AFRICANGLOBE – As of this weekend, the Nigerian extremist organization, Boko Haram, has officially pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS) of Iraq and Syria. This news comes only 2 weeks after the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) began its “Operation Flintlock 2015″ in Chad’s capital city. In fact, the “diplomatic” military convention concludes today. Two days after Abrubaka Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, announced his solidarity with ISIS.
“We announce our allegiance to the Caliphate….and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity,” said Shekau on Saturday. Boko Haram, roughly translated to “western education is forbidden,” is an extremist Sunni sect that has been strengthening in numbers and reeking havoc throughout Northwestern Africa, primarily Nigeria and Cameroon, since 2009.
On March 6, the Fifth Column reported that Saudi Arabia is requesting US ground troops as “a self-serving effort to keep the nation of Iraq as a buffer against Iran.” The article explains the differences between the competing religious sects of Iraq, home of ISIS, and how the divided nation is on the brink of dissolution. How convenient for the US that just as its media-darling terrorist enemy is beginning to lose influence, another group of Islamic extremists has announced its undying allegiance to the group. This time, however, the scary Islamic terrorists are from the oft-neglected region of genocide, despair and division: Africa.
Both groups are Sunni. Both practice Sharia Law. Both are smokescreens for the real reasons the US is interested in either region: Oil and Natural Gas.
Nigeria is where Boko Haram originated. It started as little more than a street gang in the early 2000s. However, its members and tactics grew increasingly more extreme over the course of the first decade of the new millennium. In 2009, the former leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, was publicly executed by Nigerian Police. Yusuf was replaced by Boko Haram’s current leader, Abrubaka Shekau. 2009 and 2010 saw some of the worst violence in Nigeria in recent memory.
Boko Haram militants clashed with Nigerian soldiers in an attempt to free their spiritual leader from prison. During the skirmish, Boko Haram saw at least 30 of its members killed and the death of one Nigerian soldier. Less than 1 year later, Shekau led an assault on Bauchi Prison, killing 5 people and freeing over 700 inmates. Bold, violent attacks against the Nigerian United Nations building and several police and military outposts followed into 2011.
As the western part of the world celebrated the New Year with champagne and novelty sunglasses, hiding tipsy eyes full of hope as they watched the ball drop in Times Square, Boko Haram ravaged the fishing community of Baga, killing nearly 2000 people in the first days of January, burning the village to the ground like Norse Vikings. It is estimated that between 5000 and 7000 lives have been lost during the rise of Boko Haram and its clash with the Nigerian Military and Police.
In a 2012 article published by the New York Times, Jean Herskovits bluntly states, “There is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today. Evidence suggests instead that, while the original core of the group remains active, criminal gangs have adopted the name Boko Haram to claim responsibility for attacks when it suits them.”
The article claims that Nigeria’s State Security Services issued a statement in November of 2012 stating that 4 “criminal syndicates” were sending threatening messages to the Nigerian Government in the name of Boko Haram. 3 of those 4 “criminal syndicates” were run by Southern Nigerians that do not even identify as Muslim. One of which has leaked information to the US Embassy that caused Boko Haram to retreat from and evacuate a hotel it had captured.
Herskovits goes on to state that the root cause of this inexcusable violence lies in the overwhelming poverty and hopelessness of Nigerian society.
Nigeria has the strongest, most robust economy in Africa. Despite this fact, 70% of its populace lives on less than $1 a day. Massive wealth. Massive economic inequality. Terrorists blamed for the entirety of a country’s problems. Does any of this sound familiar?
Historically, the US has been mostly ambivalent to the genocide, terrorism and famine that is daily life for most of Africa. Several years of constant pressuring were needed before the crises in Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda were even recognized as an issue by the US Government. That is all about to change, but not for humanitarian reasons.
World Socialist Website reported earlier this month that US and NATO forces began a massive series of War Games simulations during Operation Flintlock 2015. The simulations will focus on “interoperability and capacity-building among African, Western and US counter-terrorism forces,” according to the Pentagon’s press release. What regions are the focus of these War Games? None other than Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Tunisia, the regions being affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, of course. US and African military officials made it clear that these “War Games” could translate to actual warfare against Boko Haram, or more accurately the regions associated with Boko Haram, in the future.
Under the banner of “Warfare” the diplomatic title of Defense News’ article on the military expansion in West Africa reads, “Us Special Ops Build Bridges in Africa.” The article says 1300 troops from African and NATO countries are gathering for a “variety of tactical engagements.” 673 African forces, 365 NATO forces and 255 US personnel gathered in Chad to take part in “training objectives [that will] help build relationships reinforcing the capacity of participating militaries to secure a stable environment for growth and development in the nations of the region,” says Chadian Brig. Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue.
The article says Operation Flintlock is “tailor-made for the direction that the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has set for the troops that it is training and equipping to operate in a post-Afghanistan and Iraq world.”
Why the sudden interest in Africa? Well, according to a report done by KPMG Africa, Nigeria has the second largest proven oil deposits in all of Africa, second only to US-ravaged Libya. Proven deposits have grown by nearly 120% in the last 30 years. The report outlines Western desire to plunder the virtually untapped natural resources of the region by saying, “Africa has for years been seen by western and Asian markets as a means to diversify away from too deep a dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”
Currently, the US imports about 25% of its crude oil from West Africa. KPMG goes on to say that the percentage of oil exported from Africa to China and India has steadily increased since 2007. In 2011, exports to China and India were up from 10% and 5%, to 14% and 8%, respectively. Considering China’s burgeoning economy and expanded presence in the region, as well as its shaky alignment with Russia, it only makes sense for the US to pounce now and crush the region into servitude before a competitor gets the chance.
KPMG’s report says the biggest investment opportunity lies in the construction of an oil refinery network. Libya has the largest oil reserves, but due to civil war and NATO bombings, exporting these reserves is difficult. Nigeria, however, is the continent’s leading oil exporter, despite its smaller reserves. Be that as it may, it has virtually no refining system established. It exports crude oil only to have to import refined oil back into the country at an extra cost. KPMG states that corruption, theft, and poor maintenance prevent any sustainable refining infrastructure from existing.