It has declared its own “caliphate”, sworn allegiance to the Middle Eastern death cult calling itself Islamic State, and its followers believe western education is evil. As such, Boko Haram fits the Islamofascist typecast.
But it also bears remarkable similarity to another violent terror group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony but founded by Alice Lakwena as a charismatic Christian movement in the 1980s.
One might, therefore, be tempted to conclude that Boko Haram is nothing more than a profiteering gang of murderers and thugs – a west African version of the LRA, the Interahamwe, or the Mai Mai of the Congo.
But it would be too easy to dismiss Boko Haram as not being a “proper” Islamist movement.
Most often, the truth is that whatever the genesis of violent groups, even ones with a legitimate fight, they very often – in fact overwhelmingly – become self-serving movements focused on perpetuating the wealth and interests of their leadership above all else.
This is why whether they are Boko Haram, IS, the LRA or al Shabaab, they need a constant flow of volunteers to replenish their ranks who arrive still believing in the original cause. When these fade, they forcibly recruit.
The same pattern can be seen in areas under IS control in Syria and Iraq.
“God made me do it” is both a powerful mantra and a pretty good excuse.