Boko Haram (BH)
Boko Haram (“Western education is forbidden”) is leading an insurgency to create an Islamic state in the predominantly Muslim regions of northeastern Nigeria. It originally acted as a reactionary Islamic, anti-government preaching group in 2002. BH has attracted young, disenfranchised recruits by linking government corruption to western influence, proposing its interpretation of Islam as the solution. BH progressively withdrew from society from 2002-2005, and began to impose its interpretation of Islamic law upon Borno's citizens. This led to increasing confrontations with police. A decisive trigger for BH militarisation and overt violence was the detention, torture and death of its spiritual leader, Mohammed Yusuf, while in custody in July 2009. ? BH’s attacks have extended across the whole Lake Chad region, including Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Precise numbers are not known, but BH’s strength has been estimated at around 15,000.?
In March 2015, BH pledged allegiance to the Islamic State as Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), though the strategic consequences of this are unclear. BH is likely to be an umbrella group with a decentralised command.
In August 2013, the 7th division of Nigeria’s army was established and put in charge of fighting Boko Haram. The military campaign was poorly equipped and suffered from corruption and desertions. Consequently, Nigerian forces made little headway against BH until mid-late 2015, which was attributed in part to a crackdown on dissent within the army, resupplying soldiers, and moving the army’s headquarters from Abuja to Maiduguri.?The military has been accused of committing human rights abuses against civilians.?
The Multinational Joint Task Force
The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has 8,700 military and civilian personnel, including contingents from Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria.? The MNJTF’s mandate includes the protection of civilians under immediate threat of attack from BH.?The US, the UK and France have supported the MNJTF with training, advice, logistics and equipment.?
The Civilian Joint Task Force
Vigilantism against BH began in 2013 and vigilantes work closely with the military against Boko Haram. While vigilantism was effective in flushing BH out from Maiduguri, it led to drastic increases in violence throughout Borno state as communities were enabled to fight BH themselves. Between 26,000 and 45,000 members have been recruited, covering 22 of Borno's 27 LGAs.? They are equipped with a variety of makeshift weapons, including pipes and swords, along with conventional arms, and are often supported locally. However, vigilantes have been accused of human rights abuses, including sexual violence in IDP camps and killing people on suspicion of being Boko Haram sympathisers or operatives.?
Islamic Movement of Nigeria
The Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) is a Shi'a-led anti-government, reactionary movement, based primarily in Kaduna state. It comprises both Sunni and Shi'a adherents.The Nigerian army conducted operations against the group in 2015 and 2016.? Its membership was estimated at several thousand in 2016.?On 1 August 2016, the commission of inquiry examining the operations called for everyone involved in the killings to be prosecuted.? Peaceful protests in September were met with arbitrary arrests, censorship and violent repression.? On 12 October, police and military reportedly killed 10 IMN members across northern Nigeria during clashes following Ashura, a major Shi'a festival.? The anti-government stance, reactionary preaching, and government crackdown against IMN make it comparable to BH in its early stages, before BH turned violent in 2008.