Nigeria

Protesters hold banners during a demonstration against the suspension of governorship elections in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on March 11. (Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images)

In the run-up to the recent elections in Nigeria, an article in Quartz Africa declared that “it’s become much harder to rig elections in Nigeria thanks to technology.” Looking on from about 3,000 miles away, Kenyans would be excused for stifling a laugh. The two countries share a history of electoral malpractice, and technology had been hailed as a guarantor of the credibility and integrity of the election in Kenya as well. The reality, however, turned out to be quite different. As the dust settles on Nigeria’s elections amid reports of technology failures and violence, it is clear that digital elections are no panacea.…  Seguir leyendo »

A campaign poster for President Muhammadu Buhari, who is running for re-election. Credit Ben Curtis/Associated Press

Nigeria has come a long way from 1999 when the army handed over power to a democratically elected government, but the bar must rise from simply conducting marginally free and fair elections and having scheduled transitions.

After being postponed for a week by the national electoral body for “logistics and operational problems,” national elections will be held in Nigeria on Saturday. President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, is vying for re-election as the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Mr. Buhari, a former military dictator, refashioned himself as a reformed democrat and won the presidency in 2015 as the candidate of a grand opposition coalition.…  Seguir leyendo »

A woman checks her name in voting lists at the Independent Electoral Comission Office in Jimeta on 16 February 2019. Nigeria's electoral watchdog postponed presidential and parliamentary elections for one week, just hours before polls were due to open. Luis Tato/AFP

What happened?

Nigeria’s 84 million voters were set to vote in presidential and federal legislative elections on 16 February. But at 2.40 am that day, just over five hours before polling stations were to open, the nation’s election management agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), postponed the balloting. INEC’s chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, announced a one-week delay to 23 February. He also said gubernatorial and state legislative votes would be rescheduled from 2 to 9 March.

Was there any forewarning of the delay?

The postponement came as a surprise. INEC had repeatedly told both Nigerians and international observers that it was fully prepared to bring off the elections according to schedule.…  Seguir leyendo »

La decisión de posponer la elección presidencial en Nigeria –tomada pocas horas antes de la apertura prevista de los centros de votación– suscitó temores por la integridad del futuro comicio. Es necesario que esos temores no se hagan realidad, y no sólo por el bien de Nigeria. Así como una democracia fuerte y estable en el país más poblado de África puede dar un poderoso ejemplo a la región, una crisis política tendría graves consecuencias mucho más allá de sus fronteras.

África occidental, hogar de unos 362 millones de personas, está en camino hacia la consolidación democrática. Según Freedom House, “África austral y occidental han mejorado significativamente la gobernanza democrática”, una tendencia que afianzó la estabilidad en la región.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) take part in a demonstration against the detention of their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky in Abuja, Nigeria, on Jan. 22. (Sodiq Adelakun/AFP/Getty Images)

The Nigerian government appears to be taking a hard line on religious opposition — though not against the usual suspects. Even as the Boko Haram insurgency persists in the north, peaceful demonstrations by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) sparked a recent round of state repression.

In late October, protests in and around the capital left at least 45 IMN members dead and more than another 100 wounded after Nigerian security forces used automatic weapons to disperse the crowds. Government officials claim they were responding to the protesters’ assault on a military convoy. IMN rejects this account and insists its members were engaged in peaceful demonstrations calling for the release of their ailing leader, Ibrahim Zakzaky, from prison.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘One unlikely candidate was Oby Ezekwesili, a former education minister, who champions the Bring Back Our Girls movement in Nigeria.’ Photograph: Sodiq Adelakun/AFP/Getty Images

Who would want to be president of Nigeria? Well, once upon a time, me. When I was 19, I set out my manifesto on the BBC Africa website. Some of my campaign promises included quality education, constant electricity and running water for all. I planned to use my honest smile as my most efficient tool to win votes and secure the presidency.

By 21 I’d set my sights a little lower. After some research, I discovered that local government was the most effective place to implement real change. So I decided that by 30 I was going to be a local government chair in Lagos, my home state.…  Seguir leyendo »

An internally displaced person camp in Maiduguri, Nigeria, like the one that houses Zahra and Amina. Photograph: Sunday Alamba/AP

Zahra and Amina seem like lucky survivors of the scourge of northeastern Nigeria, the jihadist movement known as Boko Haram. Both were wives of fighters. Zahra escaped by agreeing to detonate an explosive vest that the militants strapped to her. After walking miles to her intended target, a government checkpoint, she turned herself over to soldiers. Amina fled with her three children after her husband was killed in battle.

Today, both women live in a camp for survivors of the conflict in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. When I met them on a recent research trip to the city, the last thing I expected to hear was that they wanted to rejoin the insurgents.…  Seguir leyendo »

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 »