John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Guest Post: Shades of Anonymous in Boko Haram?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
August 29, 2012

A child wears a paper mask depicting Guy Fawkes during a protest by Anonymous India against laws they say gives the government control over censorship of Internet usage in Mumbai, June 9, 2012. (Vivek Prakash/Courtesy Reuters)


This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

Recently, Islamic cleric Ahmad Sheik Gumi criticized the government of Nigeria for its inability to fight terrorism and described Boko Haram as a “complex, interwoven social, religious and political disorder.” He said the “social component of it was represented by criminals,” and he stated that “Boko Haram is not an insurgency.”

Over the weekend, the Daily Trust newspaper reported that the government is engaged in “indirect discussions” with Boko Haram through “back channels.”  Presidential spokesman Reuben Abati commented on Boko Haram’s concern that “persons who are using the name of Boko Haram for political and criminal purposes are identified and checked.”

Boko Haram’s amorphous nature has long frustrated security officials, observers, and analysts.  For example, presumed leaders and members are apprehended and detained, yet the group’s violent activities continue.  If Abati’s remarks are correct, the group’s unconventional form is now an issue for some elements of Boko Haram itself.

The hacker insurgency Anonymous offers useful parallels, perhaps.  As explained by Wired writer Quinn Norton in “Inside Anonymous,”  that organization’s success is understandable only if “you forget everything you think you know about how organizations work.”  Writes Quinn, “Anonymous is a classic ‘do-ocracy’ … that means rule by sheer doing: Individuals propose actions, others join in (or not), and then the Anonymous flag is flown over the result.  There’s no one to grant permission, no promise of praise or credit, so every action must be its own reward.”  Many of Boko Haram’s “operations” seem to fit this model.  As for the view that common criminals are carrying out much of the violence attributed to Boko Haram, the alliance between Anonymous and the Occupy Movement, a group said to be composed of “society’s rejects,” represents a further intriguing comparison.

Ultimately, as Quinn points out, Anonymous became a “culture.”  The implications are global.  Nigeria appears to be experiencing a manifestation, but in the shadow of Marikana, so too is South Africa.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Chavuka

    I’m sorry to say this, but this analysis is nonsensical.

    If anyone doubts there is a central theme, theology or group of individuals directing and /or influencing the current round of violence against government targets, Christians and associated “enemies of fundamentalist Islam”, he needs to have his or her head examined.

    It is not the nature of Nigerian Muslims to engage in suicide bombing, so if they do, there must be a charismatic religious figure and radical theology behind it.

    Secondly, if a group of individuals graduate from using bows and arrows to using moderately sophisticated explosives in less than a year – there is more than “chaos” behind it.

    Finally, “Western analysts” should spend less time talking to each other and listen to what Nigerians on the ground have to say.

  • Posted by Tom Bombadil

    The use if the image from India is misleading…no? Placed to cue emotional triggers along with the headline. This discourse – the post and the analytical examples provided, express establishment paranoia about any form of human organization that does not move in terms of the strict limits demanded by the vertical hierarchical imaginary of the Church/State/Corporation. Deleuze and Guattari – A Thousand Plateaus provide the primary source for what has become pop theories of the rhizome.

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