How Does Boko Haram Recruit Its Soldiers?

The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has been terrorizing Greater Nigeria for more than a decade Since their insurgency began, the group has killed an estimated 20 thousand people and forced millions to flee their homes

Meanwhile, Amnesty International estimates that their force has grown to around 15 thousand members by using a variety of recruiting schemes So where does Boko Haram get its soldiers? Well, unlike ISIS, which recruits from all over the world, Boko Haram gets nearly all of its soldiers from Northeastern Nigeria, as well as Chad and Cameroon Studies have shown that most are young men, who come from poor, rural villages in Boko Haram’s most frequented areas Experts say the median age of a recruit is 30, however reports have shown teenage and even child soldiers, some as young as eight So, why are so many young Nigerians joining Boko Haram in the first place? Well, the answer depends, in large part, on when they joined

When Boko Haram formed in 2002, they operated as a mostly non-violent rebel group, effectively marketing themselves as an alternative to Nigeria’s corrupt and increasingly Western government For seven years, Boko Haram drafted members from public meetings, during which they preached a revolution to create a purely Islamic state During this time, studies show that most of Boko Haram’s soldiers joined voluntarily However in 2009, the group lost much of their popular support and turned to other means of building their army This is widely regarded as when Boko Haram’s modern insurgency began

New leadership took over, and the group began carrying out acts of terror—first on police, then on civilians As a result, most of Boko Haram’s post-insurgency soldiers were either strongly coerced or forced into the group According to a 2016 report by Mercy Corps, much of Boko Haram’s recruitment strategy is founded on false promises of capital or loan support The group reportedly gives loans to small business-owners, only to show up unannounced demanding immediate repayment When the borrower can’t pay, he is essentially forced into the insurgency

Similarly, many business owners have allegedly joined in the hope that they’ll receive a loan for their business But experts say Boko Haram’s most powerful recruiting tool is social pressure According to the same report which examined dozens of former militants, nearly every person joined under the coercion of a relative, close friend or business partner This is not unlike the Islamic State, which reportedly recruits many of its local members through social ties But more and more, Boko Haram has resorted to outright force in order to recruit soldiers

This is especially true for female members, many of whom were kidnapped and enslaved by the group Some of these women have been forced into marriages, and others have carried out suicide missions A number of women have reportedly joined Boko Haram out of pressure from their husbands or families But Boko Haram’s reign of terror may decelerate in the near future Aggressive counter-terrorism efforts from the West and the Nigerian government, could dissuade at-risk youth from joining the insurgency

The Nigerian government has thus far been unsuccessful at reaching its deadlines for defeating Boko Haram However with new strategies for prevention and reintegration, we may hopefully see an end to the insurgency in the coming years Despite Boko Haram’s drop, the group has been statistically deadlier than ISIS Yet, few people have heard of the group, and it doesn’t appear to be a priority for much of the world So, why don’t we care? Find out in this video

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