Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents. But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated.
Boko Haram (BH) continued attacks in Borno state in NE despite ongoing military operations, and communal violence broke out in south west and north central. Army mid-March raided BH camps in Kala Balge Local Govt Area (LGA), reported 455 hostages rescued and several insurgents killed. BH 15 March raided Magumeri, 50km NW of Maiduguri, five soldiers reportedly killed and three missing. BH attacked army post on Biu-Damboa road, 24 March, but were repelled. Three suicide bombers 3 March blew themselves up outside Maiduguri, no other casualties reported. Troops 11 March shot dead two female teenagers wearing explosive vests in Maiduguri. BH 14 March released video showing execution of three men accused of spying for military. Four female teenagers 15 March detonated explosive devices strapped to them near Mina Garage in Maiduguri killing themselves and two other people. Woman with her two children 18 March detonated explosives strapped to all three killing vigilante in Umarari village near Maiduguri. Five male suicide bombers struck displaced persons’ camp outside Maiduguri 22 March killing four people. Suspected BH raided Kalari village 25 March, killing three. BH factional leader Abubakar Shekau 17 March claimed responsibility for recent bombings in Maiduguri, vowed to create Islamic caliphate and establish Sharia law across West Africa. Suspected BH 30-31 March abducted 22 women and girls in two raids in north east. Army end-March killed BH member along Ajiri-Dikwa road. Suspected BH end-March attacked communities in Konduga LGA, reportedly kidnapping ten. In Niger Delta, then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo 2 March held talks with local leaders in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, ordered oil companies to relocate HQs from Lagos to Niger Delta, as demanded by local groups. Communal clashes broke out in several states. Hausa and Yoruba people 8 March clashed in Ile-Ife, Osun state (SW), 46 killed and 81 injured. Suspected herdsmen 10 March attacked Mkgovur in Buruku LGA, Benue state (north central), killing ten. Unidentified gunmen 20 March stormed Zaki Biam in Ukum LGA, Benue state, killing about 30; also attacked Tse-Achia near Zaki Biam 24 March, killing three. Local authorities 20 March said clash between Fulani herdsmen and residents of Yaskira in Baruten LGA, Kwara state (north central) killed four. President Buhari 10 March returned from 50-day “medical vacation” in UK, said he would go back to UK “within some weeks” but did not identify sickness.
Women have suffered violence and abuse by Boko Haram, but they are not only victims: some joined the jihadists voluntarily, others fight the insurgency, or work in relief and reconciliation. Women’s experiences should inform policies to tackle the insurgency, and facilitate their contribution to peace.
Nigeria’s military is in distress. President Muhammadu Buhari’s over-due reforms aren’t yet enough to turn an under-resourced, over-stretched and corrupt army back into a professional force. A complete overhaul is needed, including accountability for human rights abuses, if Nigerians are not to be left at the mercy of Boko Haram and other armed groups.
Boko Haram is losing ground, resources and fighters. But defeating the group and preventing a future insurgency needs more than military success. The 14 May summit in Abuja is an opportunity for Nigeria and its Lake Chad basin neighbours to prepare and implement what's been long overdue: a holistic response to the extremist group.
The Niger Delta is rich in resources, but poverty, unemployment and pollution could reignite a rebellion that ended in 2009. Despite the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East, Nigeria must fulfil its promises of support for the southern delta’s economic development, social justice, and environmental regeneration.
The Sahel’s trajectory is worrying; poverty and population growth, combined with growing jihadi extremism, contraband and human trafficking constitute the perfect storm of actual and potential instability. Without holistic, sustained efforts against entrenched criminal networks, misrule and underdevelopment, radicalisation and migration are likely to spread and exacerbate.
[Tourists in Nigeria] don’t want to go to some places… they think twice before travelling by road and sometimes don’t have the money to travel by plane. It’s very harmful for the local economy.
The Nigerian government owes [the Chibok girls'] parents and the public the fundamental responsibility of accounting for every one of them.
[Nigeria's IPOB group's] separatist demands are actually drawing attention to certain fundamental flaws in the nation's federal system, particularly on the rights of citizens.
For some women trapped in domestic life, Boko Haram offers an escape. But this reflects a huge abyss of desperation among women and a failure of society in the northeast [of Nigeria].
We have to think very carefully about the use of violence [against Boko Haram], sometimes it is necessary, but it mustn’t aggravate the situation, rather it must help to reduce or resolve the conflict. Force should be used cautiously.
Only a quarter [of Boko Haram's recruits] learned about the group at mosques or Islamic schools. [They] used to be the place to get new recruits, but now they are under the spotlight.
For the first time in three decades, four countries, driven by war, verge on famine. Over coming weeks, Crisis Group will publish special briefings on Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Each conflict requires tailored response; all need increased aid and efforts to end the violence.
The Boko Haram insurgency is weakening in the Lake Chad basin, but its underlying socio-economic drivers remain to be addressed. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2017, we urge the EU and its member states to support regional governments with winding down vigilante groups, funding youth employment projects, rebuilding agriculture and trade, and restoring public services.
Jihadist groups have regrouped in the neglected hinterlands of Sahel countries and are launching attacks from them. To regain control of outlying districts, regional states must do far more to extend services and representation beyond recently recaptured provincial centres.
It is largely because of women’s compromised position in society that insurgent groups such as Boko Haram can continue to survive.
Originally published in Mail and Guardian Africa