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In the last six months alone, Boko Haram has killed nearly 1, people.


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What explains the rollercoaster ride of the last 10 months? Part of the answer is hubris. Boko Haram also shed its domestic focus, launching cross-border raids into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, all of which eventually joined a five-nation military coalition against it along with Benin and Nigeria. The coalition has done a number on Boko Haram.

The Nigerian military has also increased pressure on Boko Haram by releasing photos of its most wanted members, three of whom have been arrested in the past month. The increase in pressure on Boko Haram helps explain why it has shifted tactics. Unable to square off against the Nigerian military directly, the group has resorted to deploying child suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices against softer targets — like the market in Kano, Nigeria, that was hit by twin suicide bombings on November Boko Haram is showing signs of battle fatigue and depressed morale.

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With its fighting cadre depleted by recent military setbacks, Boko Haram has reportedly replenished its ranks by kidnapping children and forcing them to fight. The pressure on Boko Haram is unlikely to let up anytime soon. He has also replaced much of the military leadership, sacking his national security adviser, chief of defence staff and the heads of the army, navy and air force, in one fell swoop in July.

Last month, he ordered the arrest of the ousted national security adviser, Lt. But if Boko Haram is on the defensive, it would be a mistake to assume that the group is near defeat. It has also risen from the ashes before. But instead of dying out, the group simply laid low, regrouped and reemerged deadlier than ever in There are reasons to think it could pull off something similar again. Increasingly, they involve acts of banditry that serve no obvious theological objective.

This shift may be partly explained by the fact that Boko Haram has had to rely more heavily on forced conscripts, who lack the theological fervour of earlier recruits.

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Boko Haram and the LRA both abduct children, use them as sex slaves and fighters, and force them to commit atrocities that sever the social bonds that link them to their communities. They both also tend to retaliate against civilian populations when they come under attack by the military. Finally, both use rape as a weapon of war.

And as the startling number of released Boko Haram captives who turned out to be pregnant suggests, the group is deliberately impregnating female captives in an effort to replenish its ranks in the future. All of these traits will make the group hard to stamp out for good. After a year of dizzying gains and losses for Boko Haram, the conflict has arrived at a bloody stalemate.

For Boko Haram at least, this is familiar territory: The group has been reduced to the level of capability it enjoyed in , when it carried out sporadic attacks against civilians and routinely gave the army a bloody nose. The fact that Boko Haram is unable to seize and hold territory is not much of a consolation. You can manage them any time by clicking on the notification icon. Tuesday, September 24, Opinion Op-Eds. Editorials Op-Eds Letters Columnists. He has written a number of articles and critiques regarding Nigerian history, politics and its military coups.

He is also the author of a forthcoming book on the origins of military engagement in Nigerian politics. It is a political history of Nigeria covering The focus is on the outsized role of the Nigerian military in Nigerian politics and the role of oil wealth and the exploitation of ethnic divisions in preserving that role. In his book, Siollun opens up one of the most troublesome and distressing periods in Nigeria's history and introduces us to the mindset of the Nigerian military which has so influenced the turmoil that ensued following independence.


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  • Although the book is a historical narrative, it goes beyond 'dry' dates and events to take the reader on a journey. The author does this by utilising recently de-classified material and old intelligence reports together with personal knowledge and indepth analysis. I like the way this book sets the scene by presenting us with a series of maps at the beginning.

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    Before the opening pages, we are presented with a map of the major ethnic groups, although I'm not quite sure why that map was not included with the other maps in the preface as it would go better with the map of major Nigerian languages and the more general map locating Nigeria in Africa would have been better in its place, but that is just my preference. The series of historical maps in the preface cover the political development from the four regions of to the present 36 states and are worth referring back to from time to time. It is impossible to appreciate the political complexity of Nigeria without a passing understanding of how the country came into being, its ethnic complexity and its mineral wealth and this book provides good background material in the preface and the opening chapter for those who are not so familiar with Nigeria.

    The writer introduces us to these issues in the opening chapters by describing the situation leading up to independence and introducing us to several strands - political and military - which culminate in the post-independence turmoil of which was a pivotal and dreadful year. It is important to understand that like many African countries 'Nigeria' was an artificial construct.

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    The country was artificially constructed by a colonial power without the consent of its citizens. Over ethnic groups were arbitrarily herded together into an unwieldy and non-consensual union by the UK. Nigeria was so ethnically, religiously and linguistically complex that even some of its leading politicians initially doubted it could constitute a real country.

    The division of the huge area called Nigeria into the original three regions by the British in the earlier part of the 20th century was largely pragmatic. The very large Northern Region was predominantly Muslim and dominated by the Hausa and Fulani, while the predominantly Christian south was dominated by two competing groups, the Yoruba and the Igbo. Among these main groups were other ethnic groups of varying size.

    Most ethnic groups had little in common, and Siollun says that "The cultural differences between the ethnic groups made it virtually impossible for Nigerians to have any commonality of purpose". It was within this artificially constructed maelstrom that political divides took on the identity and ideology of these three geo-political regions.


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    • The Western Region in the south was further divided into a Mid-Western region in after rising tensions and what could almost be considered the first coup plot. The antagonism between the North and the South continued after independence and was further exacerbated by the fragmentation in the more numerous south and the uneven distribution of mineral wealth. It is as a military historian that Siollun has his strength and this shows in his masterly analysis in the chapters that introduce the military background to the coups and the detailed description and analysis of the coups themselves.

      In some ways, although this is devastatingly real, I was reminded of a detective novel as the protagonists are revealed and their motives and actions analysed. It would be tempting to give you a chapter by chapter summary of how the coup culture developed, but you'll just have to read the book to understand the depth of detail that gives a fascinating insight into the way that friends can become rivals and enemies, and to see how Siollun answers the question of "how an apolitical professional army with less than fifty indigenous officers at independence in became politicised and overthrew its country's government less than six years later".

      The lessons to be learnt from the critical analysis in this book are grim but necessary reading. Siollun's final points are that "most of the coups It is also significant that it was only after when "all the serving army officers who had held political office for six months or more were compulsorily retired" that the events set in motion in that lead to the military coups and military rule were able to be put to rest. An insider traces the details of hope and ambition gone wrong in the Giant of Africa, Nigeria, Africa's most populous country.

      When it gained independence from Britain in , hopes were high that, with mineral wealth and over million people, the most educated workforce in Africa, Nigeria would become Africa's first superpower and a stabilising democratic influence in the region. By submitting above, you agree to our privacy policy.