Boko Haram in Cameroon's Far North: state, armed mobilization and social changes

September 2018 to July 2022
political sociology
armed mobilization
violent extremism
Research fields
Law and Political Science

Research objective. This thesis is on Boko Haram in Cameroon. It fits in the debate on “political sociology of armed mobilizations”[1]. I want to understand how Boko Haram mobilizes in Far North and how this insurrectional mobilization has transformed the social and the micro political landscapes.

Cameroon has been the second most targeted country by Boko Haram, in terms of attacks and number of people mobilized. However, Boko Haram did not manage to hold, control territory and settle sustainably in Cameroon. In that regard, one of the challenges of this research is to understand why this insurgency did not achieve this in Cameroon, despite a significant number of Cameroonians recruited (at least 4000) and a high number of large-scale attacks against Cameroonian security forces.

Research question. The main question of this research is:  how can we make intelligible the Boko Haram phenomenon in the Far North Cameroon with the tools of the political sociology of armed mobilizations?[2]

This research starts with a simple observation. Ten years after launching the jihad in Nigeria and in the Lake Chad basin region, Boko Haram did not achieve in Cameroon the results it achieved in Nigeria or Niger. Thus, one of the intriguing questions is : why did Boko Haram (relatively) “fail” to expand its caliphate in Cameroon while this state is rather fragile compared to Nigeria where it has controlled territory since several years? In other words, what explains that a (relatively) dysfunctional state like Cameroon was able to oppose a (relatively) efficient security response to Boko Haram?

At a micro level, what explains that the Boko Haram call for jihad was successful in some areas of the Far North and not in others ? What are the recruitment, mobilization techniques of Boko Haram in the Far North? Are those techniques specific to the Far North? And to what extend has Boko Haram adapted them to the local context


[1] “Mobilisations insurrectionnelles” in French. 

[2] In French : comment rendre intelligible le phénomène Boko Haram dans l’Extrême-Nord du Cameroun à partir des outils de la sociologie politique des mobilisations armées ?