Academic article

The Origins of Boko Haram, and Why the War on Terror Matters

Published: 18 Aug 2020

This article, prompted as a response to a recent contribution penned by Audu Bulama Bukarti,returns to the history of an incident occurred in 2003 between the Nigerian security and a group of militants popularly known as the “Nigerian Taliban” and considered as a precursor to Boko Haram. While the historiography around this incident has been almost saturated by debates around the size of the links between the “Nigerian Taliban” and al-Qaeda, that period of Nigerian history continues to be read in isolation from the broader counter-terrorism strategies conceived at the time by the Nigerian State in the context of what, for us, is a fundamental structural factor, i.e. the then mounting Global War on Terror. Drawing on a different set of data than Bukarti, our contribution will argue that, far from having been a “local” incident, the “Nigerian Taliban crisis” shows clear signs of how, at the time, the Nigerian space was being penetrated by the War on Terror’s strategic logic, discursive structures and political imperatives. The successive explosion, over the following years, of the “Boko Haram
phenomenon”, is in our opinion the result of the latter as much as of the former.