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 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.
Great panel by the United States Institute for Peace that brought together a diverse audience to role-play and discuss how to end violent extremism in Nigeria.
A good television programme on PBS about the festival of Osun-Osgobo, which takes place every year in Osogbo, Nigeria. Details:
celebrates the goddess of fertility, Osun. The festival renews the contract between humans and the divine: Osun offers grace to the community; in return, it vows to honor her Sacred Grove. This ceremony is part of a rich indigenous Yoruba religious tradition that began in West Africa and has become one of the ten largest religions in the world, with upwards of 100 million practitioners.
Frequency: Annually in August
Duration: 12 days
Annual participants: 100,000
Honoring: Goddess Osun
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?”