Yesterday, the Nigerian government and its neighbors declared war on Boko Haram, a an Islamist terrorist group responsible for the kidnapping of 276 school girls and the killing of many others in Nigeria. The declaration took place as the result of a summit in Paris, hosted by French President Francois Hollande, to address the issue of Boko Haram’s continued violence in the region resulting in Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathon declaring that Boko Haram is now “operating clearly as an al-Qa’ida organization.”
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said: “We are here to declare war on Boko Haram.” Idriss Deby of Chad said it would be “total war”.
The idea that Boko Haram could be become an African al-Qa’ida is not a new one and as far back as 2011 then head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham stated that the leader of Boko Haram, Shekau, “had forged increasing ties with the Mali-based Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM) terror group” which is a true offshoot of the Middle Eastern-based terrorist group.
So, after initially denying that any kidnapping had even occurred, the Nigerian government, indeed the entire region at large, is now taking the problem seriously. And, while credit is deserved for what appears to be countries organizing regionally against the problem, it was the people of Nigeria that first stood up for themselves prior to any Western involvement or the acknowledgement of their own government.
The #BringBackOurGirls campaign originated in Nigeria and brought global awareness to what had become a continual problem of terrorist attacks occurring in Nigerian villages. In addition, last week residents of Kalabalge village took matters into their own hands in the fight against Boko Haram.
Brave resident of Kalabalge village in Borno State have repelled an early morning attack by Boko Haram insurgents on their community traditional fighting equipment and charms on Tuesday.
The villagers killed several of the attackers and captured about 10 of the invaders alive.
The insurgents, numbering over 300 launched their attack around 4am today but were met by armed villages who had prior knowledge of the attack.
“They wanted to attack us just the way they did in Bama, Konduga and Damboa, but we got the wind of it and all of us laid ambush for them; when they neared the village, we opened fire using our Dane duns, double barrel rifles and bows-and-arrows.
Dane guns are usually locally made hunting rifles, often primitive flintlocks.
It remains to be seen what “total war” will consist of in this case. It could well be an indiscriminate and terribly bloody affair given the history of what total war has generally consisted of in Africa. However, action is being taken and it appears to be united action. As always, it is the people that are setting the tone and leading the way.
One last thing, Western support for African nations fighting against Boko Haram in Nigeria and AQIM in Mali does risk uniting African Islamists. It’s something to be on the lookout for as is the risk of increasing sectarian animosity in a nation roughly split between Muslims on one side and Christians and Animists on the other.