To what extent does the case of Boko Haram confirm Fearon and Laitin’s argument? Please explain. (Cayla B)

Nigeria contains two major ethnic groups: Christians, who are located in the south and Muslims, who are located in the north. Over the years, tension within these groups have had a large impact on the economic, political and social aspects of Nigeria. Boko Haram is an Islamist Extremist group based in Northern Nigeria. The group’s name literally translated to “People committed to the propagation of the prophet’s teachings and jihad (O’Neill, 774). It originally began as a peaceful group. However, as time has went on, frustrations with the government and the economy, have sparked animosity. This anger has primarily been projected upon the Christian community. Boko Haram has increased its fight against the state, by staging attacks against government-run organizations such as schools and police headquarters. Boko members have destroyed “an estimated 1,100 schools this year”(Jazeera). As well as performed “scores of attacks on schools and universities in an insurgency that has killed at least 17,000 people since 2009” (Jazeera).

In “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War”, James Fearon and David Laitin discuss different causes that seem to spark Civil War. They do not believe that “Ethnic and Religious Composition” have a large effect on whether or not there will be a Civil War. Fearon and Laitin consider other elements of a country’s composition as having a stronger influence on Civil War. Some of these aspects include: economic growth and an administratively competent government. Fearon and Laitin argue that “government and non-government organizations should develop programs that improve legal accountability within developing world militaries and police, and make aid to governments (Fearon, 88).”

Fearon and Laitin’s argument includes several possible explanations for the breakout of Civil War. They argue that there are multiple reasons for Civil War and some of the main reasons include a country’s economic and political situation. Boko Haram’s actions, which they claim to base off of their religious beliefs, affect economic, political and social facets of Nigeria.  Although Boko Haram identifies as a religious group, they make a much larger external impact. Therefore, Boko Haram does confirm the case of Fearon and Laitin’s argument that there are many aspects within a country that are responsible for contributing to a Civil War outbreak.


Fearon, James & David Laitin. 2003. “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” American Political Science Review 97(1): 75-90.


Jazeera, Al. 2015. “Boko Haram destroyed more than 1,000 schools this year, UN says”


O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.



4 thoughts on “To what extent does the case of Boko Haram confirm Fearon and Laitin’s argument? Please explain. (Cayla B)

  1. I agree with Laitin and Fearon that Nigeria’s civil war is not a consequence of religious and ethnic violence. I believe that the poor management of Nigeria’s natural resources, such as oil, and a weak central government has led to the rise of Boko Haram and other militant groups. Nigeria has one of the largest oil reserves in the world and it is the largest producer of oil in Africa. Even with abundant natural resources, Nigeria’s government has not been able to induce economic growth, which as in turn lead to competition over the control of the country’s natural resources.

  2. Fearnon and Laitin could not have a better confirmation of theory than through the case of Boko Haram. The high amount of instability that carries throughout Nigeria in both ethnic tensions and religious tensions translate into conflict. Economic and resource conflict are larger pieces in the equation that lead to corruption and the influence of young men to obtain an income. Fearnon and Laitin also correlate weak economies like Nigeria’s with Oil exportation, which broadens inequality, giving Boko Haram an opportunity to take advantage of those who suffer the most from the inequality.

  3. I agree with Fearnon and Laitin that Nigeria’s civil war is not as a result of religious violence. Firstly because Boko Haram is actually not a religious group because thats not what Sharia law commands them to do. Also because they kill Muslims and Christians so no one knows who they are. The terrorist group also acts as a result of the corruption going on in the government and because of the oil reserves that Nigeria has, which could bring wealth for the nation. As a result they are not only trying to forbid Western education but want to manage parts of the country.

  4. Clealy Boko Haram would like to attribute their cause to Islamic extremism exclusively. However the writers make a strong case that a strong government based on the rule of law could be capable of enforcing civility could prevent the unchecked violence of this group. This also challenges the premise of the ethnic and religious basis for civil war when the outcome is primarily economic and political

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