In the Who’s Who of world terrorism, Boko Haram has not had much attention. In fact, I would argue in the western world no one knew who they were as an organization. Tucked into Nigeria, this violent sect of terrorists, were content with the usual run of the mill terrorist activities– bombings, the occasional murder of government officials and of course the burning of Christian churches. Minor league activities that require little thought, little planning and few resources. And, even less bravery.
None of Boko Haram’s activities warranted the world’s media taking a second look at them. That is until they launched their most audacious act yet, the kidnapping of over 200 school girls. I think things are about to change for this group.
Boko Haram’s real name is Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad, however, it is just easier to call them by their shortened name, Boko Haram. The group is a militant Islamist sect who suspects that Nigeria has been overtaken by corrupt politicians. The organization is headed by Abubakar Shekau who is currently waging a guerilla war with Nigerian security forces. In Boko Haram’s spare time they enjoy burning down churches and schools. In 2012, they successfully burned down 12 schools.
In the world of terrorism, Boko Haram is a regional player. Focusing their attention on Nigeria government officials and infrastructure, they have not expressed any interests at attacking western interests and have avoided attacking western orientated targets. However, this could be changing; in 2011 the group bombed a United Nations facility killing 21 people. Boko Haram was designated a terrorist organization in late 2013 by the U.S. State Department, and move that seems to have come years too late.
Boko Haram Media
It seems every terrorist organization must have their own in house media specialist working to get their group’s message out. Boko Haram is no different. Various videos of the organization have been uploaded and watching them you get a feel that the group is not the most sophisticated terrorist organization in the world. A video from this year shows the group parading two by two with their RPG’s and AK-47’s; while their cadence and marching needs work, they appear to be an eager group.
Shekau, the leader of the group has begun releasing his own personal video’s sprouting his message of intolerance and hatred. He simply could not let Al-Qaeda have all the credit. Smug, overconfident and obviously oblivious to attacks from above, Shekau’s video is shot in the open air as he proudly exposes his face in defiance to the authorities trying to catch him.
The American Response
An interesting video is a 2013 clip of President Barak Obama’s visit to Africa where he took part in a video conference with future African leaders. One attendee asked the question about Boko Haram and the United States war on terrorism on the African continent. President Obama in a unique side step blames the groundwork for the terrorism on poor governance of the respective host countries. Second, he goes on to say that United States is not interested in becoming involved militarily in other terrorism conflicts–a direct response to our limited successes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Africa must take care of its own problems he advises to the attending audience members. While a hugely popular move to the conservatives of America, it is a statement that seemed to draw out frustration and concern to the attending audience members. Africa has not fared well in the past with insurgents. For audience members who had hoped for American help in containing these cancers, their hopes were put to rest. Obama made it clear that America would only advise Nigeria in their efforts.
A Warning Issued
Yet, Obama offered one caveat. If Boko Haram turned its disgruntled ilk loose on western interests, then America would have no choice but to intervene. And, we all know what that means–drone strikes. For now, even Shekau has heeded Obama’s warning. Staying away from the thousands of Americans living in Nigeria, the oil refineries, and other western interests, they are busy seeking out the weakest of targets, like innocent school children.
While Obama clearly stated that America would not intervene in Nigerian affairs, we would simply offer advice, perhaps it is time that we rethink that and loan Nigeria a drone aircraft or two. I do not think any Americans would mind that. And, Shekau learning of the drones over Nigeria, might not be so boastful in his future broadcasts.