Islamist insurgency in Nigeria

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Islamist insurgency in Nigeria
Nigeriamap.png
Map of Nigeria
Date 20 November 1999–present
(14 years, 9 months, 4 weeks and 1 day)
Location Northern Nigeria
Status Ongoing
  • Introduction of sharia law in 9 states, partially in 3 states
  • Religious riots (2000–present)
  • Armed Islamist rebellion (2009–present)
Belligerents
Nigeria Nigerian Government

Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF)
Supported by:
 United States[1]
 Cameroon[2]
 Chad[2]
 Benin[2]
 Niger[2]
 United Kingdom[3]
 France[3]
 China[3]
 Canada[4]
 Iran[5]
 Israel[6]

Boko Haram
Ansaru
Commanders and leaders
Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan
Nigeria Ibrahim Geidam
Nigeria Ali Modu Sheriff
Nigeria Isa Yuguda
Flag of Jihad.svg Mohammed Yusuf 
Flag of Jihad.svg Abubakar Shekau
Flag of Jihad.svg Mallam Sanni Umaru[7]
Abu Usmatul al-Ansari
Abu Jafa’ar
Strength
Boko Haram: 9,000+ [8]
Casualties and losses
15,000+ killed[9][10][11]


Thousands of civilians displaced[12]

The Islamist insurgency in Nigeria, also known as the Sharia Conflict in Nigeria,[13] began in 1999 with the establishment of sharia law in several Muslim-majority states in Northern Nigeria, despite the secular Constitution of Nigeria and the disagreeing Christian minority. From 2000 onwards, occasional riots between Christians and Muslims have resulted in thousands of deaths. Since 2009, when the Islamist group Boko Haram started an armed rebellion against the secular government of Nigeria, the conflict has become more violent. In 2010, 55 people were killed in claimed or suspected Boko Haram attacks. By 2013, the annual death toll exceeded 1000, with a further sharp increase occurring in early 2014.[14]

According to a Nigerian study on demographics and religion, Muslims make up 50.5% of the population. Muslims mainly live in the north of the country; the majority of the Nigerian Muslims are Sunnis. Christians are the second-largest religious group and make up 48.2% of the population. They predominate in the central and southern part of the country.[15]

As Muslims narrowly form the majority of the population, many of them demand the introduction of Sharia – the Islamic law – as the main source of legislation. Twelve Northern states have introduced sharia as a basis of the executive and judicial branches of government in the years 1999 and 2000.

Background[edit]

Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, and the North of the newly created country had been largely Muslim (with a pagan minority) for centuries, whereas the South was mostly animist (with exception of some Muslim Yorubas and Christian elites). In the decades to come, much of these ancestral beliefs would be supplanted by the Christian faith in the South. A Christian community would also appear in the North, centred round the cities of Kaduna and Jos.

Religious conflict in Nigeria goes as far back as 1953, when a religious riot occurred in the northern city of Kano. The 1980s saw an upsurge in violence due to death of Mohammed Marwa ("Maitatsine") (see below). In the same decade the erstwhile military ruler of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida enrolled Nigeria in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. This was a move which aggravated religious tensions in the country, particularly among the Christian community.[16]

Following the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, Sharia was instituted as a main body of civil and criminal law in 9 Muslim-majority and in some parts of 3 Muslim-plurality states, when then-Zamfara State governor Ahmad Rufai Sani[17] began the push for the institution of Sharia at the state level of government. As of 2012, the 9 states have instituted Sharia (see below). This was followed by controversy as to the would-be legal status of the non-Muslims in the Sharia system. A spate of Muslim-Christian riots soon emerged.

Blasphemy and apostasy

Twelve out of Nigeria's thirty-six states have Sunni Islam as the dominant religion. In 1999, those states chose to have Sharia courts as well as Customary courts.[18] A Sharia court may treat blasphemy as deserving of several punishments up to, and including, execution.[19][20] In many predominantly Muslim states, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal and often a capital offence.[21]

In 2002, Isioma Daniel wrote an article seen as insulting to Muhammad, leading to riots (see below).

