Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Boko Haram: a sect alone?

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****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ******The Boko Haram sect surprised many in Nigeria and elsewhere with the violence of their uprising last week.******Before Boko Haram was suppressed by the security forces at the cost of nearly 800 lives, we learned that the group’s name means “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language used in northern Nigeria.******We also learned that the sect’s charismatic leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was, before he was killed while in police detention, opposed to all things Western.******Which prompts two thoughts. The first is that the anti-education message may not have much traction in Nigeria, a country whose inhabitants are determined to get ahead and secure the best education for their children. In many cases that will be either in the West or in Nigerian schools offering a Western-style curriculum.******During the years I spent in the country, staff working for me were always concerned about being able to raise enough money for their children’s school uniforms and books.******And the second thought: Yusuf’s opposition to the modern world seems to have had its limits. When the violence erupted in Maiduguri, he was seen riding in a Toyota car, dressed in military-style fatigues and accompanied by men carrying Russian-designed assault rifles.

Northern Nigeria erupts again

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So far the exact toll from the latest bout of religious rioting in northern Nigeria is not clear. At least 150 have died and the toll may well go higher.

The killings are bad enough, but the north has experienced much worse within living memory. One of the bloodiest outbreaks of religious rioting occurred in Kano in 1980, and northern cities saw a series of upheavals during the decade that followed.

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