John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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A Very Bad Week for Nigeria

by John Campbell
April 22, 2014

A man walks between vehicles that were destroyed during an attack by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


Below is the Weekly Update for April 12-17 from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST). It can also be found here. Last week was Holy Week and Passover. It was probably the worst week for violence and carnage since Nigeria’s 1967-70 civil war.

Boko Haram’s attack on a suburban Abuja bus station, for which it has claimed responsibility, has received much media attention. Last week there was also the kidnapping of perhaps more than 200 high school girls in Borno state, for which the group has not claimed responsibility.

The Weekly Update is of particular use this week because it highlights other violent episodes in parts of the country outside Borno state and Abuja. Two children of the of Kogi state’s assembly speaker were kidnapped and a mob lynched a suspected kidnapper in Kwara state. There was also ethnic violence in Taraba state in the Middle Belt. Indeed, the Weekly Update shows that while most of the political and ethnic violence was in Borno and Abuja, it was also to be found in many other parts of the country. The bus station victims are described by the media as “working class.” The kidnapped school girls may be seen as members of an elite because they were about to become high-school graduates. Victims of ethnic strife were usually farmers and herdsmen.

I doubt if Passover played any role in the timing of Boko Haram attacks; there are no indigenous Jews in Nigeria, though a small group of Igbos claim to be. Boko Haram and like-minded groups occasionally use anti-Semitic rhetoric, but it has not been a preoccupation. On the other hand, in the past, a Boko Haram splinter group, Ansaru, has targeted churches for attack during major Christian holidays. There have been warnings from the Nigerian authorities about the need for vigilance over Easter. Of late, Abubakar Shekau’s anti-Christian rhetoric has also been more strident.

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