Burning Borno: Applying System Justification Theory to the Violence of Boko Haram

Boko Haram overtook ISIL to become the deadliest terrorist group in 2014 after an increase of 317% in fatalities[1]. In the first six months of 2016 alone, the group has tallied 2,591 fatalities[2]. In the face of increasing violence, Nigeria’s Borno State continues to suffer the most, with multiple times the fatalities of its neighbor states. Why would Boko Haram inflict the most pain on the very state that provides its center of operations, when its purported mission applies to the country as a whole? One can approach this question using System Justification Theory to examine if the cycle of violence, which began in earnest with the Bauchi prison attack in 2010, still carries momentum towards a political goal, or if Boko Haram’s operations are carried out to maintain power within the status quo.

Read the analysis paper here: Burning Borno: Applying System Justification Theory to the Violence of Boko Haram

[1] Institute for Economics and Peace. (n.d.). Global Terrorism Index 2015: Measuring and Understanding the Impact of Terrorism. New York City: IEP.

[2] Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project. (2016) 2016 Realtime Complete Africa File: Through 4th June 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2016, from www.acledata.com/data/realtime-data-2016


Myrthe Doedens is a graduate student at Georgetown University pursuing a Master’s in Conflict Resolution and holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Miami. Her research centers on the motivations of terrorist groups and how counter violent extremism strategies can best be applied to mitigate them. Her regional focus is North and West Africa, but her research has also included the Middle East.

Photo by Stefan Andrej Shambora / CC BY 2.0 (photo resized/cropped)


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