Friday July 26 marks a decade since Nigerian forces clashed with Boko Haram extremists at Maiduguri’s central mosque. The clash lasted for days and in the end nearly 700 people died in Northern Nigeria. On July 30, Mohammed Yusuf, spiritual leader of Boko Haram, was reported executed by forces of law and order. Abubakar Shekau later on took control of the movement.
In its early days, the insurgency group’s focus was preaching, with the believe that al-Qaeda’s path would bring Nigerian Muslims out of their abyss.
Today the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram is known to have caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country and neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions.
From the July 26 violence, sprang the insurgency of Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means “Western education is taboo.” In recent years some fighters have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, creating a new threat.
Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.
This includes voting in elections, wearing shirts and trousers or receiving a secular education.
Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, regardless of whether the president is Muslim or not – and it has extended its military campaign by targeting neighbouring states.
Boko Haram gained international attention after the mass kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, sparking a hash tag BringBackOurGirls campaign, supported by then – U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and others. While many schoolgirls have since been freed, countless other people abducted over the decade remain lost to their loved ones. They include aid workers; on Wednesday a recently seized nurse pleaded in a video for Nigeria’s government to help, saying they could be killed.
Similarly, the jihadist group abducted school girls from the town of Dapchi in February 2018, the schoolgirls, who were kidnapped from their boarding school on 19 February, were reportedly released by the side of a road almost five weeks later.
While Nigerian officials have repeatedly claimed victory over Boko Haram, weary residents say there is no end in sight to the attacks that have created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 7 million people still dependent on food aid.
In interviews with The Associated Press, a range of people described how their lives and culture have been torn apart. “Our age-long legendary values for decency, where there is mutual respect and regard between men and women, have been eroded in just 10 years,” said Hamsatu Allamin, who leads a peacebuilding foundation. Women widowed by the fighting have become beggars or sex workers, she said. Children no longer respect their elders.
Some observers allege that certain Nigerian officials are profiting from the unrest via corruption and have little interest in ending the bloodshed. Rights groups have accused some Nigerian security forces of abuses in the fight against Boko Haram including extra-judicial killings and mass arrests. Nigeria’s government has angrily rejected such allegations.
The question remains unanswered if the insurgency will be defeated in the years ahead or will it continue to terrorise the people of Nigeria and neighbouring countries?