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Boko Haram 10 years on
This year, Nigeria, a country which prides itself on milestones like being Africa’s most populous country and being home to its largest economy, is marking an unsavory one: a decade of devastating insurgency in its northeast region.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has grown from being a local fringe religious sect to become a brutal terrorist group with impact on neighboring countries. In its wake over 25,000 people have been killed with thousands others abducted. At least 2 million people have also been displaced from their homes across the northeast. The insurgency has set back what was already one of Nigeria’s least developed regions. It has also cost the government billions of dollars in military spending and stretched the country’s security forces to their limits.
It’s not the sort of reality any country is keen to relive.
But, as it turns out, Nigeria is repeating the mistakes which led to the rise of Boko Haram as a force.
This year, members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), a Shi’ite Muslim group, have repeatedly protested in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, for the release of their leader, Ibrahim El Zakzaky who remains imprisoned since 2015 despite court orders for his release. His detention came after an “altercation” between the group and the Nigerian army which resulted in over 300 members killed and buried in a mass grave.
Ever since, protests by IMN members have been typically met with brute force: the group says over 20 of its members were killed this week. Last year, New York Times analysis of video footage of protests revealed the army killed unarmed protesters in another incident.
The parallels between the handling of IMN and early-day Boko Haram are easy to see: in both cases the government detained the leader of an ideologically radical religious group, triggering anger among its members with no way to predict—or contain—the fallout. In the case of Boko Haram, erstwhile leader Mohammed Yusuf died in police custody, sparking a cycle of violence which eventually saw the group morph into a murderous sect. Today, even though El Zakzakzy’s legal team say he requires urgent medical care, nothing suggests he will be released soon.
With IMN vowing more protests and security forces unlikely to change tactics, there are fears this may degenerate into another chapter of violence, like Boko Haram did. It’s just as the saying goes: those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
— Yomi Kazeem, Quartz Lagos correspondent
Stories from this week
How #MeToo spread to Nigeria’s conservative northern region. A Nigerian woman’s story of abuse on social media led to a wave of sexual violence recollections under the hashtag #ArewaMeToo started by Fakhrriyyah Hashim. She explains how the movement is challenging perceptions of gender-based violence in a region dominated by a culture of silence, and a country where both the prosecution and conviction of violent abusers remains low.
#MauritiusLeaks: How it became a global tax haven exploited by multinationals. This week Quartz, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, released a series of stories based on over 200,000 documents leaked from a Mauritius law firm. They showed just how deeply the finance hub the Indian Ocean island nation built has turned into a major loophole for Western corporates operating in Africa. From Bob Geldof’s private equity fund to a US firm that leases planes to South African Airways, the documents, which we searched using AI, highlight the range of firms and players exploiting the system.
Trump’s attacks on Ilhan Omar boost her support back home in Minnesota. The Somali-American community and other Minnesota supporters gave a hero’s welcome to congresswoman Ilhan Omar after “send her back” chants erupted at the US president’s rally a week prior, write Abdi Latif Dahir and Haleluya Hadero. For the socially embattled Somali-American community, Ilhan’s sustained defiance against Trump has meant a voice to defend them on the national and global stage, and temerity to claim their place in their new homeland.
Google is using Maps to try and bring order to one of Africa’s most chaotic cities. Getting around Lagos can often be tricky with traffic jams, congested roads and inefficient public transport services. But, with new updates for informal transit directions and bike navigation mode to its Map service, Google is trying to make it easier to get around one of Africa’s busiest cities.
How a Texas family discovered they owned a forgotten, but valuable, portrait by Ben Enwonwu. Nearly 50 years ago in Lagos, an American lady of West Indian descent sat for a portrait by renown Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu. That lady moved to Texas some years afterwards and died a few years later. Her family recently learned from art auction house Sotheby’s just how valuable that painting is today, writes Ciku Kimeria
Chart of the Week
Africa’s largest wind power project is now open in Kenya. Kenya has unveiled Africa’s largest wind power project in a gusty and rocky desert stretch located 600 kilometers (372 miles) north of the capital Nairobi. The Lake Turkana Wind Power farm adds to the country’s general ambition to have 100% renewable energy by 2020.
Other Things We Liked
A case of mistaken identity was a nightmare for an Eritrean refugee in Italy. For three years, Italian officials falsely accused an Eritrean man of running a migrant smuggling criminal enterprise which spanned eleven countries and three continents. The New Yorker’s Ben Taub writes about the dramatic journey to freedom for the former milk salesman, whose only shared attributes with the real smuggler were his nationality and first name.
A history of US-backed efforts to send black people back to Africa. For Time, Olivia Waxman chronicles the history of the American Colonization Society, an organization of white political elites who championed the removal of freed slaves from the US through black colonization of Africa.
Rise and stall of a southern Africa supermarket chain. For Mail & Guardian, Simon Allison and Dhashen Moodley write on recent accounting irregularities and personnel suspensions by Choppies, a supermarket chain from Botswana. They raise serious questions whether the once struggling store turned into a multinational corporation by using dubious financial and political methods.
Solving water problems in East Africa. Young East African entrepreneurs with initiatives that contributes to the solution of a well-defined water problem in their countries are encouraged to apply to the Young Water Solutions East Africa fellowship for 10-days of start-up training in Uganda, coaching, mentorship, and seed funding opportunities. (Aug. 18)
Calling young African leaders in policy making. Africans interested in shaping regional and global agendas in politics, finance, business, and civil society can apply to the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders Program for networking opportunities and participation in December’s Atlantic Dialogues conference. (Sept.15)
Telling DR Congo stories through photos. Photographers interested in documenting human, social and ecological challenges in the DR Congo can apply to the Carmignac Photojournalism Award for a €50,000 grant to carry out a six-month field report with the support of the Fondation Carmignac. (Oct. 16)
*This brief was produced while listening to Wushetam by Zeritu Kebede (Ethiopia).
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