Oba Ewuare II, traditional ruler of the kingdom of Benin, at his coronation in 2016. This month he issued one curse and revoked others in a bid to encourage victims to testify against human traffickers. Credit Pius Utomi Ekpei/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Human traffickers have officially been cursed. On March 9, Oba Ewuare II, the traditional ruler of the kingdom of Benin, in southern Nigeria, put a voodoo curse on anyone who abets illegal migration within his domain. At the same time, he revoked the curses that leave victims of trafficking afraid that their relatives will die if they go to the police or fail to pay off their debt.

Before being smuggled into Europe, women and girls in the area, which falls in present-day Edo State, are made to sign a contract with the traffickers who finance their journey, promising to pay them thousands of dollars.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigerians holding a vigil in Abuja, Nigeria on the one-year anniversary of the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls in Chibok. April 14, 2015. (EPA/STR)

It’s every parent’s nightmare: your child goes to school in the morning and does not return when the day ends. For thousands of Nigerian parents, whose children and schools have become potential victims of Boko Haram terrorism, this fear has become an everyday reality. On February 19, 110 young girls were abducted from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical Secondary School in the northeast town of Dapchi. Now, a new group of Nigerian parents fear they will never see their daughters again.

In response to this horror, which President Muhammadu Buhari described as “a national disaster,” the Nigerian government has indicated it will call on the international community to provide backup aerial surveillance and reconnaissance of the northern Nigerian forests so that fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance planes can scour the region to locate the kidnapped girls.…  Seguir leyendo »

From left, Fatima Abdu, 14, Zahra Bukar, 13, Fatima Bukar, 13, and Yagana Mustapha, 15, four schoolgirls who escaped from a Boko Haram attack on their school, sit at the home of a schoolmate at Dapchi town in northern Nigeria on Feb. 28. (AFP/Getty Images)

The recent Boko Haram abduction of 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Nigeria, drew immediate comparisons to the 2014 abduction of more than 270 girls from a school in Chibok. Beyond the media spotlight, what do we know about Boko Haram’s efforts to abduct — and recruit — women and girls?

A lot of the media reporting on Boko Haram misses the roles of women and girls in this conflict. As I describe in my book, “Women and the War on Boko Haram: Wives, Weapons, Witnesses,” though thousands of girls have been abducted by the insurgents, many others joined voluntarily.

Media reporting puts Boko Haram in the global spotlight

In the Dapchi and Chibok abductions, insurgents seized scores of schoolgirls.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this undated image taken from video distributed Aug. 14, 2016, an alleged Boko Haram soldier standing in front of a group of girls alleged to be some of the 276 abducted Chibok schoolgirls held since April 2014, in an unknown location. (Militant video/Site Institute/AP)

Although widely understood as the Islamist terrorists that they are, Boko Haram insurgents in the borderlands between Cameroon and Nigeria are also slave raiders — at least that’s what many local residents call them. And there’s good reason to use that term. In many striking ways, Boko Haram’s raids for “wives” parallel the slave raids of a century ago.

Thinking about Boko Haram as slave raiders, complete with a history in the semi-lawless borderlands, might change how policymakers approach this group and similar insurgencies across West Africa.

Boko Haram’s activities echo those of earlier smugglers, Islamist militants, and slave raiders

Boko Haram began in 2002-2004 in Maiduguri, the largest city in northeastern Nigeria, as an Islamist movement in which young men from prominent families and jobless youths rejected any engagement with the Nigerian state.…  Seguir leyendo »

People protest slavery and slave auctions in Libya at a rally in Geneva, Switzerland, on Nov. 25. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/European Pressphoto Agency-EFE//REX/Shutterstock)

Last year, the world reacted in outrage to a CNN video showing black men being sold as slaves in Libya. Many of us in Africa joined in, feigning shock at a level of dehumanization that thrives variously in many of our countries. The gruesome experiences narrated by some of the migrants are similar, for example, to those of the typical domestic staff in places such as Nigeria.

Many middle- and upper-class Nigerian families hire people to work in their homes, carrying out tasks such as cooking, cleaning and babysitting. Known as “house help,” a good number are children sent by their parents to work, sometimes becoming the main breadwinners of their families.…  Seguir leyendo »

In September Nigeria’s military launched Operation Python Dance II, its second military exercise in South East Nigeria this year. It was carried out with the intention of quashing any calls for secession in a region with a long history of antagonism with the central Nigerian state. The stakes are high. An attempt in the 1960s to proclaim an independent Republic of Biafra in the same region resulted in the 1967–70 Nigerian Civil War in which 3 million people were killed and millions were displaced.

