Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Climate change contributed to rise of Boko Haram

Drought in Northern Nigeria
Instability in Nigeria has been growing steadily over the last decade - and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development (Dfid) study warned that climate change could contribute to increasing resource shortages in the country due to land scarcity from desertification, water shortages, and mounting crop failures.

A more recent study by the Congressionally-funded US Institute for Peace confirmed a "basic causal mechanism" that "links climate change with violence in Nigeria." The report concludes:
"...poor responses to climatic shifts create shortages of resources such as land and water. Shortages are followed by negative secondary impacts, such as more sickness, hunger, and joblessness. Poor responses to these, in turn, open the door to conflict."
Unfortunately, a business-as-usual scenario sees Nigeria's climate undergoing "growing shifts in temperature, rainfall, storms, and sea levels throughout the twenty-first century. Poor adaptive responses to these shifts could help fuel violent conflict in some areas of the country."

According to the late Prof Sabo Bako of Ahmadu Bello University, the 1980s "forerunner" to Boko Haram was the Maitatsine sect in northern Nigeria, whose members included many victims of ecological disasters leaving them in "a chaotic state of absolute poverty and social dislocation in search of food, water, shelter, jobs, and means of livelihood."

A year after the USIP study, Africa Review reported that many Boko Haram foot soldiers happen to be people displaced by severe drought and food shortages in neighbouring Niger and Chad. Some 200,000 farmers and herdsman had lost their livelihoods and, facing starvation, crossed the border to Nigeria.
"While a good number of these men were found in major cities like Lagos, pushing water carts and repatriating their earnings to the families they left behind," said Africa Review, "others were believed to have been lured by the Boko Haram."
Indeed, one retired Nigerian security official told the journal that the Nigerian military recognised a correlation between regional climatic events, and an upsurge in extremist violence:
"It has become a pattern; we saw it happen in 2006; it happened again in 2008 and in 2010. If you remember, President (Olusegun) Obasanjo had to deploy the military in 2006 to Yobe State, Borno State and Katsina State. These are some of the states bordering Niger Republic and today they are the hotbeds of the Boko Haram."

Credit: TheGuardian

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