Victims, Witnesses and Survivors in the Boko Haram Insurgency and the Conceptual Stalemate over Collateral Damage 


  • Onoja Adagbo


Collateral damage is a highly contested concept. This paper takes the inconclusive debate on the concept to victims, witnesses to and survivors of Boko Haram atrocities, given how the insurgency has been largely narrated as a harvest of collateral damage. This was done through a series of unstructured conversation with carefully selected respondents in urban Maiduguri across 2018 and 2019. It was in the context of Search for Common Ground’s program on Accountability Journalism aimed at enabling researchers to “increase visibility of salient and/or under-reported human rights issues in the Northeast”. The paper argues that the meaning of the concept of collateral damage supported by the discursive data from victims, witnesses and survivors of Boko Haram insurgency fundamentally critiques traditional Strategic Studies and its rational choice theoretic freezing of subjectivity. It is then further argued that the data strengthens the case for reflexivist approach to science as has been happily adopted and practicalised by critical security studies. This study, therefore, contributes methodologically to the phenomenological point of departure in studying puzzles involving meaning. It is also a rare attempt at applying reflexivity to victims and survivors of a violent conflict in Africa such as the cruel Boko Haram insurgency.