The Boko Haram Insurgency: Characterisation and Implications Under Municipal and International Laws

  • Michael Ibanga
  • James Archibong


When it started in 2009, the confrontation between Boko Haram members and governmental authorities took the form of unruly behaviour and acts of civil disobedience by some Muslim youth in Maiduguri town and law enforcement measures by government personnel. The ensuing confrontation was limited to Borno State in northeast Nigeria. Later, activities of Boko Haram members extended to sporadic acts of violence against law enforcement and security personnel, followed by arrests, detentions and prosecution by government authorities. Ultimately, the confrontation involved acts of terrorism and armed violence by Boko Haram members, on the one hand, and counterterrorism/counter-insurgency measures by governmental armed forces, on the other hand. Presently, the form, context and geographical spread of the confrontation have markedly changed from what it was in 2009, and it is the status of the conflict in current times that is of interest in this paper. This paper asserts that proper characterisation of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria is important for the application and indeed applicability of certain rules of domestic and international laws, particularly rules of international human rights law and those of international humanitarian law. Appreciating that not every violent confrontation between armed groups and governmental armed forces can qualify as an ‘armed conflict’ and noting also that the status of being an armed conflict entails rights and duties for the belligerent parties, the paper emphasises that proper characterisation of the Boko Haram insurgency is imperative. The notion of armed conflict has not been defined in relevant treaties but has been explained by international judicial tribunals. Employing the criteria set out in judicial decisions, this paper assesses the legal status of Boko Haram insurgency and counter-insurgency measures in order to determine the applicability of certain principles and rules of municipal and international laws.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Ibanga
    • 1
  • James Archibong
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of LawUniversity of CalabarCalabarNigeria

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