Nigeria, a country once considered one of the more stable in subsaharan Africa, has been upended and torn asunder by one of the most virulent strains of Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorism.
Boko Haram made its debut not too long ago, but in the past four years its activity has reached untold levels of violence and cruelty.
Why then is Nigeria and the world not able to stop this increasing menace?
Just today, Boko Haram was responsible of another terrific attack on a school, a favorite target of the group, where 40 students were killed either by the fire that was set or by cutting of their throats.
This particularly gruesome method and the fact that they are attacking school is very telling. Boko Haram is trying to terrorize its way into a claim for secession of the Yobe and Borno states area. Their idea of a shari'a state includes the total annihilation of educational structures and everyone in it.
The methods is always the same. The terrorist lay siege to a school at night and burn it to the ground. Anyone lucky enough to escape the flames is quickly killed by gunfire or by cutting of the throat, a favorite method of terrorist groups.
What it this all about? As is the case in all localities where Islamist radicals operate, the factor is fear. The more fear can be instilled in the innocent locals, the more success they seem to have. Just as is the case in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, terrorists rely on such tactics to isolate, divide and eventually conquer local populations.
In the case of Boko Haram however, much could have been done before the group swelled in numbers and succeeded in being able to carry out terrorist attack after terrorist attack.
In fact, the name Boko Haram means "Western Education is Sinful" in the local dialect. Their agenda at first is to institute madrassas-like school to substitute the Christian or public ones.
The problem is at the onset, the failure of the state and lately of the military to reign in the groups. Much criticism has been levied against the military for not pursuing and routing the rebels in an effective and well planned way. Attacks from Boko Haram have been coming fast and furious since 2009, when Boko Haram decided it would turn the northeastern states into a shari'a zone.
Although the President of Nigeria has vowed to retaliate and pursue the terrorist group, the last time he ordered strikes against the group, it resulted pretty much in a failure that highlighted the inefficiency of Nigeria's government. People in the area are very much afraid of retaliation when the Islamist groups are attacked but not defeated.
President Goodluck Jonathan has even related that according to the reports made by the military, the militants have been confined to a small area near the border with Cameroon, but the truth is that moving around is Boko Haram's stock in trade, and they have crossed into Borno state whenever an offensive against them was initiatted in Yobe state.
At the end of the day, what really counts is what Boko Haram has been able to do, and so far, they have killed 300 people just this month.
To make matters worse, Goodluck Jonathan seems to be very sanguine about the attacks, in one speech even saying that the attacks were "quite worrisome", but that "We will get over it.".
In the 4 years since the Boko Haram offensive, thousands of civilians have lost their lives, houses, families, and livelihoods. In fact, many of the locals say that even with talks of continued activity from the military, they are completely unprotected and they find no evidence of the military's effort to save civilians from harm.
The military furthermore is operating in a very unskilled manner, many times running into villages and routing and killing innocent people who they have mistaken for Boko Haram militants.
Although initially a peaceful group, upon its founding by Muslim cleric Yusuf in 2002, the group changed radically in 2009 when they suddenly sought secession from Nigeria proper and the establishment of an exclusive shari'a state. Since 2009 the group has also gone underground and changed structure to a non hierarchic form, so that identifying and catching leaders and members is difficult.
Their radicalization however, became a factor after Boko Haram members started training in Somalia. It is there that Boko Haram was able to tie in with wordwide global networks and to adopt the radical agendas of both the Somali Islamists and Al Qaeda at large.
Government corruption and poverty have been the breeding material from which Boko Haram has sprung. Without renewed efforts to ameliorate the living conditions in the north east provinces, there will be little inroads made against the terrorist group. Many people in fact point the finger at the government for Boko Haram's creation and thriving activities.
Some in Nigeria have expressed the suspicion that Boko Haram might be funded by corrupt politicians intent at destabilizing Goodluck Jonathan's administration. The more Boko Haram attacks and is able to get away with terror activity, the more blame will be foisted on him. However, Boko Haram is not interested in government inclusion or participation, so that whatever suspicions are growing they might not reflect the truth on the ground.
Indeed, it is the decade-old frustration with corruption and pilfering of government resources and funds that might be more at the root of Boko Haram's birth and activity.
Some have called for talks between the government and the terrorist group, in order to better understand their plans and their nature. Without knowing fundamental facts about the Islamist group, the government will remain powerless to contain it.
What also needs to stop is the haphazard nature of the government reprisals against the group. Military who storm villages and kill anyone who they think might be involved, and razing houses and businesses will not resolve the problem and will only escalate into worse violence. There is in Nigeria, a substantial lack of coordinated intelligence and security systems networks that can effectively reduce or neutralize the group's power and reach in the north east provinces.
For now, Boko Haram has the upper hand, and continues to terrify Nigerians in a way that precludes even the gathering of information. According to some, people on the ground are just as afraid of military incursions as they are of the Islamist group's attacks.
Source : IRIN/BBc: 2/25/14