Northern and central Nigeria are engulfed in a violent insurgency campaign waged by Jama'atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda'awati w'al Jihad, a.k.a. 'Boko Haram', and more recently, its splinter group 'Ansaru'. From its inception an inward-looking, almost parochial, movement, Boko Haram, and even more so Ansaru, have now showed clear signs of regionalization, expanding their operations across West Africa and forging links with al-Qaeda affiliated groups. Boko Haram's stated aim is to Islamize Africa's most populous country but, like earlier Nigerian Islamist groups, of which there is a long tradition in the Sahel, the discontent prompting young Nigerians and other young West African Muslims to join the insurgency is rooted in more than just religious orthodoxy and cannot be disentangled from their economic, social and political marginalization.
In spite of talks about dialogue and amnesty for those prepared to renounce violence, the Federal Government's response has been a militarized one, resulting in the largest deployment of the Nigerian armed forces since the end of the Civil War. But what is the real magnitude of the threat? What can foreign partners do to support Abuja? How effective is the current government's strategy in tackling the insurgency? And, more importantly, are the root causes of the insurgency being addressed and the foundations for a durable peace being established?