states are not able to maintain a powerful political establishment, there is the potential that non-state actors and/or insurgent groups will attempt to usurp the legitimate power of the government. This is a situation that is being seen in Nigeria.
The body of this research report will outline the political structure of Nigeria and information on the Boko Haram.
Like many nations of Africa, Nigeria was a former British Colony. After gaining independence Nigeria went through a period of upheaval but they appeared to settle into a period of civilian governed peace. “Following nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. The government continues to face the daunting task of reforming a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement, and institutionalizing democracy. In addition, Nigeria continues to experience longstanding ethnic and religious tensions. Although both the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections were marred by significant irregularities and violence, Nigeria is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since independence. The general elections of April 2007 marked the first civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in the country's history and the elections of 2011 were generally regarded as credible. In January 2014, Nigeria assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2014-15 term.” (Central Intelligence Agency)
A seat on the UN Security Council is a positive step forward for Nigeria in becoming a developed nation; this will also offer Nigeria the ability to interact with the international community as a peer, instead of a developing nation that needs economic assistance. Due to the fact that the government of Nigeria is elected, yet there is an insurgent group that is engaging in kidnappings and other violence in Nigeria indicates that the socio-economic situation in Nigeria is not as stable as the government would like to believe to the point where the government is at the mercy of insurgent groups and said insurgent groups are non-state actors that are also attempting to be recognized as legitimate among the international community.
The Boko Haram is described as “ a diffuse Islamist sect, has attacked Nigeria's police and military, rival clerics, politicians, schools, religious buildings, public institutions, and civilians with increasing regularity since 2009. Some experts view the group as an armed revolt against government corruption, abusive security forces, and widening regional economic disparity in an already impoverished country.” (Council on Foreign Relations) This is similar to the attempts that Al Qaeda made to take over leadership of Afghanistan to allow the group to have a home base so to speak while remaining non-state actors that would have an impact on the operation of legitimate governments. Al Qaeda was successful with this after the events of 9/11 to the point where the United States went to war with an insurgent group as opposed to another nation (in Afghanistan). It would appear that Boko Haram is attempting to do the same thing by taking over the power base in Nigeria so that the insurgency will grow larger to take over the basic functioning of government.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 “ in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno, by Islamist cleric Mohammed Yusuf, who led a group of radical Islamist youth in the 1990s. The group aims to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria, including the implementation of criminal sharia courts across the country. Paul Lubeck , a University of California professor studying Muslim societies in Africa, says Yusuf was a trained Salafist (an adherent of a school of thought often associated with jihad), and was strongly influenced by Ibn Taymiyyah , a fourteenth-century legal scholar who preached Islamic fundamentalism and is an important figure for radical groups in the Middle East.” (Council on Foreign Relations) As we can see, Boko Haram has the same goal as several insurgent groups across the Middle East that is to govern Nigeria using sharia law, this also indicates that Muslim insurgent groups are not isolated to the Middle East; these groups are now spreading to Africa and parts of mainland Europe. It is possible that insurgent groups such as Boko Haram may gain political support among a population that will cause these groups to be recognized as non-state actors that will have a large and continuing impact on the functioning of international relations and the international community. International relations is designed to interact with other legitimate governments. Insurgent groups appear to be on the rise to the point where they will be having an increased impact on the nature of international relations and will therefore gain negating power similar to that of legitimate nations. There is also the potential that nation with insurgent groups active may become completely failed states (such as Afghanistan) and become narco-states or states that are governed by international criminal organizations.
The actual goals of the group can be found in its name “The sect calls itself Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad, or "people committed to the propagation of the Prophet's teachings and jihad." It is widely known as Boko Haram, which is colloquially translated as "Western education is sin” for the groups rejection of Western concepts such as evolution and the big bang theory.”(Council on Foreign Relations) It is important to understand that these types of insurgent groups fear modernization, they seek to keep areas in the dark so to speak so that a society is still religious in nature and keeping women from education is one method to continue to maintain the dependence of a society on the government and ensure that there is no social change.
It is also easy to see that Boko Haram is not simply an insurgent group but also can be considered an organized crime group, in addition to this, it also becomes obvious that Al Qaeda has had an impact on the formation of Boko Haram “by 2013 some analysts began to see greater influence by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Boko Haram operations. Terrorist acts against civilians, like the murder of sixty-five students while they slept at the agricultural college in Yobe state in September 2013, chainsaw beheadings of truck drivers, and the killing of hundreds on the roads of northern Nigeria raised doubts about the central government's ability to control territory and amplified fears of protracted violence in the country. Violence returned to Abuja in April 2014 with the bombing of a bus station that killed nearly one hundred people, followed by the abduction of more than two hundred schoolgirls in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said he planned to "sell" the girls in the market.” (Council on Foreign Relations) Although Boko Haram has only been known to sell women/girls inside Nigeria that is not to say that this group will not branch out in the future and begin to sell humans on the international market. This group also shows the influence that Al Qaeda continues to have on insurgent groups. While the leader of Al Qaeda may be gone the ideology continues to spread and grow finding homes in locations outside of the Middle East.
Chothia, Farouk. "Who are Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamists?." BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13809501 (accessed August 3, 2014).
Council on Foreign Relations. "Nigeria's Boko Haram." Council on Foreign Relations. http://www.cfr.org/nigeria/boko-haram/p25739 (accessed August 4, 2014).
Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook: Nigeria." Central Intelligence Agency. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ni.html (accessed August 3, 2014).