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(Video) Nigeria and Boko Haram War

The Boko Haram insurgency began in July 2009, when the militant Islamist and jihadist rebel group Boko Haram started an armed rebellion against the government of Nigeria.

The conflict takes place within the context of long-standing issues of religious violence between Nigeria’s Muslim and Christian communities, and the insurgents’ ultimate aim is to establish an Islamic state in the region.

Boko Haram’s initial uprising failed, and its leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed by the Nigerian government led by retired general Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the president as at the time the insurgence started its campaign.

The movement consequently fractured into autonomous groups and started an insurgency, though rebel commander Abubakar Shekau managed to achieve a kind of primacy among the insurgents. Though challenged by internal rivals, such as Abu Usmatul al-Ansari’s Salafist conservative faction and the Ansaru faction, Shekau became the insurgency’s de facto leader and mostly kept the different Boko Haram factions from fighting each other, instead focusing on overthrowing the Nigerian government. Supported by other jihadist organizations including al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, Shekau’s tactics were marked by extreme brutality and explicit targeting of civilians.

After years of fighting, the insurgents became increasingly aggressive and started to seize large areas in northeastern Nigeria. The violence escalated dramatically in 2014 with 10.849 deaths, while Boko Haram drastically expanded its territories.

At the same time, the insurgency spread to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Niger, thus becoming a major regional conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile, Shekau attempted to improve his international standing among jihadists by tacitly aligning with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in March 2015, with Boko Haram becoming the “Islamic State’s West Africa Province” (ISWAP)

The insurgents were driven back during the 2015 West African offensive by a Nigeria-led coalition of African and Western countries, forcing the Islamists to retreat into Sambisa Forest and bases at Lake Chad. Discontent about various issues consequently grew among Boko Haram. Dissidents among the movement allied themselves with IS’ central command and challenged Shekau’s leadership, resulting in a violent split of the insurgents. Since then, Shekau and his group are generally referred to as “Boko Haram”, whereas the dissidents continued to operate as ISWAP under Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The two factions consequently fought against each other while waging insurgencies against the local governments. After a period of reversals, Boko Haram and ISWAP launched new offensives in 2018 and 2019, again growing in strength.

When Boko Haram’s insurgency was at its peak in the mid-2010s, it was the world’s deadliest terrorist organization, in terms of the number of people it killed. In a bid to ensure dialog between government and the deadly sect, the President Jonathan administration set up a committee to grant an amnesty to the Boko Haram sect. Some details of the amnesty includes granting of pardons to Boko Haram fighters and also listening to clamour from different ethnic groups under the sect with a bid to ending the violence perpetrated by the deadly sect. This amnesty was rejected by the sect in an audio broadcast that was sent by its leader on the grounds that they are fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north and that it is the government that is committing atrocities against Muslims.

Nigerian statehood

Nigeria amalgamated both the Northern and Southern protectorate in 1914, 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. Sir Frederick Lugard assumed office as governor of both protectorates in 1912. 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 Muslim population.

The territory made up much of what is now Northeastern Nigeria, and a large part of the areas affected by the insurgency.