By JARED THOMPSON – NEWS SECTION EDITOR
In recent months, and particularly since the beginning of 2015, the threat of Boko Haram has magnified to a previously unparalleled height.
Headlines of various massacres and attacks have dotted cable news headlines with worrying frequency, leaving viewers asking the reasonable question “What is being done about the threat of Boko Haram?”
Before continuing to that question, it is worth addressing the reasons that are spurring on action by West and Central African nations.
Since the beginning of 2015, major attacks on multiple nations characterize the recent violence that has spurred nations into responding to the threat posed by Boko Haram.
January 3 marked the beginning of the Baga Massacre, in which Boko Haram targeted the Nigerian Army base in the northern town of Baga.
Following four days of fighting, Boko Haram seized the town, thereby asserting their control over roughly 70 percent of the Nigerian state of Borno and sparking a refugee crisis that sent families fleeing south, some as far as neighboring Cameroon and Chad.
The Baga Massacre was followed by shows of transnational aggression by Boko Haram. After crossing into Cameroon and kidnapping roughly 70 people, Boko Haram launched attacks into Chad, skirmishing with the Chadian army, before launching more attacks into Cameroon.
The most recent violence, however, has brought Nigeria’s neighbor Niger into the fray after Boko Haram stormed a prison in the town of Diffa.
This violence, while certainly deadly, has also placed Boko Haram under an international microscope that practically begs for a multinational response.
It seems as though this violence has indeed been effective on some level, as Nigerian presidential elections were recently postponed until March 28, thereby creating internal political divides in Nigeria between supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan and his opposition.
This internal division only impairs Nigeria’s ability to adequately respond to the threat, as infighting weakens a fragile Nigerian political front.
The news to date isn’t completely negative, however, as the violence has also spurred the creation of a multinational coalition to eliminate the threat posed to citizens living in the affected region.
Drawing its troops from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin, the 8,700-member force represents a very important step in building cooperation in this region of Africa.
Despite being prompted by carnage, this coalition represents an opportunity for the aforementioned nations to build relationships and hold each other accountable while working to restore regional security.
In addition, the coalition presents a platform from which to criticize Nigeria for its lethargic response to the issue of Boko Haram — a lethargy that subsequently endangered citizens of neighboring countries.
Proponents of interventionism may claim that this threat represents the perfect opportunity to play a proactive role in securing a region of the world forced to endure countless atrocities during the past several years.
I would caution against this inclination. Boko Haram is a uniquely African issue that allows for the aforementioned coalition building.
This certainly won’t be the last major security issue in the region, and if the region is to build self-reliance, the coalition must be allowed the chance to operate independently of any larger supervisory influence.
In addition, that sort of Western military intervention often has a counterproductive effect. While Boko Haram may be crushed, the following presence of Western military personnel may inflame tensions yet again and assure that the grievances of Boko Haram are not dropped for the foreseeable future.
However, individual African nations reasserting their sovereignty in the face of a domestic security challenge is not only a way for them to prove themselves in the eye of the international community but perhaps most importantly, in the eyes of their citizens.
To Nigeria’s credit, they have committed to dismantle all Boko Haram camps in the six weeks leading up to the national elections, yet previous responses by Nigeria leave little room for optimism.
President Jonathan has been accused of simply ignoring the problem in an attempt to minimize damage to his reelection bid.
After months of insisting that Nigerians lay their blame at the feet of Boko Haram, recent military mobilizations have begun to offer hope to residents of Northern Nigeria as VICE News reports that thousands of citizens are fleeing from the Adamawa region in the face of Boko Haram advances.
This isn’t to paint the problem of Boko Haram as one of simple inaction on the part of African governments. The problem is merely following in the trends of radicalization and terror.
The countries at the heart of this issue, however, are just simply less equipped to deal with the issue from the beginning.
This creates a situation in which the process of coalition building is only even more important in solving the problem while simultaneously demonstrating the danger of western intervention.