On 21 March 2007, a mob of Muslim students and neighbourhood extremists beat to death Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a mother of two and a teacher at Government Secondary School of Gandu in the city of Gombe. A student complained that Oluwasesin, a Christian, had touched a bag which allegedly contained a Quran, and had thereby defiled the Quran.[22]

In 2014 a Nigerian man, Mubarak Bala was forcibly committed to a psychiatric institution in Kano for eighteen days, where he was forcibly drugged after stating that he was an atheist. The International Humanist and Ethical Union took up the case, stating that Bala's human rights were violated.[23]

Establishment of Sharia[edit]

Status of sharia in Nigeria (2008):[24]
  Sharia applies in full, including criminal law
  Sharia applies only in personal status issues
  No sharia

In the primarily Islamic northern states of Nigeria, a variety of Muslim groups and populations exist who favour the nationwide introduction of Sharia Law.[25] The demands of these populations have been at least partially upheld by the Nigerian Federal Government in 12 states, firstly in Zamfara State in 1999. The implementation has been widely attributed as being due to the insistence of Zamfara State governor Ahmad Rufai Sani.[17]

The death sentences of Amina Lawal and Safiya Hussaini attracted international attention to what many saw as the harsh regime of these laws. These sentences were later overturned;[26] the first execution was carried out in 2002.[27]

Riots[edit]

The events of Abuja in 2000 and Jos in 2001 were riots between Christians and Muslims in Jos, Nigeria about the appointment of a Muslim politician, Alhaji Muktar Mohammed, as local coordinator of the federal programme to fight poverty.[28] Another such riot killed over 100 people in October 2001 in Kano State.[29][30]

In 2002, the Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel wrote an article that led to the demonstrations and violence that caused the deaths of over 200 in Kaduna,[31][32][33] as well as a fatwa placed on her life.[34] The 2002 Miss World contest was moved from Abuja to London as a result. The rest of the 2000s decade would see inter-religious violence continue in Jos and Kaduna.

The reaction to the Mohammed cartoons brought about a series of violent protests in Nigeria. Clashes between rioters and police claimed several lives, with estimates ranging from 16[35] to more than a hundred.[36] This led to reprisal attacks in the south of the country, particularly in Onitsha.[37][38] More than a hundred lost their lives.[39][40]

Maitatsine[edit]

Main articles: Maitatsine and Yan Tatsine

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a major Islamic uprising led by Maitatsine and his followers, Yan Tatsine that led to several thousand deaths. After Maitatsine's death in 1980, the movement continued some five years more.

2004 Yelwa massacre[edit]

Main article: Yelwa massacre

2008 riots[edit]

Main article: 2008 Jos riots

2010 riots[edit]

In 2010, more than 500, mostly Christian people, were killed by religious violence in Jos.[11] Jos has long been a flashpoint in interreligious violence.

Political development[edit]

Main article: Politics of Nigeria

Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914, only about a decade after the defeat of the Sokoto Caliphate and other Islamic states by the British which were to constitute much of Northern Nigeria. The aftermath of the First World War saw Germany lose its colonies, one of which was Cameroon, to French, Belgian and British mandates. Cameroon was divided in French and British parts, the latter of which was further subdivided into southern and northern parts. Following a plebiscite in 1961, the Southern Cameroons elected to rejoin French Cameroon, while the Northern Cameroons opted to join Nigeria, a move which added to Nigeria's already large Northern population.[41] The territory comprised much of what is now Northeastern Nigeria, and a large part of the areas affected by the insurgency.

Religious conflict in Nigeria goes as far back as 1953. The Igbo massacre of 1966 in the North that followed the counter-coup of the same year had as a dual cause the Igbo officers' coup and pre-existing (sectarian) tensions between the Igbos and the local Muslims. This was a major factor in the Biafran secession and the resulting civil war.

