Squashing Boko Haram

May 20, 2014 - 6:58:31 am

A shift in strategy is needed to deal with Boko Haram’s devastating streak.


A massive blast ripped through the entertainment district of Kano in northeast Nigeria late on Sunday, killing four and injuring many. The suicide blast was obviously meant to target bars in the area and bore the signs of notorious Islamist organisation Boko Haram, which has gained worldwide notoriety after it abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeastern city of Chibok. 

An international conference in Paris presided by French President Francois Hollande recently took stock of the threat the militant Islamists pose to the region and the world after the kidnappings. Initially caught napping, the government of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not do much to go after the militants and aggressively hunt the girls, who are both Muslims and Christians. Boko Haram, which translates to ‘western education is sin’ in the local Hausa language, has recently stepped up attacks. The latest assaults by the outfit point to a shift in strategy meant to raise its profile as a feared group that can take on the might of the state. 

The Nigerian government has miserably failed to stem the rising tide of the group, which parades terror in the form of blasts, suicide bombings and gun attacks. The kidnapping has earned Boko Haram much-needed publicity, a double-edge sword for terror groups. It has helped raise the profile of the group and instilled fear in the security forces. Nigerian troops complain of being poorly equipped to take on Boko Haram amid a sharp dip in the morale of the forces. 

Sunday’s attack came a day after the security summit was held in Paris to forge a strategy against the group. The meeting declared ‘war on Boko Haram’, but the attack on the entertainment district cocked a snook at the establishment. 

An international strategy against the Abubakar Shekau-led organisation is imperative. But the world needs a well-formulated and concrete plan that can decimate the militants and instill fear in anyone looking to step into Boko Haram’s shoes in the future. An immediate attack in the aftermath of the summit shows that it is hard to cower the militants by strategies alone. A concerted and well-planned international military action is needed to bring Boko Haram to its knees.

Any military strategy has to be formulated with porous international borders of the West African nation in mind. Boko Haram is likely to take advantage of the topography to move in and out of Nigeria and Cameroon. It could be that the kidnapped girls or at least some of them have been smuggled out of Nigeria into a neighbouring nation. 

Reining in Boko Haram can bring stability to the Opec nation and restore the confidence of Nigerians in their government. The biggest advantage of squelching the group would be crushing the designs of aspiring militant organisations.