Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Nigeria's Countless Casualties

| February 9, 2015

The Politics of Counting Boko Haram's Victims

On January 8, reports began filtering out of Borno state in northeastern Nigeria that the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram had attacked the fishing village of Baga, torching buildings and massacring somewhere between 150 and around 2,000 people. Although the discrepancy between a couple hundred and a couple thousand dead in Baga is significant, it is anything but unusual. A lack of agreement on measuring the human costs of conflict is an endemic feature of modern warfare. Conflicting incentives to either minimize or maximize the perception of a rising threat are particularly acute in the lead-up to the country’s nationwide elections. The vote, which was originally scheduled for February 14, has now been postponed to March 28, by which time the Nigerian government ambitiously claims it will have crushed the insurgency and destroyed all of Boko Haram’s training camps, an assertion that the opposition has dismissed as fanciful....

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Greenhill, Kelly M..“Nigeria's Countless Casualties.” Foreign Affairs, February 9, 2015.

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