Technology: Negotiating Tomorrow’s Armed Conflict and Terrorism in West Africa
Bukola Adeyemi Oyeniyi
This paper, using the case of Boko Haram in Nigeria, examines the impact of technology on future armed conflicts and violent extremism in Nigeria and West Africa. As Africa enters the new digital age, characterized by increasing access to mobile telephoning, internet penetration, 3D printing and the Internet of Things; networking between and among groups with similar ideologies will improve. Results from the author’s recent fieldwork in north-eastern Nigeria are used to shed light on Boko Haram’s activities across border communities in that region where Nigeria’s borders meet those of Niger and Cameroon. Those activities include tactical efforts like mobilizing crowds, disseminating ideologies, recruiting strategic assets, and sharing technical know-how, and have facilitated the transformation of Boko Haram from a dagger-wielding, arrow-shooting group into a deployer of mobile-phone-triggered IEDs, coordinating simultaneous attacks on multiple targets. Undoubtedly, the new digital age guarantees cultural cohesiveness and a more robust outside support that will serve in recruitment, financing, logistics and training.
With mobile telephony and internet access providing (dangerous) information and resources to aspiring insurgents, what future awaits Nigeria, West Africa and Africa should Boko Haram gain access to remote controlled flying drones, quadcopters, and other ‘toys’ fitted with homemade bombs and IEDs? What new level of domestic terror would emerge if Boko Haram develops a capacity for cyberterrorism, especially since cyberterrorism affects data and cash, guarantees no risk of personal bodily harm, involves minimal resources commitment, and affords opportunities to inflict a higher level of damage? This study examines these issues and type of responses available to government in dealing with a technology-driven armed conflict and terrorism.
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