The desire for independence among Igbo people of South East Nigeria is fuelled by a feeling of marginalization, and historical grievances against a state that they say doesn’t represent them.…  Seguir leyendo »

The United Nations proclaimed Oct. 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence, a reminder that it is irrational to use violence to promote peaceful societies. It’s also a reminder of the importance of accurate data on where and why violence occurs in the world, and where the threats are on the rise.

Since April 2016, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies has tracked the levels of attacks associated with all militant Islamist groups in Africa on a quarterly basis, using data compiled from the widely used Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) Project.

In a July 21 Monkey Cage post, Salem Solomon and Casey Frechette challenged the validity of an Africa Center analysis that noted that al-Shabab had surpassed Boko Haram as Africa’s most deadly militant Islamist group.…  Seguir leyendo »

Nigeria: Growing Insecurity on Multiple Fronts

Nigeria is facing a time of uncertainty and peril. President Muhammadu Buhari’s failing health – he has spent more than 110 days battling an undisclosed illness in the UK – is prompting intense manoeuvring regarding who will run for president in 2019, particularly among loyalists and others seeking to preserve Northern rule. The eight-year-old insurgency by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram persists. An older problem, Biafra separatist agitation in the South East, is provoking dangerous domino effects in the north and Niger Delta, while deadly clashes between herders and farmers are escalating across the central belt and spreading southward.…  Seguir leyendo »

In May, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed and two other U.S. service members were wounded on Somali soil. It was the first U.S. combat death in the East African country since 1993 — and it came amid ramped-up efforts to fight the deadly extremist group al-Shabab.

For years, Boko Haram has carried the dubious distinction of being Africa’s deadliest terrorist group. But a multinational task force has weakened the group. It has been crippled so badly that al-Shabab has emerged as Africa’s deadliest extremist group.

That is according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies published in April.…  Seguir leyendo »

The rise of northern Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has garnered a great deal of attention from American policymakers in recent years. That interest compounded after the 2014 kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok, an event that galvanized grass-roots anger and demands for an international response around the globe. As attention to the crisis grew, however, misunderstandings about the group’s origins, motives and connections (or lack thereof) to international Islamist extremist organizations have abounded.

Several new books provide important correctives to the many misperceptions about Boko Haram. In the next two installments of our African politics summer reading series, we’ll examine three of these books to try to develop a better understanding of the movement, its supporters and critics, and how ordinary northerners see themselves as Muslims and Nigerian citizens.…  Seguir leyendo »

50 years after Nigeria’s then Eastern Region declared itself the Republic of Biafra, sparking a brutal and costly three-year civil war, the country again faces a separatist challenge. Across the Igbo south east, there is resurgent agitation for an independent Biafra state.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s forceful response to the agitation has been counter-productive, inflaming passions and boosting separatist sentiments. The government needs to change course and prioritise dialogue over coercion.

The starting point of any response is to understand the agitation’s roots. They include political and economic grievances, a deep sense of collective victimisation among the Igbo, and the failure of south east politicians to provide good governance and development.…  Seguir leyendo »

The last time the UN declared a famine was in 2011, in Somalia. The last time it faced more than one major famine simultaneously was more than three decades ago. Today we are on the brink of four – in Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.

The spectre of famine is primarily the result of war, not natural disaster. According to the UN, more than twenty million people, millions of them children, are at risk of starvation. This is happening in man-made crises and under the Security Council’s watch. In some places, the denial of food and other aid is a weapon of war as much as its consequence.…  Seguir leyendo »

La conférence des donateurs qui s’est tenue à Oslo le 24 février a souligné la gravité de la crise humanitaire qui frappe les populations autour du lac Tchad, en particulier dans le Borno (Etat du nord-est du Nigeria). Mais elle a désigné un seul coupable, en l’occurrence le groupe jihadiste Boko Haram. Réunis dans la froideur de l’hiver norvégien et aux antipodes de la chaleur de la saison sèche au Sahel, les décideurs ont évité d’évoquer les responsabilités de la coalition antiterroriste qui réunit les armées du Nigeria, du Tchad, du Niger et du Cameroun.

