ABUJA, Nigeria — Boko Haram, a militant extremist group based in Nigeria, has continued its campaign against Nigeria’s government in an attack that left 60 people dead in January 2019. Formed in 2002, Boko Haram has continuously waged war on the people of Nigeria in an attempt to erase all Western influence. Despite Boko Haram’s growing numbers, world organizations and even individuals, such as Aisha Gombi, have made it their mission to stop Boko Haram’s violent attacks.
Boko Haram Attacks in Nigeria
While Boko Haram’s initial platform revolved around opposing Western education for Nigeria’s children, its focus turned to militant force and attacks in 2009. These attacks have included the kidnapping of aid workers and Nigerian teenagers (usually used as child soldiers), bombings and the torching of military bases and aid buildings, which happened in the latest assault. Nigeria’s military and aid organizations have had a difficult time responding to Boko Haram attacks. In the most recent attack in Rann, a camp hosting thousands of displaced persons, multiple survivors reported that the Nigerian army had abandoned the camp the day before Boko Haram arrived.
Rann has now been the target of three Boko Haram attacks between 2018 and 2019. The first strike resulted in the death of three aid workers and the kidnapping of three more. Since Boko Haram began its official armed revolt against the Nigerian government in 2009, a total of 27,000 have been killed and another 1.8 million rendered homeless. While the numbers are daunting, multiple nongovernmental organizations are still attempting to aid those displaced by Boko Haram, as well as prevent future violence.
The Work of Amnesty International
Amnesty International, a nongovernmental organization with a focus on addressing violations of human rights, has been paying close attention to Boko Haram. The organization has even begun to rely on satellite imagery to keep up with the range and level of destruction caused by Boko Haram’s attacks. After the January attack, the organization reported that its use of satellite imagery revealed that the majority of burned structures have only existed since 2017, suggesting that Boko Haram had torched temporary shelters built for displaced persons.
Amnesty International has also implemented environmental sensors in the areas most likely to be attacked by Boko Haram. These sensors were able to alert the organization to fires in the Rann area in real time, allowing Amnesty to put together a plan of response as the attack unfolded. In addition to fighting human rights violations, this organization calls on the governments of countries experiencing attacks to form an adequate response. After learning that the Nigerian army had pulled out of Rann, leaving the people more vulnerable, the organization’s response was swift.
Osai Ojigho, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, admonished the lack of protection offered to the people of Rann, stating: “Boko Haram has consistently and deliberately targeted civilians in Rann, which makes the Nigerian authorities’ failure to protect people all the more unacceptable.” Ojigho has called for the Nigerian government to keep soldiers in vulnerable areas to prevent future Boko Haram attacks.
While Amnesty International works to address Boko Haram’s brutality on a large scale, one Nigerian woman has made it her mission to fight the insurgency on the ground, armed with only a few soldiers. Aisha Bakari Gombi, known across Nigeria as the “Queen Hunter,” is one of the few women hired by the Nigerian government to fight Boko Haram. An experienced hunter, Aisha sold her sewing machine and bought a new rifle when Boko Haram attacked her village, deciding to pursue Boko Haram soldiers on her own.
Aisha leads a small army of men aged from 15 to 30, relying on the use of sign language and animal sounds to remain undetected by Boko Haram soldiers. Through these methods, Aisha has been able to rescue hundreds of kidnapped individuals. As the most effective Boko Haram fighter, Aisha is often called upon for her abilities but is rarely paid by the Nigerian government. Without crucial resources, Aisha has had trouble continuing her efforts. However, she still makes every attempt to end Boko Haram’s reign, often relying on donations from civilians or her own finances.
While Boko Haram has done a great deal of damage to the country and people of Nigeria, many are working to quell the group’s attacks and eventually, stop them altogether. With organizations like Amnesty International continuing to work on the government level and individuals like Aisha Gombi forming a resistance on the ground, it is hopeful that Boko Haram attacks will come to an end.
– Holli Flanagan