from Africa in Transition

Guest Post: Is Boko Haram Middle Class?

April 20, 2012

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

In his informative Financial Times piece, "BlackBerrys flourish in the malls of Lagos,” Xan Rice focuses mainly on blackberry manufacturer Research In Motion, the firm’s market outlook for Nigeria, and about what this tells us about Nigeria’s emerging middle class.

In their jointly authored piece, "Pressure in Nigeria for Boko Haram talks,” Rice and Wallis review recent developments concerning the group, including the possibility of dialogue between the Nigerian government and the sect, arguably very unlikely at present, given Boko Haram’s growing skill and geographical reach.

What explains the insurgency’s building momentum? Is access to technology, e.g., cell phones and perhaps even BlackBerry’s, a factor? If so, is this an additional indication that the insurgents, or elements among them, have a background that is middle class, or perhaps lower middle class?

There are other indications that some Boko Haram may draw some support from high school and university drop outs. That appears to have been true of the so-called Nigerian Taliban, a radical Islamic sect that was suppressed almost a decade ago. Nigeria’s reportedly "burgeoning" middle class may include marginalized and unemployed youth who have some education but are alienated from the Nigerian political economy. An increase in the number of people who have access to new means of communication may have simply heightened internal contradictions in Nigerian society that are leading to violence.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Technology and Innovation

Nigeria

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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