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Dispelling the myths about Nigeria's Boko Haram

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Abubakar Shekau in a propaganda video for Boko Haram. YouTube

Nigerian militant Boko Haram group has become a permanent fixture on the news, especially with the kidnap of the Chibok girls. But little is known about the Islamist sect and much commentary is misplaced or incorrect. Nigeria researchers met in Paris this week at the European Conference on African Studies and took part in a round table entitled "Within and around Boko Haram in Nigeria". RFI met some of the experts involved in the discussion.


Radio report

Ini Dele-Adedeji, School of Oriental and African Studies:

Boko Haram's pledged allegiance to the Islamic State

"Transnational, international aims - I have not seen evidence to support that. So I think they want to carve out a Sharia state in a part of northern Nigeria. But I don't think they intend for it to cover the whole of sub-Saharan Africa."

Murray Last, University College of London:

Lack of knowledge about Boko Haram

"The real problem of Boko Haram is that no one has actually infiltrated them or if they have, they haven't come out, or they've joined them. So the level of knowledge about the insides of Boko Haram is remarkedly small."

Boko Haram leadership - Abubakar Shekau

"If you analyse the photographs you seem to have so many people that might be Shekau. Shekau has been pronounced dead by the Nigerian press and army so many times. So what one's dealing with is quite possibly the title of leader like Shekau, which could be applied to anyone."

Number of fighters, salary and Christians

"It's almost certainly bound to be about 5,000, but some people put the numbers up way higher. The other problem is that of course as far as we know it's quite a good job, at one point you could be paid 400 dollars a month for just simply joining them, you wouldn't have to go fighting, you would spend your first months doing logistics or training. It's quite profitable joining Boko Haram because you not only loot places, but you share the loot out at the end. And the third point that I think is important to realise is that there are plenty of Christians who are part of Boko Haram because it's a job."