Thursday, 13 November 2014

Nigeria’s Kidnapped Chibok School Girls and Boko Haram’s Forced Recruitment - John Campbell

Jacob Zenn has written a thoughtful and important article, “Boko Haram: Recruitment, Financing, and Arms Trafficking in the Lake Chad Region.” It appears in the Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center based at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Zenn’s article requires careful reading. His principal conclusions are that Boko Haram is forcibly recruiting boys and girls who are “re-educated” at camps in Cameroon. He also posits growing and close relations between Boko Haram and Cameroonian arms traffickers and financiers.

Zenn sees Boko Haram as needing these additional human and financial resources because of its move to extend control over territory. He notes that where Boko Haram operates outside of Nigeria, it is in the area of the former “Kanem-Borno caliphate” (commonly known as the Kanem-Bornu empire). He suggests that any future negotiations between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram will require the former to cede territory to the latter. He also suggests that the Chibok girls will never be recovered, having been married-off and scattered. Zenn also posits growing links between Boko Haram and ISIL.

Finally, he includes a fascinating discussion that Boko Haram may have between fifteen and fifty thousand members–the higher number he finds plausible if it includes forced recruits and individuals who cooperate with Boko Haram, whether freely or because of coercion. He notes that even the lower number would mean that Boko Haram has manpower similar to that of the pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine.

Zenn’s article is thoroughly documented. His sources are primarily the media. That, of course, is what is available. Otherwise, there remains a paucity of hard facts about Boko Haram. Zenn’s conclusions, therefore, should be seen as thoughtful and credible hypotheses rather than definitive. I find particularly convincing his discussion about Boko Haram’s efforts to recreate the Kanem-Bornu empire as a final reversal of British colonialism that has been sustained by the governments in Abuja and Yaounde. I also agree that the liberation of the Chibok school girls is unlikely.

Written By: John Campbell
Council On Foreign Relations