Documenting Boko Haram and Radical Islam in Nigeria

In January 2015, Boko Haram committed the deadliest act of terror since 9/11 when it massacred an estimated 2000 people over three days in the remote Nigerian town of Baga. Despite carrying such an ignoble distinction, the event received little international attention aside from a few condemnations from leaders in Europe and Africa. With the global media focused squarely on the Charlie Hebdo Killing that occurred around the same time, the Baga Massacre soon fell out of the public consciousness, and in the process, it became another symbol of the West’s moral indifference to terrorism outside its societies.

Unfortunately, chaos never occurs in a vacuum, and has a habit of metastasizing into something more dangerous if left unchecked. This was the case with Afghanistan in the 1990s when the Taliban came to power. Knowing this, we felt it was important to document Boko Haram’s history and Timestream was the perfect way to do it. The case study is an instructive tool for both students and researchers alike. Starting in the 1980s during the Maitatsine Riots in Northern Nigeria, the study traces the major events over the proceeding three decades, such as the early moves by Muhammad Yusuf and Boko Haram’s efforts to derail the 2015 Nigerian elections. The case tries to cover the salient points of the insurgency, including the rebuilding efforts after Yusuf’s death and Boko Haram’s international linkages. The case also pays close attention to the international milieu, capturing the feedback loop occurring between various crises in Africa and Boko Haram’s growth after 2009.

Currently, Boko Haram does not threaten the west directly, but given its links to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its oath of allegiance to ISIS in March 2015, it has the potential of becoming a serious threat outside of Nigeria. For right now though, it remains focused on West Africa, giving international policymakers time to assess the group and think through the implications of leaving its violence unchecked.

View the Timestream case study.