This provides an annotated bibliography of the Nigerian group Boko Haram. The bibliography doesn’t include newspaper or online news stories. I’ve included links where possible, and indicated if pieces are open access or require subscription. Thanks to those who have sent me pieces or links – I’d welcome corrections and further suggestions.
Created 14 February 2013; updated 27 March 2013 – added Agbiboa (2013); Anonymous 2012; Blanquart (2012); Gartenstein-Ross (2012); Kashi and Watts (2008); Lyman (2009); Musa (2012); Nwanegbo and Odigbo (2013); Onapajo and Uzodike 2012; Onapago, Uzodike and Whetho 2012; Omitola (2012); Pham (2011b); Ubhenin (2012); Yusha’u (2012); updated 24 May 2013 – added Adibe (2012); Agbiboa (2013); Idowu (2013); Mantzikos (2010).
For those new to the topic, I’d suggest that Davis, Pham 2012 and Walker are the best places to start (all open access), perhaps followed by one of the Adesoji pieces and Elkaim, Omede and Thomson. Robertson is a disturbing indication of possible U.S.-led pre-emptive interventions.
Adesoji, Abimbola O. (2011) “Between Maitatsine and Boko Haram: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Response of the Nigerian State”, Africa Today, Vol 57 No 4, pp. 98-119. [subscription required]
Mainly looks at the 2009 events associated with Boko Haram, and compares them to the Maitatsine [‘the one who damns’, named after the preacher Muhammed Marwa] uprisings of the 1980s. That provides a useful longer term background to more recent events. Some of the socio-economic analysis is quite useful. It suggests, though without much evidence, that Boko Haram is getting support from global jihadist groups and specifically claims “affinity with the North Africa branch of Al-Qaeda” (Adesoji 2011, p. 105). The most useful part for me was the description of the ‘Boko Haram riots’ of 26-30 July 2009 which followed the attack on the group’s hideout in the Dutsen Tenshin area of Bauchi. These riots occurred in the states of Bauchi, Kano, Yobe, and Borno, especially the last. The group’s leader Ustaz Mohammed Yusof was captured and killed in police custody. Over 700 people died in these protests, the riots and the crackdown. Quite helpful on membership and affiliation.
Adesoji, Abimbola (2010) “The Boko Haram Uprising and Islamic Revivalism in Nigeria”, Africa Spectrum, Vol 45 No 2, pp. 95-108. [open access]
This article is very similar to Adesoji 2011, but with more of a focus on recent events.
Agbiboa, Daniel Egiegba (2013a) “Ethno-Religious conflicts and the Elusive Quest for National Identity in Nigeria”, Journal of Black Studies, Vol 44 No 1, pp. 3-30. [subscription required]
Looks at the wider context of Nigerian politics and the ethnic makeup of the country as a whole.
Agbiboa, Daniel Egiegba (2013b) “The Nigerian Burden: Religious Identity, Conflict and the Current Terrorism of Boko Haram”, Conflict, Security and Development, Vol 13 No 1, pp. 1-29 [subscription required].
This is more explicitly on Boko Haram, with some useful discussion especially around religion.
Aghedo, Iro and Osumah, Oarhe (2012) “The Boko Haram Uprising: How Should Nigeria Respond?” Third World Quarterly, Vol 33 No 5, pp. 853-69. [subscription required]
A useful survey of the available literature, with a methodological focus and use of some interviews. Helpful background on other and earlier non-state violence within the territory of Nigeria, suggesting that Boko Haram should be understood as one group among many. Notes the group has existed under a variety of names, including “Ahlulsunna wai’jama’ah hijra and… the ‘Nigerian Taliban’ and ‘Yusufiyyah’ sect” (Aghedo and Osumah 2012, p. 858), and that the group probably exists in two main factions (p. 859). Notes the “country’s porous borders” as helping the group in terms of movement of people and arms (p. 863). “In August 2011 the commander of US Africa Command held that the BH has ties with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Somalia’s al-Shabaab” (p. 864). Calls for a “human security approach rather than the current emphasis on a repressive state security approach” (p. 853) within Nigeria.
Akokegh, A. F. (2012) “Boko Haram: A 21st Century Challenge in Nigeria”, European Scientific Journal, Vol 8 No 21, pp. 46-55 [open access].
Hard to recommend this piece, which is poorly written, argued and referenced.
Alao, Dayo and Uwom, Oguchi (2012) “Terrorism in Nigeria: An Analysis of North/South Media Coverage of Boko Haram (November 2011 to March 2012)”, International Review of Business and Social Sciences, Vol 1 No 8, pp. 49-62 [open access].
