> Vol. 5, No 2. 2015 > Lessons From Colombia For Curtailing The Boko Haram Insurgency In Nigeria

Lessons From Colombia For Curtailing The Boko Haram Insurgency In Nigeria

09 2015

Nigeria is a highly complex and ethnically diverse country, with over 400 ethnic groups. This diversity is played out in the way the country is bifurcated along the lines of religion, language, culture, ethnicity and regional identity. The population of about 178.5 million people in 2014 is made up of Christians and Muslims in equal measures of about 50 percent each, but including many who embrace traditional religions as well. The country has continued to experience serious and violent ethno-communal conflicts since independence in 1960, including the bloody and deadly thirty month fratricidal Civil War (also known as the Nigerian-Biafran war, 1967-70) when the eastern region of Biafra declared its secession and which claimed more than one million lives. The most prominent of these conflicts recently pitch Muslims against Christians in a dangerous convergence of religion, ethnicity and politics. The first and most dramatic eruption in a series of recent religious disturbances was the Maitatsine uprising in Kano in December 1980, in which about 4,177 died. While the exact number of conflicts in Nigeria is unknown, because of a lack of reliable statistical data, it is estimated that about 40 percent of all conflicts have taken place since the country’s return to civilian rule in 1999.1 The increasing wave of violent conflicts across Nigeria under the current democratic regime is no doubt partly a direct consequence of the activities of ethnocommunal groups seeking self-determination in their “homelands,” and of their surrogate ethnic militias that have assumed prominence since the last quarter of 2000. Their grievances have typically found expression in bitter political complaints, sectarian crises stoked by political elites and incendiary media rhetoric, and violent insurgencies. The latest among these violent and decimating sectarian grievances is the Boko Haram insurgency. Boko Haram, a violent but diffuse Islamist sect, has grown increasingly active and deadly in its attacks against state and civilian targets in recent years