Nigeria is crisscrossed with political and social fault lines that threaten the security of its people. Perhaps most urgently is the rise of Boko Haram’s violent extremism. Extremism in particular has fueled violence in the Northeast of the country since 2009, and has by some estimates, claimed over 20,000 lives and displaced millions. The scale of violence against civilians by Boko Haram is among the highest of any armed group in Africa.

According to Toby Lanzer, the UN’s Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, the humanitarian fallout from the violence inflicted by Boko Haram (and security forces) is “the fastest growing crisis in Africa.”

While ensuring security is admittedly difficult in such an asymmetric environment, the response to the Boko Haram threat from the Nigerian armed forces, regional militaries, and allied non-state armed groups has been heavy-handed. In fact, counterinsurgency operations often do more to harm the civilian population than to keep it safe. Furthermore, the government and military’s joint handling of the crisis has had a significant impact on the behavior of Boko Haram, and affected communities across the region. Many argue that Boko Haram’s brutality has actually intensified as a result of the increasingly brutal and repressive actions of the Nigerian military.

CIVIC released the report When We Can’t See the Enemy, Civilians Become the Enemy: Living Through Nigeria’s Six-year Insurgency in October 2015 examining the impact of the ongoing conflict on civilians. The report offers critical insight into: 1) patterns of civilian harm as a result of the ongoing conflict; 2) civilians and security forces’ views on root causes of harm and the role of security actors; and 3) gaps in civilian protection efforts.

CIVIC is implementing a robust advocacy strategy that, in collaboration with local groups, encourages and helps the Nigerian government and the regional military force (MNJTF) to better inculcate civilian protection and harm mitigation training, tools, and policies.

Photo by Ed Kashi


Nigeria Publications

"When We Can’t See the Enemy, Civilians Become the Enemy": Living Through Nigeria’s Six-Year Insurgency
07 October 2015  |  Research Report

This report explores the experiences of civilians and armed actors living through the conflict in northeastern Nigeria. The ultimate goal is to better understand the gaps in protection from all sides, how civilians perceive security actors, and what communities expect from those who are supposed to protect them from harm. With this understanding, we analyze the structural impediments to protecting civilians, and propose practical—and locally informed—solutions to improve civilian protection and response to the harm caused by all armed actors in this conflict. 

Reports & Briefs


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