Useful as a source of interpretations from Nigerian media, though the analysis is tenuous at best.
Anonymous (2012) “The Popular Discourses of Salafi Radicalism and Salafi Counter-radicalism in Nigeria: A Case Study of Boko Haram”,Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol 42, pp. 118-44 [subscription required].
Very helpful on the religious debates within Islam, where Boko Haram sits within them, and what it has said through a wide variety of media. Explains in some detail what Western elements of education, political practice etc. (boko) they find haram. Good on criticisms within Nigeria, especially from Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmoud Adam – assassinated by Boko Haram in 2007.
Bagaji, Ali Simon Yusufu (2012) “Boko Haram and the Recurring Bomb Attacks in Nigeria: Attempt to Impose”, Cross-Cultural Communication, Vol 8 No 1, pp. 33-41 [open access].
Spends a lot of time on discussion terrorism in general, and not much on the specifics of Nigeria.
Barrett, Richard (2012) “Terrorism Finance: Preventing the Financing of Terrorism”, Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol 44 No 3, pp. 719-36 [subscription required]
Has a much more general focus, but briefly mentions Boko Haram in terms of their financing, suggesting they have had funds raised from AQIM kidnapping, and supplemented this with bank raids, car-jacking and other crime (p. 723).
Blanquart, Gabrielle (2012) “Boko Haram: Terrorist Organization, Freedom Fighters or Religious Fanatics? An Analysis of Boko Haram Within Nigeria, an Australian Perspective and the Need for Counter Terrorism Responses that Involves Prescribing them as a Terrorist Organization”, Proceedings of the 3rd Australian Counter Terrorism Conference, 3rd-5th December, pp. 30-36 [open access].
An Australian perspective, but not much for a general audience except perhaps for the comparison with AQIM.
Cook, David (2011), “Boko Haram: A Prognosis”, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, RiceUniversity, December 16. [open access]
Takes a hardline approach, but has some useful statements and interviews with Boko Haram members. Downplays any link to AQIM, but stresses its relation with al-Shabab in Somalia.
Danjibo, N.D. (2009) “Islamic Fundamentalism and Sectarian Violence: The ‘Maitatsine’ and ‘Boko Haram’ Crises in Northern Nigeria”, in Clément Boutillier (ed.) Proceedings of the 2009 IFRA Nigeria Conference in Zaria. [open access]
Danjibo is based at the Peace and Conflict Studies Programme, Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan. Compares the 2009 Boko Haram uprising with the 1980 Maitatsine events, in a similar way to Adesoji 2009.
Davis, Carlo (2012) “Boko Haram: Africa’s Homegrown Terror Network”, World Policy Journal [open access].
Short up-to-date analysis with a really helpful diagram of the movement and its links to other groups. Argues that the group’s aims are more to do with self-preservation than political or religious, and makes a compelling case for their mafia-like organization. Suggests that Nigeria’s security services are making things worse, and need to “their extrajudicial killings, and pursue justice rather than revenge”. A longer-term fix can only come through dealing with Nigeria’s corruption.
Elkaim, Zachary (2012) “Boko Haram: The Rise, Success and Continued Efficacy of the Insurgency in Nigeria”, ICT Working Paper Series [open access]
Provides some historical background, especially on the northern and southern protectorates that constituted Nigeria, and on the tensions between the Sokoto caliphate and the Kanem-Bornu Empire before British rule. Good on recent events, and political decisions made within the Nigerian government.
Forest, James J. F. (2011) “Al-Qaeda’s Influence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Myths, Realities and Possibilities”, Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 5, No 3-4, pp. 63-80 [open access].
Useful on the wider regional context and on AQIM.
Gartenstein-Ross, Daveed (2012), “Is Nigeria the Next Front in the War on Terror?” Foreign Policy, July 3rd [open access].
Brief report on the situation for a US audience, suggesting that the country is descending into religious war, and noting supposed links between Boko Haram and al-Qaeda. Read in comparison with other sources for the problems with this analysis.
Hansen, William W. and Aliyu Musa, Umma (2013) “Fanon, the Wretched and Boko Haram”, Journal of African and Asian Studies, advance online publication, doi: 10.1177/0021909612467277 [subscription required]
Uses Frantz Fanon’s work to try to understand the emergence of Boko Haram. It suggests his concept of ‘the wretched’ remains useful, and that even if the notion of a racial foreigner is irrelevant to this case, Fanon is helpful in making sense of it. Seems a bit too willing to see all violence in the north as due to Boko Haram, with AQIM as influence upon it, rather than affiliates of the second group being responsible—for example, the kidnappings of the British and Italian nationals in Sokoto. Has a useful note on the difficulty of using Nigerian media for accurate reporting on Boko Haram.
