Exploring the role of ECOWAS’s conflict prevention framework in the light of a terrorist insurgency: The case of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria

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Sani, Murtala Mohammed
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The emergence of Boko Haram has generated profound attention since 2009 when the group launched a military campaign to fight for Islamic rule in Nigeria causing millions of deaths and suffering as a result of its activities. Many local and foreign terrorism and insurgency scholars have drawn attention to Boko Haram’s ethnoreligious contest for political power as a major source of violent insecurity in the region. These commentators link the Boko Haram insurgency to the Maitatsine upheaval of the 1980s, yet the violent ideologies of this group have taken a transnational dimension making it one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world. This study challenges the Nigerian federal government and ECOWAS’s heavy-handed and militarised responses towards the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. Using a qualitative grounded theory methodology, the study explores the perceptions and experiences of a broad range of participants from the grassroots as well as workers from Civil Society Organisations through face-to-face one-on-one semi-structured interviews across four states in northern Nigeria. The analysis of the participants' narratives and stories validates a major gap in the government’s counterterrorism strategy. Drawing on the everyday experiences of the people from communities within northern Nigeria, the study finds inherent local capacity for community-led demilitarised peacebuilding programs and development with a focus on youth engagement, women empowerment, and interfaith dialogue. Hence, the prevention of violent extremism in West Africa’s Sahel region requires a rethink, redesign, and creative implementation of conflict prevention practice, in which local ownership is omnipresent. To this end, a context-level approach to northern Nigeria’s insurgency crisis must include peace solutions that are embedded within critical and emancipatory peacebuilding practices.
Terrorism, Conflict Prevention, Radicalisation, Boko Haram, ECOWAS