Marginalisation and Political Violence: Understanding Boko Haram

Ronan Farrell | Consultancy Africa Intelligence | February 2012


The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has become one of the most potent examples of the ways in which underlying structural inequalities can drive political violence. The brutal attacks on 25 December last year are only the latest in a number of violent events linked to the group and fighting has continued over the last two months. Writing for Consultancy Africa Intelligence, Ronan Farrell discusses the emergence of Boko Haram against a backdrop of economic growth in Nigeria (on the back of high oil and gas prices) but extreme inequality.

Farrell focuses particularly on the concentration of profits in the south of the country at the expense of the north and the effect of an overly militarised response to the popular protests against inequality and corruption. This he says gave rise to a set of conditions, characterised by repression and marginalisation, out of which Boko Haram have emerged and grown.

The analysis notes that "Although religious identity and extremist beliefs are often cited as the main factors contributing to inter-communal violence in Nigeria, many of these clashes are in reality more rooted in political and economic tensions. Longstanding battles for control over political power, as well as economic rivalries between various ethnic groups often underline this violence."

Importantly, there is increasing pressure in the United States to add the organisation to the US list of foreign terrorist organisations. Yet as Farrell argues, "Whilst doing so would give the Nigerian Government access to significant resources and funding, the military actions which might follow are unlikely to deal with the underlying reasons for the growth of the movement, including the high level of support it undoubtedly has amongst northern Nigerians given the economic disparities and perceived social injustices in the north."

The full article can be accessed here.

Image source: pjotter05. 


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