Les troupes engagées sur le terrain font pourtant plus qu’entretenir la crise humanitaire en entravant la résilience des populations.…  Seguir leyendo »

Veinte millones de personas (el equivalente a casi la mitad de la población española) han sido directamente impactadas por el conflicto entre Boko Haram y el gobierno nigeriano en el país más poblado de África. 400.000 personas estás técnicamente en situación de hambruna (aún no declarada) en el Estado de Borno y todo apunta a que 540.000 niños y niñas menores de cinco años podrían morir de desnutrición severa en 2017 si no hacemos nada para impedirlo.

El secuestro de las 200 niñas de Chibok en 2014 se convirtió en fenómeno de indignación viral con el hashtag #Bringbackourgirls pero las organizaciones humanitarias no encontramos etiqueta ni calificativo capaz de describir el panorama que encontramos en verano de 2016, cuando pudimos por fin acceder a las zonas antes controladas por Boko Haram y entender el alcance humanitario de la violencia del grupo radical.…  Seguir leyendo »

Les Nations unies ont déclaré officiellement l’état de famine dans certaines régions du Soudan du Sud et il est fort probable que de telles annonces se répètent dans un futur proche.

Près de 20 millions de personnes, réparties entre quatre pays, à savoir le Yémen (14 millions), le Soudan du Sud (5 millions), le Nigeria (5 millions) et la Somalie (3 millions) sont actuellement confrontées à une grave insécurité alimentaire, cela signifie qu’elles sont déjà sous-alimentées et n’ont souvent pas d’autres choix que de vendre leurs actifs pour survivre. Jamais en l’espace de 20 ans, autant de personnes ne se sont retrouvées si près d’une catastrophe humanitaire.…  Seguir leyendo »

One of the world’s worst humanitarian crises is unfolding in West Africa’s Lake Chad region, where 11 million people are in urgent need of emergency aid.

Nigeria, its neighbours, and the world are struggling to find an adequate response. Failure to do so will condemn millions to more suffering, and raise the region’s vulnerability to violent extremism.

Donors meeting at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region on Friday must seize the opportunity to act more effectively.

Up to 100,000 people may have died in the seven-year Boko Haram insurgency, according to Governor Kassim Shettima of Borno State in Nigeria’s northeast, the epicentre of the fighting.…  Seguir leyendo »

In April 2015, Muhammadu Buhari became the first opposition politician to defeat a sitting president in Nigeria, in a mostly free and fair election. Mr. Buhari, a former army general, who ruled Nigeria for 18 months from 1983 to 1985, had a reputation for being incorruptible and a disciplinarian.

When Mr. Buhari returned to the Aso Rock presidential villa, Nigerians were disgruntled by reports of widespread graft by government appointees, and public services were on the decline. His election was supposed to usher in change, but less than two years later, he has been acting as if tending to the country’s needs should come on his own schedule.…  Seguir leyendo »

Over the past two decades, Nigeria’s Kaduna State has experienced a sharp segregation along religious and ethnic lines precipitated by about a dozen outbreaks of violence. Kaduna’s Hausa-Fulani residents, who are mostly Muslim, are the majority in the northern half of the state, while the people of southern Kaduna are predominantly Christian, although tribally and linguistically diverse. The river that runs through the city of Kaduna, the state capital, highlights the starkness of the divide: the northern half is unofficially called Mecca; the south, Jerusalem.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 people are estimated to have died in incidents across Kaduna State since 1980, a pattern of violence that peaked in 1992 and again from 2000 to 2002.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Monday, in Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan and across the country, Nigerians came out in their thousands to protest the corruption and poor standard of living in the country under the governance of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The protests were historic not because of novelty (protests have become a part of our culture), or size (compared to the last national rallies, it was a small number), or because of the reaction of the government (the vice-president and national leader of the ruling party were forced to react).

They were historic because of what they represented: a change of the way that the Nigerian voters hold accountable the leaders of the country, irrespective of votes, interests, loyalty, relationships or regret.…  Seguir leyendo »

There is no escaping US politics these days. Even in remote northeastern Nigeria, where I have just spent two months with the International Rescue Committee, most of the televisions are set to international news networks which are covering the presidential transition in excruciating detail.

At this point, Nigerians know as much about the political drama as the US audience does. And they are anxious about how Rex Tillerson will work with their government, starting January 20.

But there is virtually no coverage of the catastrophic events in their own backyard. After seven years of brutal violence by Boko Haram, 8.5 million people in northeastern Nigeria are in dire need of humanitarian aid, according to a United Nations analysis released last week.…  Seguir leyendo »