Why are Boko Haram still not defeated?



President Buhari of Nigeria

The world’s attention is focused on the San Bernadino attack with links to terrorism as was in Paris. The refugee crisis and the expanding global war in the Middle East also remains at the forefront. But the majority of terrorist attacks in Nigeria goes mainly unnoticed by media outlets and the international community at large.

Formally known as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, or People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad, Boko Haram’s violent campaign to create an Islamic state has inflicted terror and death across Northeast Nigeria. We in the West would be hard pressed to even imagine a portion of the horrific persecution that Nigerian Christians have experienced for their faith in Christ.

Boko Haram is the equivalent of ISIS in Nigeria and listed as the world’s most deadly terror organization of 2014. They have not been eliminated as promised, while African nations argue and debate the means to rid themselves of these extreme Islamic militants. Major General Muhammadu Buhari had been chosen by the Nigerian people as the new president and took office in May 2015. Buhari, a Muslim, had been elected, even by the Christian majority in the south, largely for his campaign pledge to defeat the notorious Boko Haram. Buhari had promised the Boko Haram would no longer be a threat by this month, December 2015, yet suicide attacks continue even spreading out to surrounding nations. Though the military has made advances, Boko Haram continues to be a threat. Nigerians are forced to remain hopeful, but many question Buhari’s tactics and have lost faith in his ability to contain the militant group and protect Nigeria’s citizens.

The previous president, Goodluck Jonathon and his administration had been overwhelmed and unable to conquer the radicals, who are the greatest threat to Nigeria’s northeast population. Johnathon had asked the U.S. for help, but serious aid was not forthcoming. Last November (2014), Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye slammed the U.S. for refusing to sell his country the weapons needed to deliver “the killer punch” to defeat Boko Haram militants. He added, “The Nigerian leadership… are not satisfied with the scope, nature and content of the United States’ support for us in our struggle against terrorists,” and “We find it difficult to understand how and why in spite of the US presence in Nigeria with their sophisticated military technology Boko Haram should be expanding and becoming more deadly.”

The US condemned the attacks by Boko Haram, but repeatedly called for the Nigerian army to show restraint as it sought to hunt down the militants and not give in to reprisals. However, Adefuye insisted the fault lay with Washington. “The US government has up till today refused to grant Nigeria’s request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time,” he said. Trying to urging members of the Council on Foreign Relations, he said, “The terrorists threaten our corporate existence and territorial integrity.” Pleading Nigeria’s case with the US administration, he added, “A friend in need is a friend indeed. The true test of friendship is in the times of adversity.” But the aid Nigeria sought did not come and Boko Haram felt more empowered with each new brutal attack in their terror campaign.

In July, President Obama welcomed President Buhari as someone committed to fighting corruption and a breath of fresh air compared to Goodluck Jonathan. He remarked, “We very much look forward to talking about security issues, how we can cooperate on counterterrorism.” But Buhari surprised current and former United States officials, when he also criticized the United States for refusing to sell his country weapons in the fight against Boko Haram. He blamed Washington for his country’s failure to eliminate the terrorists and brushed aside reports of human rights violations by the Nigerian military, which he said were unproven. In October, Obama said the US would deploy up to 300 troops for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations to Cameroon and would remain until no longer needed.

A multinational coalition taskforce had been designed to take down the Boko Haram when neighboring nations began suffering Boko Haram attacks. But a report by World Bulletin, ‘Regional anti-Boko Haram coalition in jeopardy‘ described the regional alliance as collapsed and appeared to have withered away.

The 8,700 soldiers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin was put together and set to be deployed by the end of July. But over four months have gone by and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has yet to begin operations. Concerns were raised by the recent reported pullout of Chadian forces from the alliance.

A top security analyst in Nigeria said all the nations appear to have underrated the capabilities of Boko Haram in the early days of their alliance talks. Repeated suicide attacks in major cities of the collaborating countries have made them rethink their involvement in the regional effort to face the Boko Haram. Notably, suicide bombings have been rampant in Nigeria, but Niger, Chad and Cameroon hadn’t experience the onslaught of suicide attacks until the second quarter of 2015.

“Whereas the Nigerian commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was quoted mid-September as saying that the country’s contingent had fully deployed to the mission area, the country’s Chief of Defense Staff intimated late in November that the erstwhile very bullish Chadian forces had curiously not deployed for the joint operations.”

The analyst concluded the arrangement appears to be stalling as a result of dwindling political will,  lack of resources and poor logistics, and warned of “grave consequences” for all the countries should the alliance collapse.

In April, The Internal Displacement Centre reported during the first half of 2015, the increase in the of the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Nigeria was due to ongoing violence in the north-east as well as the return of refugees who have not been able to settle back in their places of origin. The biggest rise in the number of IDPs was registered in Borno state, one of the three north-eastern states most affected by Boko Haram violence, followed by Adamawa and Yobe.

Over the past few years, the number of people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency has risen immensely. The United Nations confirmed that Nigeria’s Displaced Persons are now one of the highest in the World with 2.2 million displaced. Imagine the number of children who’ve been unable to go to attend school during the crisis.

The Borno state region has suffered the terror insurgency for the past 6 years. Many have been on the run, while moving from camp to camp looking for safety. Often they’ve felt unsafe in ‘designated’ government or U.N. camps with horrid conditions, sickness and little food. Many Christians have described further persecution and pressures to convert to Islam by Muslim IDP’s. There have also been reports of recognized Boko Haram members infiltrating these camps.

Recently, the Nigerian government has announced plans to begin closing all camps reserved for Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps by the first quarter of 2016. Camps in Adamawa State at the end of December and Borno State camps in January. The National Emergency Management Agency is urging all IDPs to do go voluntarily before they are forced to evacuate. 

“With the increased pace of rebuilding all destroyed communities by the state’s Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, all the displaced people are expected to return to their homes in the next six months,” said Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima.

We pray the government will do all it can to help bring back normalcy to their lives. The damage caused by the Boko Haram is great, rebuilding communities and will not happen overnight. Until the terror group has been subdued, villages will be at risk of repeated attacks.

A large number have been in this situation for years. They want to go home—they want to rebuild—they are tired of living in limbo, but what are the risks?

The insurgency by Boko Haram extremists in north-east Nigeria, the epicentre of the crisis, has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and many believe it’s far from over. We cannot be silent and will continue to be their voice. We will stand by them and remember them constantly in our prayers.

The refugee (IDP) camp Voice of the Persecuted is helping to aid has grown to over 400 people. Based on the latest mission assessment report, it has been logically determined many areas, particularly the villages of Gwoza, remain too dangerous for return. A large number, including the children in the camp, have suffered great emotional trauma and need counselling to overcome. Most in the camp come from villages which were completely destroyed and still considered at risk. They will not be leaving the camp anytime soon and needs continue to rise. A recent outbreak of Cholera is also a concern. It is believed to be coming from a nearby, unsanitary well. To protect them from further illness, a source of clean water is critical and a temporary well must be constructed. We need your help! Many find it harder to give during the Christmas season, but even a small amount will be so greatly appreciated to bring hope through the gift of clean water and protect them from preventable disease.

Voice of the Persecuted is helping to support persecuted Christians in Northeast Nigeria. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.

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