Date
14 December 2017
Women queue for food at a refugee center in Chad after fleeing violence in Nigeria. Boko Haram militants have razed many villages and murdered hundreds in West Africa, but world powers have largely chosen to ignore that mayhem. Photo: Reuters
Women queue for food at a refugee center in Chad after fleeing violence in Nigeria. Boko Haram militants have razed many villages and murdered hundreds in West Africa, but world powers have largely chosen to ignore that mayhem. Photo: Reuters

Why Boko Haram is getting away with murder

Boko Haram, the Nigeria-based Islamic militant group, destroyed two towns in the country recently. Last year, the group kidnapped a number of female students.

But apart from regional reports, there was limited international coverage. Compared to the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, the massacre in Nigeria was not reported proportionally. What are the reasons for this?

Perhaps because the timing, location and people involved are both unexpected for the murders in Paris, which is right in the middle of the European civilization. Availability of many first-hand photos and videos also makes the attack much easier to be reported worldwide.

The Nigeria mayhem, by comparison was considered nothing new, given that Boko Haram has been active for years. It’s also much more difficult to get hold of any related pictures or footage.

Primarily active only in West Africa, Boko Haram itself rarely posts terror videos on the internet either.
There are many reasons why the group is not the top priority for the international community.

The Nigerian army does not want the international community to step into local affairs, as it fears that its own violation of human rights will be exposed.

Similar to other strongman regimes, they would like to tackle the domestic problems on their own. Boko Haram fully understands and takes advantage on this government thinking, and has almost formed a kingdom of its own in areas bordering Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Major western powers are hesitant about getting involved in West Africa unrest. The United States has already been busy with Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Obama has enough headaches deciding on sending or withdrawing the troops, or how to send or withdraw them, from those places. The United States and other great powers neither have the momentum nor the capacity to engage in West Africa.

The United Kingdom seldom acts on its own. France sent its troops to Mali for anti-terrorist missions, largely because of a large Malian community in France, not merely because of the human rights situation in Mali.

If the center of the global war on terror suddenly turns from Middle East to West Africa, the great powers will need to adjust their geopolitical strategies. But there is no reason for them to do so now.

As for the Islamic regimes, they will not look for trouble, as they are afraid that their own radicals will form alliances with the terror groups in West Africa.

– Contact us at [email protected]

RC

Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe