Sunday, March 11, 2012

Boko Haram - More Complicated Than You Think

All Africa
9 March 2012

By Richard Dowden


Nothing in Nigeria is what it seems. Beneath a confusing, disorderly surface lie networks of association and obligation of which outsiders, and sometimes insiders, are unaware. Money is chopped (stolen), people paid off, budgets looted and shared. Power, political and financial, is never transparent.

In other nation states a citizen's obligations to the state or employer, trump friendship or family connections. In Nigeria the state and institutions often rank far lower than personal affiliations. Outsiders are often shocked at the way public institutions are looted and distributed to buy personal loyalty or simply given to family and friends. The state is not a revered institution serving all citizens. It is a treasure house of power and money to be captured and looted.

This, rather than Islamic fundamentalism, is the context of the tragic deaths of Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara in a bungled rescue bid in Sokoto on Thursday. A group calling itself Al-Qa'ida in the Land Beyond the Sahel claimed responsibility and it is said to be part of Boko Haram. Officials say that the demands they had made for the release of the hostages were confused.

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