Hills, Alice (2012) “Policing a Plurality of Worlds: The Nigerian Police in Metropolitan Kano”, Africa Affairs, Vol 111 No 442, pp. 46-66 [requires subscription].
A useful account of policing in Kano, from a key writer in international politics. Her 2009 book Policing Post-Conflict Cities is well worth a look too.
Idowu, Amos Adeoye (2013) “Security Laws and Challenges in Nigeria: The Boko Haram Insurgency“, Journal of Applied Security Research, Vol 8, pp. 118-134 [requires subscription].
The legal side is quite useful here, as is the listing of Boko Haram demands and beliefs.
Ifeka, Caroline (2010) “War on ‘Terror’: Africom, the Kleptocratic State and Under-Class Militancy in West Africa-Nigeria”, Concerned Africa Scholars, No 85 [open access].
Good on the political economy of the country and the wider region, with some useful discussion of US strategic commands in the area. Has some good detail on the 2009 events, and situates these well within other uprisings and violence in the country. Some helpful discussion of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDVF).
International Crisis Group (2010) “Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict”, Africa Report 168 [open access].
Provides what it says—a useful and thorough background context to events, though a few years out of date.
Johnson, Toni (2011) “Boko Haram”, Council on Foreign Relations, 27 December [open access].
US perspective on the events, especially in terms of what role the US should or shouldn’t play in the region.
Kashi, Ed and Watts, Michael J. (2008) Curse of the Black Gold: Fifty Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, New York: Powerhouse.
A remarkable collection of photographs of the Delta by Ed Kashi, with text by Michael Watts and others. Useful for the wider context of Nigerian politics, and in particular the way the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was dealt with by the state. Some images and text can be found in this piece in Mother Jones.
Last, Murray (2007) “Muslims and Christians in Nigeria: An Economy of Political Panic”, The Round Table, Vol 96 No 392, pp. 605-616 [requires subscription].
Useful background on the different religions in Nigeria, with a call for city-by- city studies, rather than a straight-forward divide.
Last, Murray (2009) “The Pattern of Dissent: Boko Haram in Nigeria 2009”, Annual Review of Islam in Africa, No 10, pp. 7-11 [requires subscription].
Good on the 2009 events, with a longer view from the author of The Sokoto Caliphate (1967)
Last, Murray (2011) “Northern Nigerian Militancy: Who and What are Boko Haram?” African Arguments, July 15 [open access]
Another good account, particularly of Nigerian state responses and constraints.
Loimeier, Roman (2012) “Boko Haram: The Development of a Militant Religious Movement in Nigeria”, Africa Spectrum, Vol 47 No 2-3, pp. 137-55 [open access].
A good general account, with some historical background, particularly on the Yan Izala movement of reform within Islam.
Lyman, Princeton N. (2009) “The War on Terrorism in Africa”, in John W. Harbeson and Donald S. Rothchild (ed.) Africa in World Politics: Engaging a Changing Global Order, Boulder Co.: Westview Press, Ch. 11 [open access].
Takes a broad historical and geographical focus, which is helpful for setting Boko Haram in a wider context. Pre-dates much of the recent activity, but has a discussion of Nigeria, especially in relation to the Delta in 2008.
Maiangwa, Benjamin, Okeke Uzodike, Ufo, Whetho, Ayo and Onapajo, Hakeem (2012), “‘Baptism by Fire’: Boko Haram and the Reign of Terror in Nigeria”, Africa Today, Vol 59 No 2, pp. 40-57 [subscription required].
Analyses Nigeria as a failed state, with some interesting detail on Boko Haram that is unavailable elsewhere.
Mantzikos, Ioannis (2010) “The Absence of the State in Northern Nigeria: The Case of Boko Haram”, African Renaissance, Vol 7 No 1, pp. 57-62 [subscription required].
The piece is most useful for the background, as it predates key events in 2011 and since. The discussion of other Islamist groups in Nigeria historically is quite useful. The point about the absence of the state is important , though this piece doesn’t make much of it. It is important in making sense of how Boko Haram operates because does much more than simply oppose, and like Hezbollah does many things commonly ascribed to states.
Musa, Alivu O. (2012) “Socio-Economic Incentives: New Media and the Boko Haram Campaign of Violence in Northern Nigeria”, Journal of African Media Studies, Vol 4 No 1, pp. 111-24 [subscription required].
Suggests that religion is not the key factor in Boko Haram, but economic deprivation in the north of the country. Also examines the uses of new media (internet and mobile phones) in how the group operates.
