Nigeria: Old Problems That Never Get Solved


November 21, 2011:  While the government assembles security forces, intelligence capabilities and popular opinion to use against Boko Haram, it is less enthusiastic about dealing with the main reason the Islamic radicals have gained a foothold in the north; corruption and inept government. Boko Haram says that a religious dictatorship in the north would solve all these problems. While many northerners know better (religious governments have failed in Sudan, Iran and Afghanistan), there is tremendous anger at the thieving and incompetent government officials. As long as that situation persists, there will always be angry (and usually unemployed) young men willing to join the terrorists. This is especially true because the police and army tend to be vicious and undisciplined when dealing with what they consider a hostile population. This is an old problem in Nigeria, that never gets solved.

Algerian intelligence claims that Boko Haram has established connections with the Algerian branch of al Qaeda. No proof was offered, other than the fact that the Algerian/North African branch of al Qaeda now runs a major drug smuggling operation (moving cocaine from Guinea-Bissau, where it is flown in from South America, to the Mediterranean coast). But those smuggling routes are over a thousand kilometers from Nigeria and there is no other evidence that North African Islamic radicals have been in Nigeria. While these terrorists have been seen in northern Niger (along the Algerian border), police and counter-terror activity has made it difficult for the al Qaeda groups to move away from the Algerian border region. So, aside from some Nigerians visiting the al Qaeda groups, there is not much of a connection.

Another problem for the government is that the insurrection they have been fighting in the Niger River Delta for decades is little like the Boko Haram situation. The Niger Delta was a combination of oil thieves and tribal groups demanding less damage, and more benefit, from all the oil production activities. This includes reducing corruption and government incompetence. While Boko Haram wants less corruption and inept government, they also demand adherence to strict lifestyle rules and the use of violence against non-Moslems. This makes non-Moslems, and many Moslems, hostile to Boko Haram. Another difference is Boko Haram's more frequent use of terror attacks, especially against non-Moslems. This risks starting a civil war between the Moslem north and Christian south. This is especially the case because Boko Haram has called for dividing the country, with an Islamic state in the north. But all the oil is in the south, and the Christian south does not want to share with a separatist Moslem state in the north. Lots of grounds for a civil war here.

November 17, 2011: Pirates attacked an oil company ship off the Niger Delta, and took three foreigners away, to be held for ransom.

November 14, 2011: The government is reactivating 22 border posts on the frontiers with Chad, Niger, Benin and Cameroun. In addition, intelligence services will cooperate more with their counterparts in Mali to help with tracking Islamic radicals in the region. The government believes Boko Haram is receiving help from other Islamic radical groups in the region. There have been rumors and chatter of Nigerians travelling to al Qaeda camps in Mali, near the Algerian border, to learn how to make bombs. Then again, there is also evidence that the Boko Haram members learned how to build bombs from miners, or men who were miners. The mining operations use a lot of explosives, and there is a lot of opportunity to learn how to use this dangerous stuff. While explosives are supposed to be tracked and controlled, the ever-present corruption means that if you have the cash, you can get explosives and detonators. Note that mining is not a major industry in Nigeria and most of it is in the Christian south.

November 9, 2011: In the northern areas where Boko Haram is most active, thousands of Christians and people from tribes not native to the area are fleeing. Boko Haram considers churches prime targets. The ultimate goal is to drive all infidels (non-Moslems) out of the north, along with most elements of Western culture (especially Western education, as Boko Haram translates as "Western education is unclean for Moslems".)






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