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.
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.
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Great video featuring Dr Fatima Akilu, a psychologist, and the Director of Behavioural Analysis and Strategic Communication in the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA). Dr Akilu used to work as a psychologist for the UK’s National Health Service until she was hired by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser to assist in Nigeria’s battle with Boko Haram. Her role is to complement the military battle with Boko Haram with ‘soft power’ approaches aimed at socio-psychological approaches to countering Boko Haram.
Dr Akilu spoke in Washington DC, USA, at the Center For Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In this video she made some eye raising revelations such as:
- many Boko Haram members do not read, and have never read, the Koran. Their knowledge of orthodox Islam is poor.
- contrary to popular belief, most Boko Haram members do not join the group due to poverty. Rather the group offers youths a sense of belonging and Boko Haram takes advantage of youths’ desire for belonging, and transition into adulthood to recruit.
- Dr Akilu’s department focuses on a programme called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). CVE has four elements: (1) de-radicalisation (de-radicalising Boko Haram members in prison or those exposed to their doctrine), (2) counter-radicalisation (preventing people from being radicalised to begin with, identifying at risk youths and and pre-empting them from being recruited by Boko Haram – at ‘centers of imagination’), (3) strategic communication (countering and challenging Boko Haram’s narrative, rendering alternate non-violent interpretations of the Koran), and (3) a framework for psychology.
- Dr Akilu’s looked at battles against terrorism and insurgency in other countries such as Algeria, Australia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UK, USA, and spent a year researching other countries’ approaches to terrorism elsewhere.
- Not all Boko Haram members are uneducated. Some have degrees and PhDs.
- Many Boko Haram members have poor knowledge of the Koran and have never read it.
- Boko Haram tends to oppose western secular education, music, and arts – areas that encourage critical thinking in young people. The obvious subtext is that exposure to such subjects makes people more resistant to Boko Haram’s message.
Start watching from around 50 minutes.
“Most of these young men ended up killing their parents…their families, their friends. They have a list. They go one after another.”
The Nigerian National Security Adviser (NSA) Lt-Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retired) was spoke at Chatham House in London last week, in much publicised comments. Although Dasuki usually keeps a low profile he spoke frankly about many issues relating to Nigeria’s upcoming elections next month and the security threat posed by Boko Haram. Highlights from the NSA’s talk and answers to questions from the audience:
- He said that Nigeria will develop a new civil-military relations doctrine; to redefine how the military relates to the public – especially in areas where it conducts counter-insurgency operations. The military needs to move doctrinally from conventional warfare to asymmetric warfare. Nigeria has created a National Counter-Terrorism Center.
- He admitted that there have been “historical deficits” in the military; including the fact that the last significant weapons procurement for the Nigerian military was over two decades ago.
- He said his office will present a counter-insurgency narrative to undermine Boko Haram’s credibility and narrative by presenting “the true face of Islam” – counter to the message being presented by Boko Haram.
- The Nigerian government is open to negotiated solution to the Boko Haram insurgency, should Boko Haram be willing to dialogue.
- On allegations of sabotage in the army: Dasuki said the army has “a few cowards”.
- Boko Haram financing: he said Boko Haram obtains financing from bank and market robberies, kidnapping and ransom, and get fuel by staging fuel heists.
- The Baga attack: Chad and Niger troops withdrew from the military base in Baga, leaving only Nigerian troops there. Dasuki said the way the base was overrun was “not something anyone would be proud of”.
- Chibok girls: Dasuki thinks they have been dispersed, “some of them have been sold out…that is all we know”. United States officers are still conducting surveillance 24 hours a day. Nigeria has aerial surveillance footage, but he is “very hopeful but not very optimistic”.
- On the botched ceasefire announcement with Boko Haram: Chad’s President Idriss Deby received two letters purportedly sent to him by Boko Haram leaders who wanted to negotiate a ceasefire. Chad acted as an intermediary between Nigeria and Boko Haram. Dasuki stated his belief that there are “links” between the Chad government and Boko Haram’s leadership.
- Equipment of Nigerian Soldiers: Dasuki denied allegations that Nigerian soldiers are poorly armed/equipped. He reeled off a list of military equipment that Boko Haram captured from the Nigerian army in Baga, including: 6 armoured personnel carriers (each with at least 4000 rounds of ammunition each), and 4 artillery guns. He said lack of equipment is not the issue, but that there are “a lot cowards” among soldiers and that some of them “do not want to fight”.
- More than 70-80% of Boko Haram members are of Kanuri ethnicity.
Text of the NSA’s speech: Full text and video of Dasuki’s speech at Chatham House in London – DailyPost Nigeria
The Nigerian military has struggled to have any effect in the face of Boko Haram’s intensifying attacks. But with the right combination of military and non-military, short- and long-term strategies, the militants can be stopped, as Max Siollun explains.
Interviews with survivors of Boko Haram attacks and women who escaped from Boko Haram captivity. Some harrowing accounts of kidnapped girls being forced to convert to Islam, being forcefully married off to Boko Haram insurgents, raped or being beaten or used as servants.
When one of the victims, a 15-year-old girl, complained to a Boko Haram commander that she and the other abducted girls were too young for marriage, he pointed at his 5-year-old daughter, and said: “If she got married last year, and is just waiting till puberty for its consummation, how can you at your age be too young to marry?”
Twitter interview with journalist Ahmad Salkida on Boko Haram. Salkida is an expert on Boko Haram and knew its former leader Mohammed Yusuf. This is a deep and detailed list of posts by Salkida explaining Boko Haram’s ideology and aims (Storify).