The 1980s saw an upsurge in violence due to death of Mohammed Marwa ("Maitatsine") (see above). In the same decade the erstwhile military ruler of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida enrolled Nigeria in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. This was a move which aggravated religious tensions in the country, particularly among the Christian community.[16] In response, some in the Muslim community pointed out that certain other African member states have smaller proportions of Muslims, as well as Nigeria's diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, Sharia has been instituted as a main body of civil and criminal law in 9 Muslim-majority and in some parts of 3 Muslim-plurality states, when then-Zamfara State governor Ahmad Rufai Sani[17] began the push for the institution of Sharia at the state level of government. As of 2012, the 9 states have instituted Sharia (see above).

For reasons of avoiding political controversy, questions of religion were forgone in the 2006 Nigerian census.[42][43]

History[edit]

Boko Haram terror campaign[edit]

Main article: Boko Haram

The group conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence.[44] That changed in 2009 when the Nigerian government launched an investigation into the group's activities following reports that its members were arming themselves.[45] Prior to that the government reportedly repeatedly ignored warnings about the increasingly militant character of the organisation, including that of a military officer.[45]

When the government came into action, several members of the group were arrested in Bauchi, sparking deadly clashes with Nigerian security forces which led to the deaths of an estimated 700 people. During the fighting with the security forces Boko Haram fighters reportedly "used fuel-laden motorcycles" and "bows with poison arrows" to attack a police station.[46] The group's founder and then leader Mohammed Yusuf was also killed during this time while still in police custody.[47][48][49] After Yusuf's killing, a new leader emerged whose identity was not known at the time.[50]

After the killing of M. Yusuf, the group carried out its first terrorist attack in Borno in January 2010. It resulted in the killing of four people.[51] Since then, the violence has only escalated in terms of both frequency and intensity.

In January 2012, Abubakar Shekau, a former deputy to Yusuf, appeared in a video posted on YouTube. According to Reuters, Shekau took control of the group after Yusuf's death in 2009.[52] Authorities had previously believed that Shekau died during the violence in 2009.[53]

By early 2012, the group was responsible for over 900 deaths.[54]

2013 Government offensive[edit]

In May 2013, Nigerian governmental forces launched an offensive in the Borno region in an attempt to dislodge Boko Haram fighters after a state of emergency was called on 14 May. The state of emergency, which is still in force as of May 2014, applies to the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa in northeastern Nigeria.[55] The offensive had initial success, but the Boko Haram rebels have been able to regain their strength. In July, Boko Haram massacred several students in Yobe, bringing the school year to an early end in the state.On 5 August 2013 Boko Haram launched dual attacks on Bama and Malam Fatori, leaving 35 dead.[56]

2014 Chibok kidnapping[edit]

On 15 April 2014, terrorists abducted about 276 female students from a college in Chibok in Borno state.[57] The abduction was widely attributed to Boko Haram.[58] It was reported that the group had taken the girls to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad where they were to be sold into marriages at a price below a Dollar. The abduction of another eight girls was also reported later. These kidnappings raised public protests, with some protesters holding placards bearing the twitter tag #bringbackourgirls which had caught international attention.[59] Several countries pledged support to the Nigerian government and to help their military with intelligence gathering on the whereabouts of the girls and the operational camps of Boko Haram.

