International Affairs

Boko Haram is as big a threat as ISIS. So why are we ignoring it?

For the past two years, candidates for the presidency have made heavy-handed speeches about “radical Islamic terrorism.” Each candidate has claimed to be a stronger, more ruthless leader than the next — Donald Trump won by promising not to warn before bombing in Mosul, a callous move experts say would have heightened civilian casualties.

{mosads}The American people want to feel safe, so it is understandable that they desire a strong leader. However, the rhetoric against radical Islamic terrorism is sometimes couched in benevolence and a desire to save lives — primarily those of Christians — and establish more rights for women. The focus on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the lesser importance given to Boko Haram, shows that black lives do not matter internationally.


ISIS is a considerably larger group than Boko Haram by many estimates. It’s said to have at least around 80,000 fighters in the Levant. However, in 2014 the CIA estimated that number to be just over 20,000. Boko Haram has an estimated 15,000 members — considering that it’s never been a primary focus of U.S. intelligence, it is possible that number could be grossly underestimated.

ISIS is involved in a messy war in Iraq and Syria, so it’s claimed many lives within that region. Outside of that area, ISIS casualties stand about 1,200 people as of late May, including people who were inspired by the fundamentalist group but not directly carrying out orders. The terror group’s West African counterpart claimed 5,400 lives between 2013 and 2015 alone.

Boko Haram’s movement is metastasizing out of Nigeria and spreading to neighboring nations. According to Amnesty International, it’s claimed at least partial control of a large portion of Northeastern Nigeria. In 2015, Boko Haram killed 145 people on July 1 in a village raid — the same year the world mourned with the people of France when 130 were tragically killed in a November terror attack.

The U.S. and its allies has made the education and freedom of women and girls to be a focal point of why ousting the Taliban was imperative. Yet Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of women and girls, most famously from a school in Chibok, forcing them into slave-like marriages. And while the right-wing press argues for a war on Christians because some people have the audacity to utter the words “happy holidays,” Boko Haram leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi is threatening to kill Christians, even bombing them while they sit in church.

The security of West Africa is also in our best interest as a nation. Many people think that the U.S. is dependent on the Gulf states from oil. As it turns out, as of 2012, 12.9 percent of our oil comes from the Gulf States. A comparable 10.3 percent comes from Africa, with more half of that  being imported from Nigeria. Trump questioned the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which gives African nations “duty free access” to the U.S. market, though the relationship has created 120,000 American jobs.

But Donald Trump’s tone on Boko Haram has been tepid at best. He referred to the Nigerian government as “corrupt,” questioning why the U.S. is allocating time and resources to fighting Boko Haram. In a four-page memo, the president-elect poses the question, “why should we spend these funds on Africa, when we are suffering here in the US?”

The Nigerian government, according to intelligence reports, is “poorly equipped to fight Boko Haram.” That means without foreign support, more Nigerians will suffer at the hands of the terrorist organization.

The truth is that the people of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon are indeed suffering at the hands of a violent terror organization, but their lives and security are valued less. Black Christians in Africa are seemingly not worthy of protection. Black women and girls and their freedoms and education are a lower priority.

Boko Haram has proven itself to be nearly as dangerous as ISIS. ISIS entered into an unstable environment and capitalized. Boko Haram and its splinter groups are slowly destablizing a region on their own. Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS, but if ISIS is defeated in the Levant, that does not mean the end of Boko Haram or its splinter groups.


Jason Nichols is a full-time lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland-College Park and the current editor-in-chief of “Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture,” the first peer-reviewed journal of hip-hop studies.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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