In 2016, Nigeria launched a program to help Boko Haram defectors reintegrate into civilian life. Rare interviews with the “deradicalisation” facility’s graduates reveal some encouraging signs but also troubling patterns that – if not addressed – could endanger the initiative’s future.
While in decline in the Levant, the Islamic State has claimed some gains in Africa. Testimonies from defectors who once waged jihad in the Lake Chad basin shed new light on the impact and workings of the “caliphate” south of the Sahara.
Crisis Group's Consulting Senior Analyst for West Africa, Vincent Foucher, speaks about the Islamic State's influence in the Lake Chad Basin.
With the Multinational Joint Task Force, the Lake Chad basin states are combining efforts to defeat jihadist elements that endanger them all. It has won some victories but militants have recovered. To keep progressing, and secure more funds, the four armies should deepen their cooperation.
Jihadist fighters killed around one hundred Chadian soldiers on Lake Chad in the country’s deadliest attack in recent history. While the army has launched a counter-offensive, it is vital to improve military cooperation in the region and to protect civilians.
In late 2018 Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Gender Azadeh Moaveni went to north-east Nigeria, which has been the epicenter of the fight between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military, to explore how effectively women formerly associated with the group have been rehabilitated and reintegrated back into society.
Women are streaming home from Boko Haram’s domain in north-eastern Nigeria, some having escaped captivity and others having left jihadist husbands behind. The state should safeguard these women from abuse, so that they stay in government-held areas and encourage men to come back as well.
The Cameroonian government should aim at encouraging more Cameroonian Boko Haram members to surrender. Community service, public confessions, symbolic ceremonies and vocational training can help reintegrate those who do not pose a threat. The government should also prepare for the demobilisation of some vigilantes.
Four years after the abductions in Chibok, and months after more kidnappings in Dapchi, over 100 schoolgirls are still missing. Nigeria must act to make schools safe – beefing up security, learning from past mistakes and, ultimately, working to end the Boko Haram insurgency.
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