Radical Militants pose Roadblocks to Development

Chase Wonderlic & John Ahn

The extremist rebel group Boko Haram has been operating in French West Africa since the beginning of the twenty-first century. In this time, the group has wrought death and destruction in the region, culminating in a major paramilitary insurgency in 2009. In particular, northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria have become hotbeds for Boko Haram’s terrifying brand of violence and oppression. Though the United States and its allies have intervened with drone reconnaissance and troops on the ground, these countries have been suffering from more than a restriction of freedom. A real, lasting impact of Boko Haram’s presence in poor African countries is stunted development in health, agriculture, and education sectors.

In northeastern Nigeria alone, Boko Haram has destroyed about 788 health facilities such as clinics and humanitarian camps. In the Borno province, 48 health workers (many international volunteers) were killed and over 250 were left injured from violent encounters with the radical insurgency. The spread of extremism has created a brain drain in the health sector of critically impoverished areas: Borno has lost nearly 35% of its healthcare professionals to other parts of Nigeria. Thus, the part of the country most affected by the crisis is the part left most helpless.

Similarly, the state of agriculture is affected by the wartime conditions. In peace, Cameroonian farmers could work their land and provide for their communities with relative plenitude. Now, Boko Haram militants have overrun these same rural towns and farmers have fled as refugees. Millions of people, displaced from the sources of their food, are struggling to relocate their livelihoods to safer areas. Fortunately, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization plans to donate supplies of additional seed to the countries of West Africa that now need to up production in the wake of the mass displacement. This issue, nevertheless, is far from resolved as long as Boko Haram squanders arable land.

Finally and most poignantly, Boko Haram has disrupted the state of education in villages that are just gaining momentum in the global campaign for literacy and primary school attendance. The group’s position against women in the classroom has put young girls and female instructors at risk. The governments of Nigeria and Cameroon pledge to protect their schools, but people in affected areas worry that schools will become literal battlegrounds.

  • Should the international community intervene in civil wars on the basis of development?
  • Is the War on Terror better understood as a War for Development?
  • How can the developing world prepare for the devastating consequences of violence?

Works Cited:

“‘They Set the Classrooms on Fire’ | Attacks on Education in Northeast Nigeria.” Human Rights Watch, 6 June 2017.

Becomes the New Frontline in Boko Haram War.” IRIN, 27 June 2017.

Felix Abrahams, et al. “How Boko Haram Is Devastating Health Services in North-East Nigeria.” The Conversation, 27 Mar. 2018.

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11 Responses to Radical Militants pose Roadblocks to Development

  1. mesisklism19 says:

    Definitely misread the title as “radical millenials pose roadblocks to development.” Anyhow, it’s a shame that a nation escaping poverty at a break-neck pace such as nigeria now has to contend with terrorists destroying western-funded health installations and seemingly targeting Igbo tribes in the area solely because they are christian. Igbo are also the most classically-westernized nigerian tribe, with many working corporate jobs.Nigeria’s secular government also seems under fire, and it has done a remarkable job managing a country so heavily divided on religious grounds. If radical Yoruba members continue supporting boko Haram in its march to the nigerian coast, the oil fields of Port Harcourt could be under fire, which could yet again trigger an oil price fluctuation. Hopefully the AU will be able to sort itself out and devise a tangible response to the attacks on one of Africa’s rising powers.

  2. reamest18 says:

    Unfortunately, it is a double-edged sword when intervening in international comflicts. It seems that increasingly “cival wars” are more international in that you have certain countries backing either side. For example, the United States and Russia find themselves at odds over Syria (and a lot more). So, though the developed world cannot ignore the conflicts that are taking place around the world, any sort of involvement must be carefully weighed due to the interconnectedness of the modern world. An action taken against one country could really be an action taken against four of them.

  3. nshimyumukizas18 says:

    Boko Haram is serious national security matter for Nigeria or Cameroon or the neighboring countries. However, developing countries like Nigeria find themselves with a limited budget. The question then becomes what is going to be your priorities. Do you increase your department of defense’s budget or do you keep trying to level your budget to other essential areas such as education or health. In my personal opinion, security is the base of any economic development. If you do not have peace in a country, it is a waste to develop other areas, because come war, everything would be destroyed. Thus, countries like Nigeria really need to treat issues like Boko Haram very seriously and their first priority should be bringing and keeping peace.

