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The Rise of Boko Haram: US Responsibility, Hypocrisy

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A truck promotes the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag in Nigeria.
A truck promotes the #BringBackOurGirls hash tag in Nigeria.
(Image by Medina Dauda - Voice of America, Author: Medina Dauda)
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On April 15, militant Nigerian group Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls, leading to shock and revulsion around the world as well as an international social media campaign under the motto "Bring Back Our Girls".

Mostly unspoken in discussions of Boko Haram and its monstrous crime is a story of unintended consequences tied to the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya to topple Moamar Gaddafi as well as economic globalization and the legacy of IMF interventions in the Nigerian economy.

The Security Situation

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, notes that in Libya "a modest military intervention by the US and others helped to create a vacuum, now mostly filled by terrorists." President Franà ois Hollande, referring to Boko Haram, said their weapons, including "heavy weapons of an unimaginable sophistication " came from Libya and that [their] training took place in Mali before the ouster of its Islamist leaders". The conclusion, then, must be that the Western intervention in Libya created the conditions which allowed Boko Haram and Mali's Islamist militants to seize weapons from the country, provoking the unrest in Mali and giving space for training Boko Haram's fighters.

Furthermore, "much of the responsibility for the rise of the Boko Haram extremist group may lie with the Nigerian government itself", according to Sarah Chayes of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A combination of economic liberalization, globalization, poor governance, and brutal repression have led to the current standoff.

Regarding the recent violence, Amnesty International points to March 14th "as a tipping point when the security forces unleashed a brutal crackdown on former detainees." On this date, Boko Haram attacked a Nigerian military barracks in the city of Maiduguri, freeing "several hundred detainees." However, "as the military regained control, more than 600 people, mostly unarmed recaptured detainees, were extra-judicially executed in various locations across Maiduguri", some of them shouting that they were unaffiliated with the militant group before being shot.

This recent "tipping point" mirrors the larger picture of Boko Haram's increasingly violent acts. Writing in the journal Current History, Kate Meagher describes the group as originally a peaceful "religious community offering education, basic services, and informal livelihoods to the disaffected". The group was soon "construed as a threat to the state and its rural base was destroyed by an army assault in 2003", leading to violent reprisals by the group, targeting mostly police stations and "culminating in a clash in 2009 in which security forces killed more than 800 Boko Haram members." In addition, the group's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was extrajudicially killed, with the video posted online. This incident "tipped what started as a religious protest movement among the marginalized into a full-blown insurgency."

Economic Malaise

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Brett McCully is a freelance writer, with works appearing in such outlets as the Virginia Policy Review and Warisacrime.org. He resides in Oakton, VA.

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The Rise of Boko Haram: US Responsibility, Hypocrisy

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