Boko Haram & Conflict in Northeast Nigeria
The war against Boko Haram in northern Nigeria is one of the biggest and most under reported conflicts raging in our world today. There are three million people who are displaced in this vast, unforgiving desert that covers the corners of Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria. They live in thatched huts in makeshift refugee camps, or in abandoned buildings on the outskirts of towns.
I have photographed the frontlines of the conflict and the fallout, while also seeking images that visualize the cadences of life in Borno amid waves of fighting and fleeing. This is a story of both the efforts and failings of the Nigerian government as well as a military that acts with impunity. This is a story of the high geopolitical stakes in the African and global battle against Islamic fundamentalism, one that seem mismatched with the meager rewards of brown and yellow scorched, arid earth.
The conflict began eight years ago when a charismatic preacher named Mohammed Yusuf died in state custody. Since then, the small uprising has become a full-fledged war as the militant Islamic jihadi group has indiscriminately abducted children and adults, raped and killed, burned entire villages, and faced off with the Nigerian military. At their height, they held huge swaths of territory, declared a caliphate and aligned themselves with ISIS. In April 2014, Boko Haram mass abducted a group of schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok. A media outcry and years of back politicking lead to a ransom payment of €3 million. That many euros can buy many suicide bombs, and there has been a renewed surge in the conflict.
It doesn’t even make sense to describe it as poverty – this is life at the edge of subsistence.
This work was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazinein 2017 with an additional story about working with the Nigerian military, thanks to the generous support of the Pulitzer Center. I continued to cover this ongoing conflict for theWall Street Journal’s cover story about the secret negotiations to free the schoolgirls. The work was also a finalist for the Eugene Smith Award in 2017.