International Relations
Online ISSN : 1883-9916
Print ISSN : 0454-2215
ISSN-L : 0454-2215
Africa at a Crossroads
The Impact of Colonial Legacies and Neo-Colonialism on Internal Conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Case Study of Boko Haram in Nigeria
Makiko TODA
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2023 Volume 2023 Issue 210 Pages 210_33-210_46


The aim of this study was to examine factors that prolong internal conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, including political leaders’ manipulation of ethnicity and religion to gain or regain power and control the state; the legacies of colonialism that provoke dissatisfaction and alienation among ordinary people, inducing them to join anti-government forces; and neo-colonialist attempts to sustain corrupt states ruled by greed-driven political leaders.

What leads people to participate in anti-government activism and join terrorist groups? This paper demonstrates that colonialism’s legacies such as disparity of wealth, security abuses against ordinary people, and lack of the rule of law have produced and reproduced dissatisfaction and alienation among local people, particularly young people.

Although most internal conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa are deemed ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ conflicts, ethnic and religious identities in and of themselves do not necessarily lead to conflict. In a bid to maintain or regain power, political leaders provoke a shift from ethnic or religious identities to ethnic or religious nationalism.

Boko Haram, officially known as Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’) and based in north-eastern Nigeria, is recognised as a ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant Islamist’ organisation. Existing research on Boko Haram indicates that it is not participants’ religious faith that induces them to join the organisation. While Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, rejected the secular state and promoted the establishment of a Sharia-based caliphate, he provided support to his followers, including social-welfare services that federal and state governments had failed to provide. Throughout history, Nigeria’s corrupt federal and state governments have seldom offered ‘good governance’. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil and gas producer, but the wealth derived from these natural resources has not contributed to improving the living conditions of ordinary people in Nigeria.

This paper investigates the conditions that allow corrupt states to persist in sub-Saharan Africa. It is apparent from Nigeria’s case that, without assistance from developed countries, Africa’s political elites would in all likelihood be unable to sustain their governments. That is, neo-colonialism has allowed the current government of Nigeria to survive to promote the interests of developed countries and not those of the country’s ordinary people.

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© 2023 The Japan Association of International Relations
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