Women have suffered violence and abuse by Boko Haram, but they are not only victims: some joined the jihadists voluntarily, others fight the insurgency, or work in relief and reconciliation. Women’s experiences should inform policies to tackle the insurgency, and facilitate their contribution to peace.
Boko Haram (BH) attacks and military counter operations continued. BH attacked three army positions in Yobe and Borno states 7-25 Jan, eleven soldiers and scores of insurgents reportedly killed; attempted to seize IDP camp at Rann 19 Jan, but army repelled them, killing eight. BH stepped up attacks on civilians: twelve suicide bombings in Borno and Adamawa states 4-31 Jan killed at least 34 people including bombers. BH raided Dagu, Askira Uba LGA 23 Jan abducting seven women; ambushed commercial vehicles on Maiduguri-Damboa road 28 Jan killing eight civilians and two soldiers. Army reported progress in “clearance operations” mostly in NE of Borno state: arrested four BH in Madaki 13 Jan; killed thirteen BH and rescued 48 women and children in Dikwa LGA 15 Jan; attacked BH hideout near Tumbum Rego 16 Jan. Air force 17 Jan mistakenly bombed IDP camp in Rann, Borno state: presidency admitted govt responsibility same day, aid workers 19 Jan said 76 killed but local govt chair 22 Jan said 234 corpses buried; govt promised investigation. Niger Delta situation remained fragile: long-dormant insurgent group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta 2 Jan passed “vote of no confidence” on President Buhari’s management of crisis; Niger Delta Avengers 6 Jan threatened to attack oil installations, claiming govt not ready for talks; Niger Delta Warriors 13 Jan threatened mass protests if Buhari did not meet their demands within fourteen days but failed to act after deadline. Federal govt 15 Jan met ethnic and political leaders in Delta state but not armed group leaders; no agreement reached. Unidentified assailants blew up govt-owned pipeline in Ughelli, Delta state. In Kaduna state in north centre, soldiers deployed to help police end communal violence. Shiite Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) 25 Jan protested in Abuja as federal govt did not comply with court order to release IMN leader by 16 Jan; govt appealed order. Several incidents of herder-farmer violence reported: at least thirteen killed in clashes in Bosso LGA, Niger state 10 and 14 Jan. Suspected bandits 15 Jan killed ten youths in Abaji, Benue state. Security operatives broke up rally by pro-Biafra agitators in Port Harcourt, Rivers state 20 Jan; agitators said eleven members killed, police denied deaths.
Nigeria’s military is in distress. President Muhammadu Buhari’s over-due reforms aren’t yet enough to turn an under-resourced, over-stretched and corrupt army back into a professional force. A complete overhaul is needed, including accountability for human rights abuses, if Nigerians are not to be left at the mercy of Boko Haram and other armed groups.
Boko Haram is losing ground, resources and fighters. But defeating the group and preventing a future insurgency needs more than military success. The 14 May summit in Abuja is an opportunity for Nigeria and its Lake Chad basin neighbours to prepare and implement what's been long overdue: a holistic response to the extremist group.
The Niger Delta is rich in resources, but poverty, unemployment and pollution could reignite a rebellion that ended in 2009. Despite the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, Nigeria must fulfil its promises of support for the southern delta’s economic development, social justice, and environmental regeneration.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
Nigeria’s politics is sliding dangerously towards violence before, during and after the February 2015 elections. With only three months to the polls, mitigating bloodshed requires urgent improvements in security and electoral arrangements, as well as in political mind-sets.
The Nigerian government owes [the Chibok girls'] parents and the public the fundamental responsibility of accounting for every one of them.
[Nigeria's IPOB group's] separatist demands are actually drawing attention to certain fundamental flaws in the nation's federal system, particularly on the rights of citizens.
For some women trapped in domestic life, Boko Haram offers an escape. But this reflects a huge abyss of desperation among women and a failure of society in the northeast [of Nigeria].
We have to think very carefully about the use of violence [against Boko Haram], sometimes it is necessary, but it mustn’t aggravate the situation, rather it must help to reduce or resolve the conflict. Force should be used cautiously.
Only a quarter [of Boko Haram's recruits] learned about the group at mosques or Islamic schools. [They] used to be the place to get new recruits, but now they are under the spotlight.
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.
It is largely because of women’s compromised position in society that insurgent groups such as Boko Haram can continue to survive.
Originally published in Mail and Guardian Africa
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