Boko Haram; Ignoring Africa’s Islamic State

[Opinion] Boko Haram, a terrorist group active in Africa, have committed acts and atrocities the same as the Islamic State in the Middle East, but for three years longer. However, Boko Haram have been largely ignored within the international community.

Boko Haram are a major terrorist group active in Africa, particularly Nigeria, that has raided and terrorised villages across the region, executed and massacred large numbers of troops and attempted to form an Islamic Caliphate in northern Nigeria – all the same actions as the Islamic State has done in the Middle East, without the international response.

The international response to Boko Haram is almost laughable, almost entirely ignored by most of the international community. The African terrorist group commits as many atrocities – and as bad acts – as the Islamic State does in the Middle East. However, they do not gain the same recognition in the media or the same international response as the Middle Eastern group, primarily because of the disconnect from the group’s region of activity and the Western world.

The biggest farce in the entirety of the Boko Haram situation is the media coverage. Most news stations and press barely cover the events in Africa, disregarding the situation simply because of the issues in gathering this information. Boko Haram are known to cut all communications out of a town when they raid it, so it usually takes a few days for knowledge of the attacks to filter into press in larger towns from the remote areas – many sent by surviving villagers walking to the closest towns, often still many miles away, and phoning in the situation to journalists in the larger cities and regional capitals.

However, it is not the choice of media stations that annoys me the most about this situation. Instead, it is the lack of international recognition and response to the situation. Boko Haram, when identified within Western media, are seen as a modern problem, a group that they must watch grow into an Islamic State organisation until we react.

What these media almost always seem to neglect is the fact that Boko Haram’s insurgency war in Nigeria – and their establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in the north of the country – has been happening for five years, far longer than since the Islamic State broke away from al-Qaeda. The Nigerian Army has been trying to fight off the terrorist threat for several years now, but no international support is ever offered – as the general Western population is oblivious to the situation.

Even the neighbouring countries have only just decided to rectify the problem, with Chad and Cameroon offering military support only when the killings began to spill over into neighbouring countries. This is likely also due the areas that many of these regions occur in, in the remote north of Nigeria, where they see little threat to the world.

Despite this fact, of the remoteness of many of the attacks, the idea that their remote location nullifies their effort is foolish. By letting the group remain untouched in the area, they can grow, train and consolidate their forces. This will ultimately have a detrimental effect should they decide to attack larger targets. This has already been seen in the past, where the Nigerian Army has often found itself fighting Boko Haram militants who are armed with better equipment than themselves.

The biggest fact for this lack of understanding and knowledge of the situation in the West is because of the disconnect between the two regions. The Islamic State rose to fame due to their ties with al-Qaeda – being separated forcefully from the group due to being ‘too extreme’ (which is an achievement, to be ‘too extreme’ for the world’s most notorious extremist group) – as well as their public beheadings of Western captives.

Had the Islamic State not released this public, brutal executions, they would not have gained notoriety and, in turn, would not have seen the same volume of waves of Western extremists travelling to fight in the region. In effect, they would have been no more relevant to world as Boko Haram. However, they would have still probably seen the same level of international response, due to the oil reserves in the region – which makes the West far more willing to provide military support.

Finally, the situation with Boko Haram, and lack of public desire for intervention may have been caused also by the American to another, still active, terrorist group. Somali terror organisation al-Shabaab saw a major US intervention near the beginning of the 21st Century, and yet are still heavily active today. They acted in a similar manner to Boko Haram, but in a smaller scale. However, with American public knowing, while maybe not by name, of this form of terrorism’s prevalence in Africa, they may guilty – inadvertently – of underestimating the dangers of these African terrorist groups due to a sense of expectation for these events to occur in the region.

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Categories: Opinion

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