Nwanegbo, C. Jaja and Odigbo, Jude (2013) “Security and National Development in Nigeria: The Threat of Boko Haram”, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, Vol 3 No 4, pp. 285-90 [open access].
Short piece that makes the argument that insecurity is a barrier to development in the country. Not especially useful.
Ogunrotifa, Ayodeji Bayo (2013) “Class Theory of Terrorism: A Study of Boko Haram”, Research on Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 3 No 1, pp. 27-59 [open access]
A historical materialist account with a long historical frame, with some useful detail on recent events.
Ojo, Emmanuel O. (2010) “Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Extra-Judicial State”, Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa, Vol 12 No 2, pp. 45-62 [open access].
Discusses the security response to Boko Haram, and the large number of extra-judicial killings.
Olaniyi, Rasheed Oyewole (2011) “Hisbah and Sharia Law Enforcement in Metropolitan Kano”, Africa Today, Vol 57 No 4, pp. 70-96 [requires subscription].
Useful on the city of Kano itself, and the partial reintroduction of Sharia law since 1999. Boko Haram wants much more extensive use of Sharia.
Omede, A. J. (2011) “Nigeria: Analysing the Security Challenges of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration”, Canadian Social Science, Vol 7 No 5, pp. 90-102 [open access].
Provides some useful analysis of legal, political and military responses to non-state groups within Nigeria, of which Boko Haram is but one.
Omitola, Bolaji (2012) “Terrorism and the Nigerian Federation: The Challenges of Disintegration in the Fourth Republic”, African Security Review, Vol 21 No 4, pp. 4-16 [subscription required].
Compares Boko Haram to the groups operating in the Niger Delta, and good on the territorial challenges of keeping the country together.
Onapajo, Hakeem and Uzodike, Ufo Okeke (2012) “Boko Haram Terrorism in Nigeria: Man, the State and the International System”, African Security Review, Vol 21 No 3, pp. 24-39 [subscription required].
Uses Kenneth Waltz’s work on the causes of war to analyse Boko Haram at three levels – individual, state and international system. Some good detail on how the group operates.
Onapajo, Hakeem, Uzodike, Ufo Okeke and Whetho, Ayo (2012) “Boko Haram Terrorism in Nigeria: The International Dimension”, South African Journal of International Affairs, Vol 19 No 3, pp. 337-57. [subscription required]
Looks at Boko Haram’s links outside Nigeria.
Onuoha, Freedom C. (2010) “The Islamist Challenge: Nigeria’s Boko Haram Crisis Explained”, African Security Review, Vol 19 No 2, pp 54-67 [subscription required]
Good on the 2009 events.
Pham, J. Peter (2012) “Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat?” Africa Security Brief, No 20 [open access]
Not a bad place to start, with a lot of detail and background on the group.
Pham, J. Peter (2011a) “Foreign Influences and Shifting Horizons: The Ongoing Evolution of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” Orbis, Vol 55 No 2, pp. 240-54 [subscription required]
Given the alleged links between Boko Haram and AQIM, this is a helpful background piece on the latter.
Pham, J. Peter (2011b) “The Dangerous ‘Pragmatism’ of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”, Journal of the Middle East and Africa, Vol 2 No 1, pp. 15-29 [subscription required].
Another useful piece on AQIM, and particularly its transnational operations.
Ploch, Lauren (2012) “Nigeria: Current Issues and U.S. Policy”, CRS Report for Congress [open access].
A briefing for the US Congress, with some useful background on the country as a whole in terms of its economy, health, politics, and society.
Popoola, I.S. (2012) “Press and Terrorism in Nigeria: A Discourse on Boko Haram”, Global Media Journal African Edition, Vol 6 No 1, pp. 43-66 [open access].
Looks at targeting of journalists by Boko Haram, which helps to explain some of the media coverage within Nigeria.
Robertson, Racine W. E. (2012) “Pre-Emptive Threat Mitigation: Neutralizing the Boko Haram Threat to U.S. Interests”, Naval War College [open access].
Robertson is a Major in the U.S. Army who advocates a much more engaged strategy for AFRICOM (the US military command based in Stuttgart dealing with the African Continent) and pre-emptive action in Nigeria. She talks up the links between Boko Haram and AQIM, and suggests that AFRICOM’s ‘Theater Strategic Objectives’ can best be met by the use of “Engagement Teams (ETs) to neutralize the foundation of the Boko Haram in Nigeria” (p. 2), and especially future collaboration between Boko Haram and AQIM (pp. 4-5). The ETs being called for are 20-30 men teams, with at least a 50% Nigerian component “including local state citizens, police, military and both Islamic and Christian religious leaders” (p. 5) and a US part “should consist of U.S. military Chaplains, Intelligence, Ordnance, Corps of Engineers, Administrative, Logistics, Civil Affairs and Special Forces personnel, agents from the FBI and CIA, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Justice (DoJ) and USDA [Department of Agriculture] employees” (pp. 5-6). Suggests such activities also need to work in relation to Nigeria’s northern neighbours in Chad and Niger.
