World

Boko Haram Kills More Than Ebola as Insurgency Spirals Out of Control

Nigeria
A member of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign group holds a placard under a bridge on the 140th day of the abduction of 219 schoolgirls from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, while they were sitting for their final exams, during a protest in Abuja September 1, 2014. Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Although Nigeria was able to tackle the Ebola crisis much more effectively than other African countries, it remains stricken by the insurgency of jihadist group Boko Haram in the north west of the country, a crisis which is proving to be even more deadly than the killer disease.

More people have been killed in Nigeria by Boko Haram than have died in the entire Ebola epidemic, and the bloodletting seems to be only getting worse, with local officials reporting the slaughter of at least 2,000 people in the town of Baga in the Borno State.

It’s estimated that 8,235 people have died from Ebola in west Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), while according to the Council for Foreign Relations, 10,000 people have been murdered at the hands of Boko Haram in the last year alone - an estimate that doesn’t take into account the latest and bloodiest massacre.

The bodies of Baga residents are still reportedly strewn throughout the town and surrounding bush more than a week after the massacre of thousands in 16 villages in Borno state.

An estimated 30,000 people are seeking refuge away from their homes, according to the Independent, with thousands flooding to the islands of Lake Chad. “Baga is not accessible because it is still occupied by Boko Haram,” senator Maina Ma'aji Lawan of northern Borno state told CNN.

Amnesty International called it “the deadliest massacre” committed by Boko Haram so far, a claim that the Nigerian military have accepted as “quite valid”.  The group, whose name translates as “Western education is sin”, emerged in 2009 with the goal of establishing an Islamic state in the religiously divided country.

Amnesty International’s Nigeria researcher, Daniel Eyre said that changes within the Nigerian military need to occur before attacks on civilians will stop. “What’s clear is that the response by the Nigerian military has not been sufficient,” he said, adding that the escalation of attacks showing no sign of slowing down.

What’s more, the current crisis in Nigeria is likely to continue to escalate with the impending general election in February, according to Lizzy Donnelly, the assistant head of the Africa programme at Chatham House. “There are risks around political and post-election violence and the dangers of militants bringing the chaos to a greater level,” she said.

In another attack in Maiduguri, also in Borno, over the weekend, 20 people were killed and 18 others injured when a young female suicide bomber detonated explosives in a market on Saturday. The bomber appeared to be around 10 years old according to local police. It’s thought that Boko Haram is behind the attack.

Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos and president of the Nigerian Bishops Conference expressed fears that this is only the beginning, telling the Independent: "I believe that Boko Haram and their allies want to cause more harm, more destruction. We are just hoping a remedy can be found and this terrible situation be brought to an end."

Newsweek contributing editor and author of The Hunt for Boko Haram, Alex Perry, called the Nigerian insurgency “agonizing to watch”, saying that despite encouragement for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to provide international aid, only Nigeria is capable of bringing an end to the killing.

Perry says that international aid is ineffective because it involves cooperation from the Nigerian military, which is where the roots of Nigeria’s corruption lie.

“You have to be very careful with the kind of intervention you impose,” Perry said. “Of course everyone wants to assist, but it’s difficult to do that effectively in Nigeria. There is nothing that we can do. ”

“Getting rid of gangsters that run Nigeria will take generations,” Perry said. “It is highly questionable if the Nigerian government even cares about the massacre.” He added that even if they do care, they don’t have the tools to eradicate the problem.

“The solution is not to flood area with foreign assistance, that’s exactly what the military want,” Perry said, adding that the popular #BringBackOurGirls campaign that was a response to 267 girls who were kidnapped from Chibok Secondary School in April 2013 provided exactly the kind of attention the extremists had been hoping for.

“The irony of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign is that Boko Haram were angling for that kind of attention for a long time. They wanted to raise awareness, and when they got the attention they wanted, they carried out a series of other massacres in order to retain it.”

Perry believes the key to helping Nigeria - as with the Ebola epidemic - is going in and making the existing government work better. “It is more effective to assist Africans in what they are already doing rather than taking impetus away from them,” he said.