Daily Maverick (Johannesburg)

16 April 2014

Nigeria: Analysis - Boko Haram Is a Symptom of a Deeper Malaise

analysis

It's tempting to dismiss Boko Haram and its brutal, public atrocities as an aberration, a temporary road-block on Nigeria's slow but inexorable upward trajectory. This is, after all, Africa's largest economy and a thriving, if dysfunctional, democracy. But the violence keeps coming, and Nigeria's leaders - despite their bullish, near-farcical declarations to the contrary - are powerless to stop it.

At the beginning of this year, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said that it's only a matter of time before his government defeats Islamist militant group Boko Haram. "Boko Haram insurgency is a temporary challenge...We will surely overcome Boko Haram."

Even then, in January, these bold words rang hollow (and it didn't help the tense sectarian atmosphere that the president was speaking from a Church of Christ pulpit). Having abandoned any form of diplomacy, Jonathan's administration was eight months into an all-out military offensive against Boko Haram in its northern strongholds. Three states were, and remain, under a State of Emergency, with curfews in place and cellphone signals interrupted to disrupt communications. The army was out in force, hunting the militants down, while air force bombers harassed them from the air.

The offensive was Jonathan's big gesture, a...

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