While it does recognize there are structural issues that lead to support for Boko Haram, and that the legacy of colonialism is important, this proposal is disturbing. It suggests that “Engagement Teams in Nigeria would pre-empt an all-out war that could potentially destabilize the entire region and block access to key U.S. interests. Efforts by the Nigerian government to end the horrors brought about by the Islamic radicals of Boko Haram are simply not broad enough in scope to truly eradicate the roots of this insurgency. A purely military solution will not work. Rife with religious, economic and ethnic strife, corruption and many other traits of a failed state, Nigeria is still an emerging power” (p. 16).
Rogers, Paul (2012) “Nigeria: The Generic Context of the Boko Haram Violence”, Oxford Research Group briefing [open access].
Short briefing which focuses on economic and political marginalization as a cause.
Schwartz, Stephanie (2010) “Is Nigeria a Hotbed of Islamic Extremism?” United States Institute of Peace Brief 27 [open access],
If you can get past the title this is a fairly useful analysis, following a USIP public event on Nigeria. It dates from 2010 and events have moved on beyond what is looked at here. Better for background and history on Nigeria than on more recent politics.
Thomson, Valarie (2012) “Boko Haram and Islamic Fundamentalism in Nigeria”, Global Security Studies, Vol 3 No 3, pp. 46-60 [open access].
Good on the longer historical background, including the tensions between British colonialism and Islam in the north, especially in the Sokoto Caliphate of the 19th century.
Soyinka, Wole (2012) “The Butchers of Nigeria”, Newsweek, January 16th, [open access].
Short, angry piece by the Nobel-prize winning Nigerian writer.
Ubhenin, Oscar Edoror (2012) “Constructing the Boko Haram Uprising in Nigeria: A Civil Society Perspective”, Revija za bezbednost/The Security Review, Vol VI, pp. 22-34 [open access].
Some useful discussion of ‘civil society’ in Nigeria and the socio-economic elements of the group.
Walker, Andrew (2012) “What is Boko Haram?”, United States Institute of Peace Special Report [open access]
A very good introductory account of the group, from March 2012, with some historical background pre-2009 that is lacking in other accounts. Good on the links—real and imagined—between Boko Haram and other groups in the country and region, and especially on the kidnapping of Europeans Chris McManus and Franco Lamolinara in May 2011 and their failed rescue in March 2012, which was almost certainly the work of a different group.
Warner, Zach (2012) “The Sad Rise of Boko Haram”, New African, April 1st, No 516, pp. 38-40 [open access]
Very short account, but gives a lot of historical background. Puts the rise down to alienation of young Muslim men from Nigeria’s politics, and gives the text of a speech by President Goodluck Jonathan in early 2012 calling on the group to state their grievances.
Watts, Michael J. (2009) “Crude Politics: Life and Death on the Nigerian Oil Fields”, Niger Delta: Economies of Violence Working Paper 25 [open access]
Geographer Michael Watts has written about Nigeria for several decades. His recently reissued book Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria provides an invaluable background to a study of this part of the country. The above piece is one of his most recent, and puts the Boko Haram events of 2009 in relation to the violence around the oil fields in the south of the country.
Yusha’u, Muhammad Jameel (2012) “Representation of Boko Haram Discourses in the British Broadsheets”, Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research, Volume 5, Number 1, 20 November 2012 , pp. 91-108 [subscription required].
Compares The Guardian and The Telegraph, and concludes that – despite domestic ‘ideological divides’ – there is no appreciable distinction in how they have reported on Boko Haram. Uses this as a basis for suggesting that anti-Islam has replaced anti-communism in Western media.
References to read
The following pieces are ones that I came across references to, but as yet have been unable to access – articles in journals requiring subscription. I’ll update this bibliography as I get hold of them.
Golwa, Joseph P. and Alozieuwa, Simeon H.O. (2012) “Perspectives on Nigeria’s Security Challenges: The Niger Delta Militancy and Boko Haram Insurgency Compared”, African Renaissance, Vol 9 No 1, pp. 65-90. [subscription required]
Sampson, Isaac Terwase (2013) “The dilemmas of counter-bokoharamism: Debating state responses to Boko Haram terrorism in northern Nigeria”, Security Journal, doi:10.1057/sj.2013.2 [subscription required]