This post looks at the international response to Boko Haram. The threat of this crisis has reached far beyond the borders of Nigeria. You can learn more about Boko Haram with full fact sheets, timelines, backgrounders and history here.
International Response to Boko Haram – Regional Responses
It was not the kidnapping of Christian school girls alone that garnered Boko Haram global attention. Surrounding African nations in the region have been forced to recognize the rising risk of this situation to their own borders as well.
The rise of Boko Haram has triggered a refugee crisis regionally with several layers of complexity. Estimates in 2016 of as many as 20,000 refugees crossing the border into Cameroon pale against the 50,000 that have moved into Niger.
Meanwhile, whenever the Nigerian government launches a campaign against Boko Haram, many of the organization’s fighters cross the borders themselves and take shelter among these refugee populations. This trend is so dominant that refugee populations are afraid to speak out against the very group that has brought about their displacement. They do not know who among them might be the enemy taking shelter.
In 2015 Chad and Niger joined an African Union effort with Nigeria to fight the forces of Boko Haram. This triggered new Boko Haram attacks outside of Nigeria’s borders. That summer the capital of Chad suffered its first, of many, attacks from Boko Haram suicide bombers.
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International Response to Boko Haram – The United States
The United States government signaled its intent to support Nigeria’s new president and efforts against Boko Haram that same summer with a $5 million loan. This support followed a history of mixed results in Nigeria’s appeal to the U.S. for assistance.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to recognize Boko Haram as a terrorist organization as late as 2011 even after the bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja. Similarly, the U.S. has refused to sell arms to the Nigerian government citing its records and allegations of human rights abuses.
U.S. involvement in the fight against Boko Haram to date appears more in alignment to specific U.S. security interests in the region rather than a “fight to win” attitude against the organization. In 2007 the United States Africa Command was established. This was ramped up after the so called Arab Spring of 2011. Through AFRICOM the U.S. has worked with other international groups and nations to fight against al-Qaeda related groups in Mali and Somalia.
U.S. perspectives of Boko Haram seem to be through a lens of U.S interests alone. In a 2014 profile with the New York Times, Brigadier General James Linder of AFRICOM stated: “Instability in Libya is causing a lot of the instability in West Africa.” While the problems in Libya could be contributing to the instability of U.S. interests in the region this is hardly the source and cause of Boko Haram and Nigerian instability.
This look at the international response to Boko Haram and more are covered in explainers and backgrounders through my in depth look at Everything You Need to Know About Boko Haram.