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Is Boko Haram the Problem in Nigeria?


Tragic, tit for tat violence has flared in recent months in Nigeria, and the usual assortment of pseudo scholars, serial fabricators, and other assorted anti-Muslim crackpots have seized the opportunity to frame the conflict in exclusively religious terms. Muslims are cast as villains waging unprovoked attacks on Christians, when in fact, the conflict is far more complex.

This 25-minute BBC audio documentary captured Christian youths celebrating a victory by roasting, and in some cases, eating, Muslim victims they had recently slaughtered, providing a gruesome reminder the conflict in Nigeria cuts both ways. Don’t expect to see links to this atrocity in the looniverse, where cherry picked coverage is exclusively focused on Muslim atrocities.

Fueled not only by religious and ethnic tensions, but also by extreme poverty, the conflict is aggravated by interference from mercenaries streaming in from other parts of Africa. The British colonial legacy and Western corporate interests vying for Nigeria’s vast natural resources also have a long history of exploitation that has left many ordinary Nigerians impoverished and further destabilized the country.

Last January, the New York Times published, “In Nigeria, Boko Haram is Not the Problem,” which stated:

It was clear in 2009, as it is now, that the root cause of violence and anger in both the north and south of Nigeria is endemic poverty and hopelessness…

…Boko Haram has evolved into a franchise that includes criminal groups claiming its identity. Revealingly, Nigeria’s State Security Services issued a statement on Nov. 30, identifying members of four “criminal syndicates” that send threatening text messages in the name of Boko Haram. Southern Nigerians — not northern Muslims — ran three of these four syndicates, including the one that led the American Embassy and other foreign missions to issue warnings that emptied Abuja’s high-end hotels. And last week, the security services arrested a Christian southerner wearing northern Muslim garb as he set fire to a church in the Niger Delta. In Nigeria, religious terrorism is not always what it seems.

None of this excuses Boko Haram’s killing of innocents. But it does raise questions about a rush to judgment that obscures Nigeria’s complex reality.

Recently Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, Nigeria in an article published by Spero News also acknowledged religious tensions, but confirmed once again that the horrific massacres in his country result primarily from an interplay between poverty, injustice, and ethnic conflict.

Nigeria: Outsiders and ethnic tensions fuel savage massacres

by Martin Barillas

“The massacre is brought about by the confrontation between farmers and herders. It is an old problem that has not been solved yet” said Catholic Archbishop Ignatius Ayau Kaigama of Jos, who serves as the president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Nigeria. According to a report from the Fides news service, he is visiting Rome, where he received the “Disarmament Archive – Golden Doves for Peace” award. He commented on a series of attacks waged on Christian villages in Plateau State, of which Jos is the capital. The attacks killed at least 63 people. In a further assault during the July 8 funerals of the victims, a senator and a local deputy were killed.

“I think the problem is economic,” said the archbishop. “The Fulani herders feel victims of injustice because their cattle are killed or stolen and are not compensated for losses incurred. I think that the anger originates from this situation drives them to attack in this terrible way.”

Archbishop Kaigama does not deny that there is also an ethnic dimension of the conflict: “The problem is between the Fulani and Birom. These two ethnic groups have been disputing for a long time. All attacks on villages in the area have always been focused on these two groups. There are no attacks involving other tribes. ” With regards to the religious aspect of the clash, the Archbishop replied:

The Fulani are predominantly Muslim, while the Birom are mostly Christians. For this reason it is easy to read ‘Muslims attack Christians’ or ‘Christians attack Muslims’, but as I said, the problem is primarily economic and ethnic.

Archbishop remains in constant contact with Jos and revealed new details on the recent massacres: “I spoke with the Governor of Plateau State who was really saddened and shocked by the deaths and the level of destruction caused by the attacks. He is convinced that the perpetrators of the massacres are not from the place, but instead come from outside.”

Said Archbishop Kaigama, “According to the Governor, the Fulani have a network that extends beyond Nigeria and has spread to neighboring Countries, the aggressors are also mercenaries from elsewhere, they are not the Fulani resident in the State. Several of them also wore military uniforms. We do not know if they were people dressed as soldiers, or if the attackers were helped by real soldiers. In the light of these revelations one cannot exclude political factors, but in my opinion the main problem is economic to explain this violence.”

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  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Didn’t see this discussion until now.

    This article shows that the sectarian violence has existed long before Boko Haram with both groups declaring war with one another. Religious veneer has been used to justify the violence.

    As far as Myanmar, show me one article that doesn’t involve a Bhuddist monk preaching Islamophobia to justify the violence. Of course it has elements of tribal and ethnic hostility though it does not relate to the pastoral vs. nomadic dimension that exists in some of Nigeria’s conflict.

    Lastly, your a troll and hence get dealt with as trolls should.

  • Donnetta Ducrepin

    This is the best site for anybody who desires to find out about this subject. You notice so much its nearly onerous to argue with you (not that I truly would want…HaHa). You undoubtedly put a brand new spin on a subject thats been written about for ages. Nice stuff, simply nice!

  • Tinuola Bukola.L

    Nigeria needs the int organisations intervention,the governmernment can not handle issue of insecurity. As a result of all this, the Mr President cannot follow the 2012 propose budget,due to bottleneck and rigidity that BOKO-HARAM brought to Nigeria.

  • truth

    @ prophet oftolerence boko haram in Nigeria didn’t declare a war on chritian in Northern Nigeria. The issue is that this people has an agenda which I believe they are using bombing of churches as a target to achieve it. Also two times now they have caught two christians working for them.

  • ProphetofTolerance

    This is not a Muslim fight against Christians, but a fight between them with tribal dimensions.

    How is a Muslim fundamentalist group declaring war against all of Northern Nigeria’s Christians not religious?

    I also note the spin in this article compared to another posted on LW claiming attacks against Rohingyas in Myanmar is due to “Islamophobia” rather than tribal/ethnic.

    As I said in an unpublished comment, this site wouldn’t last a day if the comments were unrestricted.

  • ProphetofTolerance

    Boko Haram and Fulani raiders are a separate issue. The archbishop never mentioned Boko Haram in his article. The group’s fight against Christians, however, is religious; and has greatly led Nigeria closer to civil war (there weren’t suicide bombings against churches before the group formed).

  • This is an extremely important article to bring to our attention, thank you Ilisha!

  • @Ilisha

    I hope this conflict ends soon, and there is a peaceful resolution. I really hope the problems that led to this conflict can be solved within the next year or so. So far, overall this hardly a happy story. Its really sad that people are going to war over there like this.

  • mindy1

    Ethnic conflicts are so sad-it’s like pitting brother against brother, because most of our DNA is the same 🙁

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