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Boko Haram Slaving Is An Atrocity Too Far
by James Dunnigan
May 22, 2014

May 1, 2014: The nation is in an uproar over an April 14 th incident in the northeast (the Sambisa forest where the borders of Borno, Yobe and Adamwa states meet) where Boko Haram raided a boarding school for teenage girls and kidnapped over 200 students and some of the young women on the faculty. Fears that the captives, aged 16-18, would be used for sex and slave labor (around the camps) were apparently realized. While being transported to the terrorist camps more than 40 of the girls escaped but over 200 remained missing and the army was  criticized for the inept way they handed the search. Specific criticisms involved not interviewing all the escaped girls and not sending troops to guard the school as that was where some of the escaped girls were returning.

The public is appalled that such a large Boko Haram force, travelling in over a dozen vehicles, could attack the school and then raid several more villages while driving back to their forest hideouts and not be detected or intercepted by the security forces. As a practical matter the military is in a tough position. If they establish a lot of checkpoints in the northeast, in areas where Boko Haram is believed to have camps in the mountainous forests, Boko Haram can mass enough gunmen to attack these checkpoints with a fair chance of success. That means highly visible “defeats” for the army and a blow to morale because of the dead and wounded soldiers. The army doesn’t like to discuss this very real conundrum they are in and are hoping that one of their field commanders will come up with new tactics that will speed up the detection and destruction of the Boko Haram camps and the Islamic terrorists who depend on them. Without these bases the Boko Haram cannot organize large raiding parties nor have a safe place to store their loot and slaves. Without their camps, many of them just across the border in Cameroon, Boko Haram is forced to operate in smaller, less effective, groups that are easier to deal with and destroy.

Political and army leaders fear that the uproar over the kidnapped girls will persist and force the security forces to take desperate measures (and suffer lots of casualties) in order to “do something.” Meanwhile the outrage is hurting Boko Haram as well, with fewer new recruits seeking to join. The Boko Haram response has been to make deals with local criminal gangs wherein the gangs participate in some of the Boko Haram raids for a share of the loot. The gangs, who are usually based on tribal affiliation in a town or group of villages, are often smugglers and thus tolerated by the locals. Boko Haram does business with smugglers which is how they are able to connect with the gangs. These gangs won’t raid in the areas where they are from (and would be recognized and that would trigger reprisals) but most neighboring villages and towns are a different matter, especially if they are populated by people from another tribe. The gangsters are recognized (by mannerisms and accent) by survivors of the raids and this leads to more self-defense militias and calls to be allowed to possess legal firearms (there’s the lot of illegal stuff along the border). The security forces don’t want more legal firearms in the hands of people along the border, but may have to give a bit on that point if they want more effective cooperation from the locals.

The government has asked the neighboring states of Cameroon, Chad, Benin, and Niger for help in locating and rescuing the kidnapped and enslaved girls. This tragedy has become big news throughout the region and some cooperation is expected. The fact that the incident has become a major news story makes it a major media defeat for Boko Haram, who always strive to portray themselves as devout reformers, not brutal self-righteous thugs. The Boko Haram resort to slaving resonates deeply in northern and central Nigeria for Bornu state was once the center of an empire that grew rich by enslaving other Africans and selling them to Arab traders who transported the slaves to Arabia. This trade continued until the British colonial government suppressed it in the 19th century. Bitter memories linger and the Boko Haram slaving has opened an old wound.

April 27, 2014: People living in the northeastern forests report that Boko Haram conducted mass marriage ceremonies for most of the teenage girls kidnapped on the 14th. The Boko Haram men paid the kidnappers about $12 for each “bride”. This is a common practice for Islamic terrorists, especially in Africa. This enables the new husbands to justify raping their new bride and forcing her to be, in effect, his personal slave. The captured women will maintain the camp and, if necessary, carry loads if the Islamic terrorists are forced to move long distances on foot. If the military attacks the camp and some of the slaves are killed, Boko Haram can accuse the government of an atrocity.

Elsewhere in the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen raided a town and took several young women and a Christian clergyman captive.

April 26, 2014: In central Nigeria (Taraba state) several Boko Haram gunmen, trying to pass themselves off as nomadic herders, were arrested by police. Few Boko Haram have been encountered outside the three northeastern states where the Islamic terrorists originated and have been most active. This incident is another indication that Boko Haram continues to be interested in expanding its activities beyond the three northeastern states.

Elsewhere in central Nigeria (Nasarawa state) a tribal dispute turned violent and left over twenty dead and many more wounded. Earlier in April an army raid on a Boko Haram base in the area left over thirty dead. Many weapons and crude bombs (and bomb making materials) were seized. Locals reported the presence of the Islamic terrorists and the army quickly responded. Nasarawa is just north of Plateau state where there has been years of violence between Moslem herders and Christian farmers. The army recently deployed a task force to Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states to deal with the growing activity of armed groups.

April 24, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state, outside the town of Bulanbuli) a raid on a Boko Haram camp left four soldiers and over 40 Islamic terrorists dead. Some Boko Haram were captured along with 16 firearms, lots of ammo, bomb making materials and documents.

April 23, 2014: In central Nigeria (Taraba state) Fulani tribesmen attacked a Christian village and killed 17 people. This is part of a pattern of tribal fighting in the area that has left over 500 dead so far this year. The Moslem nomadic Fulani tribesmen have been fighting with Christian and pagan farmers in central and southeastern Nigeria for years and also raiding Moslem farmers in the north. The violence has gotten worse now and there were over a thousand casualties in 2013 and it looks to be worse this year. Boko Haram has recently claimed involvement, but that appears to be marginal. The Fulani have long claimed that the government was sending Christian police to persecute them because of their religion (not because they were constantly attacking Christian farmers). The settled (farming) tribes have been there a long time and in the last few decades more Fulani have come south looking for pasturage and water for their herds and have increasingly used force to get what they want.

 


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