John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Nigeria Security Tracker Shows Upsurge in Violence

by John Campbell
September 17, 2013

A woman carrying a child stands near burnt houses in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, adjacent to the Chadian border, April 21, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) has been updated with the data from August 2013. While my analysis of the data is, at the moment, preliminary, there appears to be a renewed upsurge in violence since the declaration of the state of emergency on May 14, 2013; contrary to official spokespersons.

The violence also seems to be of a different rhythm: there have been fewer incidents total over the past three months (June-August) than in the three months before that (February-May), but more incidents over the summer resulted in higher casualty rates. In the late spring and early summer, there were more incidences of ethnic and sectarian violence. In August, however, that pattern reversed. Boko Haram was involved in 261 deaths, while sectarian actors were involved in twenty-seven. Boko Haram victims appear to have been disproportionately from vigilante groups, especially in Borno state where the “Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF)” is being targeted. The “Civilian JTF” is an unarmed civilian auxiliary of the government’s Joint Task Force. It reports alleged members of Boko Haram to the authorities. Revenge against those in the community who are hostile to Boko Haram therefore appears to be an important element in this most recent increase in the violence.

Following the police murder of Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, Boko Haram tactics have taken on aspects of a civil war among Northern Nigerian Muslim communities. There has been a focus on killing those Muslims seen as collaborating with the state.

The insurgency is highly diffuse and probably lacks much internal cohesion or coordination. Alongside the conflicts among Muslim communities, there is also an ebb and flow of attacks on Christians. But a constant theme has been violence against the state and those Muslims who collaborate with it. And the “Civilian JTF” is collaborating with the government JTF.

Because the NST is based on public sources, mostly the Nigerian media, it almost certainly undercounts the number of victims, especially those killed by the security services. That said, the NST does provide a point of comparison among different time periods; and August was bloodier than July.

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    Wonderful insight on this unique subject!

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