Rioting, burning villages, gunmen shooting churchgoers, calls for holy war on the radio, bomb attacks on army bases – the fires are not going out in Nigeria. The BBC reports on the most recent violence:
Riots have broken out in a northern Nigerian town after a church was attacked by unknown gunmen, leaving at least two dead and 14 wounded…Kaduna is divided along political, ethnic and religious lines and the BBC’s Nura Ringim in the state says it is thought to be a revenge attack.Thousands of Muslim Hausas and Fulanis were forced from their homes in April.Our correspondent says that some of those attacked had vowed reprisals, as had the Boko Haram Islamist militant group, based further north-east in Borno state.
Boko Haram is growing bolder and more successful. They bombed the UN in August. Their leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau, is on the radio urging Nigerians to join him. From the Associated Press:
The imam’s insistent, lecturing voice comes right to the point over the scratchy audio recording: holy war is the only way to bring change for Muslims in Nigeria.Abubakar Shekau urges followers of his feared Boko Haram sect to carry out more assassinations and bombings. The group’s violent campaign has already left more than 240 people dead this year. On Friday, a suicide bomber hit a military base while explosives detonated around Maiduguri – attacks that bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram.
Underlying Boko Haram’s attacks are serious divisions in Nigerian society: between Muslims and Christians, rich and poor. Christian attacks on Muslims are just as common and brutal as Muslim attacks on Christians. Civilians are often involved in inter-community violence. But Boko Haram adds another dimension: they are capable of bombing military installations and assassinating officials. They may receive funding and equipment from international terrorist networks, but they are also a grassroots organization, able to recruit relatively easily in “endemically poor” Borno:
For Khalifa Dikwa, a professor at the University of Maiduguri, the endemically poor region is ripe for recruitment by the insurgency.While the well-connected and powerful who are accused of wrongdoing can get good lawyers and soon be free, “somebody who was incarcerated for stealing just a chicken will be behind bars for six years without trial,” Dikwa said. “Again, it boils down to injustice, alienation, arm-twisting of the law, corrupting the entire system.”Unemployment may run as high as 70 percent and opportunities remain few for youths who lack access to formal education. Boko Haram offers inclusion and a livelihood in a nation where corrupt politicians collude with religious leaders, Dikwa said.“Anybody who feels cheated is Boko Haram,” he said.
The dynamic of “anybody who feels cheated” is a large one in Nigeria. Don’t expect an epidemic of interfaith amity anytime soon.