Speaker: Charles Sennott, GroundTruth Project


I also went to Nigeria. In Nigeria, we all think it's Islam versus Christianity, right? Boko Haram is this apocalyptic cult, like ISIS. They are Islamic extremists and they are all out to capture these poor Christian schoolgirls. That is so horrific and so impossible to understand that we immediately go to light and dark, good and evil. And there are plenty of elements of both, absolutely. There is something incredibly evil and dark about what Boko Haram does, for sure, no question. [For more on Boko Haram, don't miss John Campbell's recent talk.]

But what I learned in Nigeria in covering that is, again, World War I. World War I took two separate kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Nigeria, the southern kingdom of Nigeria—southern, Christian kingdom; northern, Muslim kingdom. For colonial convenience, the British needed to organize the empire in a way that they could get a greater yield—because they didn't have a lot of time to manage, put them both together, make it one kingdom, we've got to move on. They throw it together as one kingdom, and they begin to have tensions over power and who will control the oil and the delta and who will control the farming and who will control the cattle.

One of the things I love about trying to understand Nigeria is that, at the end of the day, as important as World War I was, it may be climate change that defines the conflict in Nigeria and the emergence of Boko Haram.

Does anyone have any idea what I'm talking about? The drying of the Sahel pushes the grazing land further and further south. The predominantly Muslim North has nowhere to herd. They are herders. They are the kind who move things, just like in the Wild West, when you had Indians who moved their cattle around and didn't have fences. The Christian South is farming-based, and there are fences. As Northern Muslims push down and come up against Christians in the Middle Belt in Nigeria, that's where much of this violence has erupted.

Full transcript of lecture

Lecture is based on discussion of "The Eleventh Hour: Unlearned Lessons of World War I."