Our solidarity in the battle against Boko Haram

We are pleased there has been a higher level of international cooperation on the African continent in the battle against Boko Haram, an extremist group in Nigeria that is claiming its strict adherence to Islam as the basis for its armed insurgency.

It’s now almost one year since The Caribbean Camera made a commitment to you our readers that we would remain vigilant in supporting the cause of the hundreds of schoolgirls kidnapped by the group which has since stepped up its violent attacks against civilians and government forces in Northern Nigeria.

The upgraded multi-national effort is motivated by the fact that Boko Haram, which is seeking to establish an Islamic empire or caliphate, has significantly expanded its violent and politically motivated operations into neighbouring countries, especially Cameroon and Niger.

Under the aegis of the African Union and with aerial surveillance provided by France, four countries – Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger – have put together a force of 7,500 soldiers to fight the major threat posed by this attempt to set up a separate and sovereign country in the north eastern region of Nigeria.

Such joint efforts are to be applauded because, in addition to the humanitarian issues involved, African countries are assuming the lead responsibility for a political and military challenge in their continent and are cooperating pro-actively to address its implications for Nigeria and the countries that share its northern and northeastern borders.

Let us not forget those serious implications. At first, Boko Haram appeared to be driven by a fervent determination to set up its own version of an Islamic country. In so doing it sought to forbid such practices as exposing girls to non-Islamic influences, i.e., those represented by “Western education”.

Then, as it intensified its campaign of violence and terror, it literally became a life and death factor for millions of Nigerians and citizens of Cameroon and Niger. Unconfirmed estimates of the damage wrought by the group in recent years include thousands of civilians killed and 3.2 million persons displaced. Its hardcore fighters are said to number about 6,000.

In that context, one wonders if the international community and the media outside of Africa are giving this issue adequate attention. Far more attention and billions of dollars of military and other resources have been “invested” in two other hotspots where there is also a danger of extremist Muslim forces assuming power as the official government: Afghanistan and the areas in the Middle East where ISIS is now a force of major political and military importance.

At least one explanation for that difference in attitude may go far beyond the question of the race / ethnicity of the victims affected. A media house has been quoting unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as saying that they do not believe that Boko Haram poses a major threat to Nigeria’s oilfields in the southern part of the country.

Let us be less materialist and self-interested than that.

Our concerns relate to the human rights and wellbeing of the victims and potential victims of Boko Haram.