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The Challenge Of Reporting On Boko Haram In Nigeria

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(AP Photo/Gbenga Olamikan)
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In recent months there's been an uptick in suicide attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria and its neighbor to the east Chad. One attack that has been attributed to Boko Haram even occurred in the capitol city, Abuja. The Obama Administration has now increased military aid to the region to help fight Boko Haram by sending advisory troops Cameroon, another neighboring country to Nigeria.

Journalist Ebong Udoma has been in Nigeria for the past nine months helping to develop a new multimedia news agency, called GoTel, based in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ebong reported for many years from the Connecticut capitol reporting for with WSHU covering state politics. In his capacity as advisor for GoTel he joins us from their studios in the Nigerian capitol Abuja.

INTERVIEW EXCERPTS:

On October 3, multiple bombs were detonated in the outskirts of Nigeria's capitol, Abuja. Ebong heard one of the bombs explode.

I actually heard and felt it.I was in my house and I thought it was right in the neighborhood, only to find out later on that it was several miles away. I got in the car and I drove around trying to find where this had happened and everyone was going on around their normal business. No one seemed to be panicky, there wasn't increased military or police presence. But then I started getting Tweets and other on-line alerts talking about where this had happen. And the next day we had reporters go out to the scene and file https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqsXoEOwuPk" target="_blank">reports.

Has Boko Haram officially taken responsibility for those recent blasts?

Well, the communication from Boko Haram is not as frequent as in the past. It's the same pattern. It's people blowing themselves up, and pretty much all the people who have blown themselves up have been tied to Boko Haram in one way or another.

Another recent development in the region is the announcement the U.S. would send troops into Cameroon, about 300 troops, in an advisory capacity. What's been the popular reaction to that, if any?

I don't think there's been much reaction. The U.S. has been involved in intelligence in this area for quite a while. They had an intelligence unit that was stationed in the Chadian capitol N'Djamena, and I believe they're still there. This particular unit is another intelligence unit. Basically they're flying drones. Bottom line to try to have surveillance of the  northeastern area of Nigeria.

This is obviously a story that affects several countries in the West African region. What is it like covering that crosses borders in to Chad, Cameroon, Niger too.

We've been trying for several weeks now to get a reporter and a camera crew into Chad to find out what is happening with the multi-national force on that side of the border, and it's been very difficult because our reporters have to go with military convoys because a lot of the roads leading to the borders have been mined pretty heavily. From time to time the military does invite us and that's how we get around in many of these areas.

Training new reporters in a situation like this must be challenging. Most journalists don't start off covering this kind of violent activity, but folks that you're training are jumping right into the fire.

They don't have a choice. It's where they live. It's their community. And to an outsider it often seems a lot more dangerous than it is because life goes on in these areas, believe it or not.

Tom has been with WSHU since 1987, after spending 15 years at college and commercial radio and television stations. He became Program Director in 1999, and has been local host of NPR’s Morning Edition since 2000.
As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.
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