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The God Wars
The God Wars Are Growing

More gruesome news from Africa’s God Wars. In Nigeria’s troubled north, the Islamist group Boko Haram has slaughtered dozens of schoolboys, attacking their dormitories late in the night. The militants shot, stabbed, and burned their way through the school, leaving an estimated 40 boys dead. Last week, Boko Haram decimated the town of Bama, killing 115 people, razing 1,500 homes, and destroying hundreds of automobiles. The week before that the group summarily executed residents of Izghe village.

In the north of Nigeria, Boko Haram’s four-year-old war to transform the largely Christian country into an Islamic state has ravaged the local population, both Christian and Muslim. Security forces say the attacks are increasing in frequency, chaotic, and indiscriminate.

Local leaders accuse the government of showing little interest in the conflict, which is occurring far from Nigeria’s prized oil fields. The Defense Ministry downplays the threat from militants while exaggerating its successes. The governor of Borno state told President Goodluck Jonathan that Boko Haram (which means “Western education is sinful”) is “better motivated and better armed” than the Nigerian army. The environment of fear is intense, as the AP reports:

“Everybody is living in fear,” local government chairman Maina Ularamu told the AP after Izghe village was attacked twice in a week this month – with militants first killing 106 and burning hundreds of thatched huts, then returning to kill another three people and setting ablaze what little remained of the settlement in neighboring Adamawa state.

“There is no protection. We cannot predict where and when they are going to attack. People can’t sleep with their eyes closed,” Ularamu said.

Meanwhile, the conflict in the Central African Republic, which began in December 2012, has descended into full-on ethnic cleansing. Tit-for-tat violence between Muslims and Christians has sparked a vicious cycle of revenge killings divided along religious lines and fueled by hatred and fear. Today, Muslims are being hunted down by roaming Christian militias known as “anti-balakas,” who have been accused of mercilessly slaughtering CAR’s Muslim minority, including women and children.

In Africa, a perfect storm of weak governance, poor infrastructure, entrenched poverty, and fierce ethno-nationalism ensures that the God Wars will continue to burn for some time to come.

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  • Martin W. Lewis

    Excellent post, but not this line: “to transform the largely Christian country…” The CIA World Factbook pegs Nigeria’s population at 50% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 10% “indigenous beliefs.” These are rough estimates at best, and the 10% animism figure is probably too low, as the Yoruba faith alone has many millions of adherents. But still, it does seem that for Nigeria as a whole, Christianity and Islam are roughly balanced.

  • free_agent

    I’m led to ask, who is financing Boko Haram? You don’t get to be better armed than the local army (even if a third-world petro-kleptocracy) without a significant source of money.

    I’m reminded of a widely-circulated essay in the 1990’s defining the “dangerous edges” as the new paradigm for foreign affairs. That is, that the truly dangerous countries were the ones at the edge between the industrialized and relatively peaceful world and the unindustrialised world. The essay didn’t say it outright, but the countries deep within the unindustrialised world weren’t “dangerous”, not because they were peaceful but because their wars were of no consequence to the industrialized world. A prime example of this is the Second Congo War of 1998-2003, which involved nine nations and 20 armed groups and caused (directly and indirectly) 5 million deaths, but the rich countries had no reason to care.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Why is it that despite the fact that every one of these conflicts has Muslims as one of the two combatants, it gets a generic name like God Wars? Why not name these wars more specifically as the “Muslim Murders”?

    • Agim Zabeli

      Indeed. And notice the part about Christians killing Muslims is blandly labeled “(t)it-for-tat violence”. One wonders who started it, and how long the “tit” went on before the victims got fed up enough to go start some “tat”.

    • El Gringo

      Although this post is specific to Africa, the God Wars are a much larger phenomenon and it is to that phenomenon which Mead is alluding when he uses the title. It’s Muslims killing Christians and Christians killing Muslims in Africa, Muslims killing Muslims in the Middle East, Hindus killing Christians and Muslims in India, Buddhists killing Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka, and Buddhists killing Muslims in Burma.

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