Thursday, March 7, 2013

Boko Haram update

Over a year ago, I wrote a piece entitled Numb to violence. Ostensibly it was about an Islamic sect known as Boko Haram (which literally means "western education forbidden") operating in northeastern Nigeria, but was actually using the actions of that group as an example of how we--in the West--are largely oblivious to daily stories of horror, of barbaric action, in other parts of the world. But now I'd like to turn back to that page and focus on Boko Haram, proper.

Boko Harum has been operating in Nigeria since the beginning of the twenty-first century and authorities believe it is responsible for as many as 10,000 deaths. Many of those deaths are government forces incurred in military skirmishes against Boko Haram, but many more are innocent civilians, executed by Boko Haram operatives for a variety of reasons, usually having something to do with the West or Christianity. Case in point, a largely ignored (by the mainstream media) story came out of Nigeria this week involving the execution of some thirteen factory workers by members of Boko Haram in Kano province:
Reports said terrorists stormed the residence of the factory workers at the weekend and killed all the men except, sparing the women and children..  
“The occupants of that compound are mostly factory workers, and they are Christians. The gun men who came in taxi asked if they were not observing the evening Muslim prayers; and when they confirmed their victims were Christians, they started killing them sparing only the female and children.  
“After the attack, I counted at least 13 dead bodies murdered in gruesome manner. Security agencies later came and evacuated them, while the very few of them who survived the attack fled the area and vowed never to return,” said a resident of the area.
Thirteen dead men, guilty of naught but being Christian, workers in a local factory trying to provide for their now-devastated families. I have no idea who these men were, really. There are no pictures and no names to put together in this regard, just lines of text declaring their senseless deaths.

Nigerian authorities, even though they are in conflict with Boko Haram for the most part, don't seem particularly concerned, they're even lowering the body count to eight, despite the fact that CAN (the Christian Association of Nigeria) is quite certain that the number is higher:
However, Kano CAN chairman, Bishop Bello disputed the position of the CP that eight people instead of the 13 presented by him were affected; “I insist the number of Christians who were shot dead in that raid were 13. We have the record, their names and places of birth, and may be tempted to publish them in full if the argument on this figure continues.”
Personally, I hope CAN and Bishop Bello do publish their names (provided that doing so doesn't put any of the victims' families in danger). These people are victims of senseless violence, of a vicious group of thugs hiding under the banner of religion. And they--the victims--deserve to be recognized in full. I'm reminded of the movie The Interpreter, wherein the brother of the character played by Nicole Kidman spends his time compiling lists of the dead, of those killed by violence in his home country, an African nation beset by revolutionary violence and tyranny.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, himself a Christian, is between a rock and a hard place on this issue. While Nigerian security forces openly engage Boko Haram fighters when the opportunity presents itself, the movement is not one that can be easily stamped out; action against it on a domestic front could cause too much friction with Nigeria's general Muslim population. To that end, Jonathan even suggested the possibility of amnesty for Boko Haram members during a visit to the northeast region of the nation, an idea initially put forth by a Muslim cleric in Nigeria:
“I cannot talk about amnesty with Boko Haram now until they come out and show themselves,” Jonathan told reporters in Yobe state capital Damaturu, a town regularly hit by the sect’s guerrilla style bomb and gun attacks.  
Nigeria’s Muslim spiritual leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, suggested this week members of Boko Haram should be offered an amnesty, similar to the one given to militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta in 2009.
While I understand the position Jonathan is in, I am nonetheless disgusted by this idea, amnesty for a bunch of murdering thugs. And I worry that international voices of authority will not object in the least to such an offering.

At the end of last year, the ICC was seemingly preparing to move against Boko Harum, but now--some four months later--what has happened? Very little, from what I can see.

In my previous piece, I quoted both Benjamin Franklin and John Stuart Mill, on the subjects of freedom and fighting for the same. I'll not repeat them here, but they both remain apropos. Groups like Boko Haram are a blight on humanity. Their actions deserve far more attention than they most often get; Americans, as a people who espouse ideals of liberty, should be leading on this issue, crying out against such daily horrors. And our erstwhile media should actually be reporting on these events, not leaving it for bloggers like me.

Cheers, all.


  1. not entirely related, but since you blogged about the guy, you'll probably be interested to know that Chad claims to have killed Belmokhtar in Mali

  2. Thanks for the update Dm, I hadn't seen that!