Why Boko Haram may be dividing
The press is reporting that Yusufiyya Islamic Movement (YIM) distributed leaflets widely in Maiduguri on July 19 denouncing other Boko Haram factions as "evil." The authors of the leaflet, asserting the legacy of founder Mohammed Yusuf, distanced themselves from attacks on civilians and on houses of worship. It said it would suspend its military operations during the month of Ramadan, which starts August 1.
As indicated by the leaflet, YIM's goals appear limited: free exercise and propagation of Islam, compensation for destroyed mosques and other property, and punishment of those who murdered Yusuf and others. The leaflet denounced the former governor of Borno state, the former Borno police commissioner, and former president Umaru Yar'Adua, who it said "has since been seized by Allah in an answer to the sect's prayers for support against his aggression." Notably, all of those YIM denounced were Muslims. The leaflet appears to have been silent on the secular nature of the Nigerian state and on Christians.
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YIM might be opening the door to possible negotiations with the federal and state authorities, and the possibility of a general cease-fire during the month of Ramadan. The harshness of YIM's rhetoric gives it some credibility. But it is too soon to say how significant is this alleged split in Boko Haram. If Boko Haram has split between YIM "moderates" and unidentified "radicals," what the latter group wants and will do remains unclear. Indeed, Boko Haram up to now has resembled a broad movement rather than a political program. As such, it would be open to splits and internal conflicts, and to manipulation by those with conflicting agendas. Further, it remains unclear with whom the government could negotiate on the Boko Haram or YIM side. Boko Haram's leadership structure continues to be clandestine.