  4. gakelere20 says:

    The fact that the actions of militant groups within a community can have such a negative, lasting impact on the same community’s continued development is extremely frustrating. The focus of any government should be ensuring that economic development is able to occur and the protection of its healthcare and educational infrastructure is a key component to this. In order to do this, however, international aid may be required as developing countries seldom have the budget to be able to deal with internal conflicts like this. For that reason, I personally believe that the international community has an obligation to aid in the protection of a just government’s educational and healthcare institutions. Beyond that, though, the international community is not required to choose sides in a civil war.

  5. Chris DuPont says:

    This is an incredibly tough situation for Nigeria and countries nearby. While the international community does not and should not have a duty to intervene in civil wars (USA learned this the hard way), I believe they do have a duty to intervene in global issues regarding terrorism. Nigeria is clearly struggling as a country as a whole and is becoming less and less able to fight Boko Haram on its own. It’s in the best interest of the global community to help Nigeria stop this terrorist organization, because they pose a threat to all countries in the world, not just those in close proximity to Nigeria.

  6. aidanchandless says:

    This is quite a challenging issue. On one hand it seems obvious that the US should be providing help to oppose Boko Haram through the deployent of troops or arming opposition groups. On the other hand, when the US has done similar things in the past it has often ended up being a mistake. It is absurd that the Boko Haram are targeting health facilities. Don’t the health facilities also provide them with a health benefit? I would be interested to hear how the governments of African countries are trying to deal with this issue.

  7. pezzij19 says:

    I’m sure there is a lot of interesting data on a comparison of the northern and southern economies. But part of me is curious on whether or not there was a disparity between the two region before the recent introduction of Boko Haram in the early 2000s.
    Another thing that seems to be an important negative externality of the conflicts is the decrease of foreign direct investment. Nigeria, with convenient geography, the largest population in Africa, a rapidly developing economy and a historically stable, secular government, so in many ways it is an ideal country for investment in Africa. And though I know there is still investment in Nigeria and Cameroon, I would assume it has slowed due to the conflicts. If Nigeria and Cameroon want to continue development, I think establishing safety and control is the necessary foundation for that growth.

  8. herndono20 says:

    It is tragic to see another developing country make such socio-economic progress only to be hindered by war, but I believe Nigeria has the ability to make up lost success with the help of FDI. Unlike countries who struggle to get policies and financial systems in place, Nigeria could really benefit in both the short and long run. If they are able to get aid they could work to rebuild the schools, salvage farmland, and fund the necessary expenses to fix repair their financial systems. It will be very expensive and might take some time to restore, but if Nigeria can retain their labor force in the several areas where they are depleting, they won’t lose the foundation that seems to be the biggest challenge for developing countries. However, they must deal with the civil wars and violence in the country before they can rebuild the rest of the country. Unfortunately as grey mentioned they this may out of their hands with international funding on both sides.

    • the prof says:

      Ah, but if Nigeria wasn’t able to make use of oil revenue, is it a good target for FDI? Who wants to farm, when incomes have been demolished by Dutch Disease?

  9. Banks Pflager says:

    For a developing country, a rebel group holding back the economic progress makes for long-lasting pain and poverty for many people. This is something that the government needs to get under control in order to protect the people. While other countries have an obligation to their own country first, the fight against rebel, terrorist groups is something worth fighting. The US should be able to go support Nigeria in order to fight for what is good in the world. I also think that the UN food and agriculture organization is the most important group that should be supporting Nigerians as of right now.

    • the prof says:

      We’ve contingents of Marines scattered throughout Africa. However, not everyone wants US soldiers on their soil. In addition, this is closer to policing than to military fighting – rebels generally aren’t wandering around in groups of 1,000 just waiting to be bombed, they’re part of the local population, more like a gang or organized crime group. The Marines may not be of much help.

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