A History of #BokoHaram – According to its Leader’s Sons


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Two people claiming to be sons of the late Boko Haram founder and leader Mohammed Yusuf have written a history of the sect. You can read a full English translation of the history on the website of Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.

Boko Haram has been riven by internal splits and defections, most recently in 2016 when Yusuf’s son “Abu Musab al-Barnawi” led a faction which defected from the leadership of Abubakar Shekau.

Although the text appears largely to be an anti-Shekau polemic, it contains interesting details about the early days and evolution of the sect. It confirms that prior to his leadership of Boko Haram, Yusuf (Sr) was affiliated with the Muslim Izala group and also the Islamic Movement of Nigeria led by led by Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky.

  • An eye raising revelation is the great sophistication that Boko Haram had even before they became violent. The history reveals that it was a multi-layered group with several departments with different administrative responsibilities. These included:
    • Investigation Committee: which monitored the work of other departments;
    • Da’wa Committee: which toured, proselytised, and gave sermons;
    • Hisbah Committee: which was responsible for setting and implementing the sect’s rules;
    • Economic Committee: concerned with the sect’s financing, donations, and agricultural output;
    • Security: which was responsible of protecting the sect from outside elements, monitoring the sermons of sect members, and protecting the sect from infiltration; and
    • Charity Commission: which helped the elderly, widows and orphans.
  • The sect had a lot of contempt for other Muslim clerics such as Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmud Adam. However they denied being responsible for his murder in 2007, and instead blamed it on another radical group within the sect led by one Mohammed Ali.
  • They also excuse Yusuf Sr from responsibility for the “Nigerian Taliban” group that clashed with Nigerian authorities in Kannamma, north-eastern Nigeria between 2003 and 2004. They claim this group was also led by the same Mohammed Ali.

Overall, this is a valuable addition to the information on Boko Haram. It reveals it to be (pre-insurgency) to have been a highly structured organisation.

The excellent Alex Thurston has reviewed this history of Boko Haram here and here.

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