John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Boko Haram, Negotiations, and the Nigerian Federal Government

by John Campbell
November 5, 2012

Security forces confront angry citizens at a roadblock after a bombing in Nigeria 11/03/2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


Jacob Zenn, of the Jamestown Foundation, had a response to my November 2nd post Boko Haram Offers Cease Fire Opportunity? He writes:

“The “Abu Muhammed Ibn Abdulaziz” who spoke with the media seems to have the same name as an ‘Abu Muhammad’ who reportedly spoke of negotiations with the government in Saudi Arabia several months ago. At that time Boko Haram leader Abu Shekau and Shekau’s spokesperson vehemently denied such negotiations, claiming Abu Muhammed was a “fake”.”

This observation adds weight to my sense that these negotiations will go nowhere.

Jacob Zenn also kindly brought to my attention an article he wrote for the CTC Sentinel, “Boko Haram’s Dangerous Expansion into Northwest Nigeria,” published last month. The article contains a detailed analysis of Boko Haram. I found especially useful its discussion of how Boko Haram seems to be splintering.  New to me was his conclusion that Boko Haram’s goals include the transfer of spiritual authority away from the sultan of Sokoto to itself.  He also undertakes a nuanced discussion of the relationship between Boko Haram and AQIM.

I highly recommend the article, not least because, among many other things, Boko Haram appears to be a civil war among Muslims. Yet the movement’s religious dimension is often overlooked. It is also quickly forgotten that the Sultan of Sokoto supported the southern Christian Goodluck Jonathan’s candidacy for the presidency against the northern Muslim Muhammadu Buhari in the 2011 elections.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Chike Chukudebelu

    Western analysts discount the religious dimension of Boko Haram, because they are extremely uncomfortable discussing religion.

    (Johnnie Carson said that “Boko Haram has nothing to do with religion”)

    Any honest Nigerian would tell you that there is a religious component to Boko Haram.

  • Posted by Zainab

    “Boko Haram appears to be a civil war among Muslims”. Such an interesting way to coin it. The main Boko Haram has always been and is against all forms of established authority: including the “secular” government at the centre, state governments and the mainstream Islamic establishment all perceived by the sect, to be “corrupted” by “Western influence”.

    The war against “boko” (education) according to this mindset, covers everything that has been “tainted” by the “corrupting influence” of this boko: this covers a wide array of targets such as brothels, drinking joints, churches, Islamic clerics perceived to be moderates, government buildings, primary schools etc.

    Religion is the main tool for recruitment, esp of bombers and foot soldiers.

    What is critical though, is that Boko Haram is not only fragmented and splintered, but seems to evolve continuously and rapidly. This is at once, both a threat and a potential opportunity that could be exploited in countering the insurgency. Fragmentation implies that there is serious powerplay going on…

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