2014 Jos Bombings[edit]

Main article: 2014 Jos bombings

On 20 May 2014, a total of two bombs in the city of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, were detonated, resulting in the deaths of at least 118 people and the injury of more than 56 others. The bombs detonated 30 minutes apart, one at a local market place at approximately 3:00 and the second in a parking lot next to a hospital at approximately 3:30, where rescuers responding to the first accident were killed.[60] Though no group or individual has claimed responsibility, the attacks have been attributed to Boko Haram.[61]

First responders were unable to reach the scenes of the accidents, as "thousands of people were fleeing the scene in the opposite direction". The bombs had been positioned to kill as many people as possible, regardless of religion, which differed from previous attacks in which non-Muslims were targeted. The bombers were reported to have used a "back-to-back blast" tactic, in which an initial bomb explodes at a central location and another explodes a short time later with intent to kill rescue workers working to rescue the wounded.[62]

Other issues[edit]

Possible causes[edit]

The North consisted of Sahelian states that had long had an Islamic character. These were feudal and conservative, with rigid caste and class systems and large slave populations.[63] Furthermore, the North failed until 1936 to outlaw slavery.[64] Possibly due to geographical factors, many (but not necessarily all) southern tribes, particularly those on the coast, had made contact with Europeans - unlike the North which was engaged mainly with the Arab world and not Europe. Due to the system of indirect rule, the British were happy to pursue a limited course of engagement with the Emirs.[65] The traditionalist Northern elites were skeptical of Western education, at the same time their Southern counterparts often sent their sons abroad to study. In time, a considerable developmental and educational gap grew to appear between the South and the North.[66][67] Even as of 2014, Northern states still lag behind in literacy, school attendance and educational achievement.[68]

Chris Kwaja, a Nigerian university lecturer and researcher, asserts that "religious dimensions of the conflict have been misconstrued as the primary driver of violence when, in fact, disenfranchisement and inequality are the root causes". Nigeria, he points out, has laws giving regional political leaders the power to qualify people as 'indigenes' (original inhabitants) or not. It determines whether citizens can participate in politics, own land, obtain a job, or attend school. The system is abused widely to ensure political support and to exclude others. Muslims have been denied indigene-ship certificates disproportionately often.[69]

Nigerian opposition leader Buba Galadima says: "What is really a group engaged in class warfare is being portrayed in government propaganda as terrorists in order to win counter-terrorism assistance from the West."[70]

Human rights[edit]

The conflict has seen numerous human rights abuses conducted by the Nigerian security forces, in an effort to control the violence, as well as their encouragement of the formation of numerous vigilante groups (for example, the Civilian Joint Task Force).

Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian government of human rights abuses after 950 suspected Boko Harām militants died in detention facilities run by Nigeria's military Joint Task Force in the first half of 2013.[71] Furthermore, the Nigerian government has been accused of incompetence and supplying misinformation about events in more remote areas.

Boko Haram often engages in kidnapping young girls for use as cooks, sexual slaves or in forced marriage;[72] the most famous example being the Chibok kidnapping in 2014. In addition to kidnapping child brides, Human Rights Watch states that Boko Harām uses child soldiers, including 12-year-olds.[73] The group has forcibly converted non-Muslims to Islam,[74] and is also known to assign non-Kanuris on suicide missions.[75]

International context[edit]

The insurgence can be seen in the context of other conflicts nearby, for example in the North of Mali. The Boko Harām leadership has international connections to Al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Qa'ida core, Al-Shabab, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s factions, and other militant groups outside Nigeria.[76] In 2014, Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan even went so far as calling Boko Harām "al-Qaeda in West Africa".[77] Attacks by Nigerian Islamist militias on targets beyond Nigeria’s borders have so far been limited,[78] and should not be confused with the activities of other groups (for example, the responsibility of AQIM for most attacks in Niger). Despite this, there are concerns that conflict could spread to Nigeria’s neighbours, especially Cameroon, where it exists at a relatively low level. It should also be noted there are combatants from neighboring Chad and Niger.[79]

On 17 May 2014, the presidents of Benin, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger met for a summit in Paris and agreed to combat Boko Harām on a coordinated basis, sharing in particular surveillance and intelligence gathering. Goodluck Jonathan[80] and Chadian counterpart, Idriss Deby[2] have both declared total war on Boko Harām. Western nations, including Britain, France, Israel, and the United States had also pledged support including technical expertise and training.[81][82] [check quotation syntax]

See also[edit]

Literature[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]