The CRGA held a roundtable discussion on the future of Boko Haram, bringing together a diverse group of experts, scholars, faith community leaders, non-governmental organisations and diplomats to discuss a complex and challenging issue.
The discussions started with brief remarks by Dr John Azumah on the history of Boko Haram, Mr Irbard Ibrahim on current security policy challenges on addressing the threats posed by the group, and CRGA's Director, Dr Ziya Meral on patterns we observe in evolving nature of such groups and thus our need for long term wholistic strategies beyond security approaches.
The off-the-record conversation was a rich discussion of questions on theological justifications used by the group, its current capacities and why and how it has appealed to its followers. Boko Haram violence was put in the larger context of religious militancy and ethno-religious violence in Nigeria and Western Africa. Underlying issues of unemployment, lack of government services and environmental conditions were discussed in depth.
There was consensus that while the capacities of the group has diminished, it is still alive and capable of undertaking attacks and find safe spaces to exist in large ungoverned spaces on border lands. However, the inconsistencies of the organisation, limited resources, power tensions between different figures and brutality towards local populations were raised as weakening the group's reach, appeal and activities. It was agreed that any security approach taken against the group must be cautious with civilian casualties and not alienate people living in areas where Boko Haram has a reach. It was important to note that the discussions resulted in awareness that this is not the first time such a group emerged in North East Nigeria, and that unless long term grievances and conditions are addressed, in the future, such groups will emerge again even if Boko Haram is defeated fully militarily.