This Is Why People Join Boko Haram Despite Notorious Violence


The Washington Post reported an analyses which reveals why so many people join Boko Haram despite havoc the group has been wrecking within four West African countries; Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

The question “Why people join Boko Haram?” was recently investigated by the Nigeria Social Violence Research project at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, the Center for Complex Operations, and Mercy Corps.

They stated that at first, Boko Haram filled a state vacuum by offering social services and a group identity in a region deprived of both.

Information obtained from the Nigeria Social Violence Project, says Boko Haram started as a local, dissident Salafist sect in 2002 in Borno State, Nigeria. Salafist, is  an ultraconservative school of thought in Sunni Islam that advocates a strict adherence to the early Islam of the Koran and Sunna.

The group’s founder, Mohammed Yusurf  did not necessarily envision the group as a primarily militant group; he ran a farm and even arranged marriages for his members.

1. Oil Boom 

The era of oil boom in Nigeria dissected the interest of government, leading it to marginalize its non-oil-producing northeast region economically, pushing it into decline and failing to offer social services like health and education.

Just to show of how marginalised the northeast region is from the other states, data compared the percentage literacy in the northeast Borno State and in the southeast Imo State. They considered that the literacy level in the northeast is estimated at just 46 percent for boys and 34 percent for girls — while in the Imo state, literacy rate is above 98 percent for both boys and girls.

To fill that gap, local groups organized self-help networks along religious or ethnic lines. Boko Haram was one of those groups serving as a kind of para-government, offering help paying the bills; support for the unemployed, widows, and children; and a sense of belonging that filled the gap left by the absent state.

By the mid-2000s Boko Haram had expanded its state-like activities into paramilitary incursions, violently attacking other Salafist and Muslim groups that critiqued its interpretation of the Quran.

Those parallel lines of paranational activity – social services combined with violence against what it envisioned as competing groups — continued until 2009. That’s when Nigeria cracked down on on the group’s escalating violence, killing more than 700 suspected Boko Haram members. Since then, Boko Haram has become even more aggressive in its insurgency, treating the Nigerian government as illegitimate and violently expanding its own territory.

2. Forced Recruitment

There’s every indication that the group abducted most young men and women of its members, who are subjected to propagandistic preaching, described as “Koranic education” by the insurgents, that asserts that anyone outside of the movement is foolish and acting against God.

3. Financial Aid

As Mercy Corps has documented, people in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin have turned to Boko Haram for help. They documented a number of instances in which aspiring and fledgling entrepreneurs accepted loans and capital from Boko Haram. According to the report, the insurgent has recruited by exploiting “common desires of youth in this region, to get ahead economically and distinguish themselves in their communities.”

4. Easy Marriages (For Young Men)

The northeast region’s economic difficulties altered the communities’ ‘marriage markets,’ making it financially difficult for young men to marry. Anthropological research in the 1960s noted that men in the region’s Kanuri communities “lower their social status by not being married due to their need to eat at the houses of neighbors, friends, relatives, or superiors who have wives.”

People join Boko Haram because they filled that need as well, supplying wives to loyal Boko Haram soldiers. One displaced woman in Maiduguri disclosed that Boko Haram appeals to some young men because they “can take a wife at no extra charge. Usually it is very expensive to take a wife, very hard to get married, but not now.”

The report tells a number of instances, where women who had been taken as “wives” by Boko Haram recalled that their father had been given a “bride price.” The marriage ceremony had been a public affair within Boko Haram’s camps, where “soldiers sang and celebrated as if it were a normal wedding.”

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In many instances, the women must undergo a certain amount of “Koranic education” by the sect before being eligible to be married. Some women reported that this took as long as six months. From a woman’s point of view, Boko Haram kidnaps and systematically sexually assaults women and girls. But it’s done in a way that’s formalized and, superficially, legitimate — satisfying the desire of many of the region’s young men to have wives and the social status that accompanies marriage.

Besides the reasons giving above, there’s room for your opinion on “why people join Boko Haram.”