The geopolitics of boko haram and nigeria's 'war on terror'

Stuart Elden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The April 2014 kidnapping of the schoolgirls at Chibok, north-eastern Nigeria, has meant that Boko Haram is now widely discussed by Western governments and in Western media. Yet within Nigeria the group has been well known for several years. Boko Haram's activities, or actions attributed to the group, have developed in a range of ways, many contradictory, including bombings, kidnappings of Europeans within Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon, killing of medical personnel, and overtures for dialogue with the Federal Government. There are recurrent reports of links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and in the past few years the United States has taken a much more active role in the region. Some of the wider geopolitical issues relate to the French-led intervention in Mali; a country to which Nigeria has also sent troops. This article tries to disentangle these different questions. It looks first at who Boko Haram are, and their history. It situates the group within the wider context of Nigerian politics, and to discuss the biopolitical and geopolitical elements of their operations and of the actions of the Nigerian security services and other actors towards them. It ends by relating what is happening within and beyond Nigeria to the wider context of the 'war on terror'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)414-425
Number of pages12
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa
  • Boko haram
  • Boundaries
  • Nigeria
  • Territory
  • Violence

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