The dreaded jihadist group Boko Haram (BH) has received serious blows over the last months. Its leader, Shekau, has been reportedly injured but the causes which allowed BH to terrorise four African countries still remain.
Over the last months, Boko Haram (the Western education is sinful) has suffered a number of serious setbacks and is going its worse crisis since its foundation in 2002 by the late Mohammed Yusuf under the “Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah Lid-Da’wati wal-Jihaad”, denomination.
On the last 23 August, the Nigerian army announced that the leader of the group, Abubakar Shekau, had been seriously injured while other Boko Haram leaders had been killed during an airforce raid on the terror organization headquarters, in the Sambisa forrest in the North-Eastern part of the country.
Shekau was hit at the shoulder and three Boko Haram commanders, Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman Ab respectively died during the attack, said a communiqué read by the Nigerian army spokesman, Sani Usman.
Three weeks later, on the 13 September 2016, 30 Boko Haram fighters were killed in a clash with the army of neighbouring Niger in the South-Eastern Diffa region, near the village of Toumour, in the proximity of Lake Chad. Five soldiers died in the incident, say military sources. Since the capture of the nearby town of Bosso in early June, in an attack that killed 32 soldiers and which was the deadliest Boko Haram assault in Niger since April 2015, the jihadist organization has been loosing ground.
Continuous blockade of Boko Haram’s main supply routes and arrest of its logistics suppliers have caused serious hardship and led its fighters to surrender in different locations in the Area of Operation (AOO) of Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
Over the last months, 8,000 Boko Haram fighters accepted a government amnesty and surrendered, say Nigerian military sources.
Moreover, there are growing signs of divisions in the organization. On the 3 August, ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) announced that it had appointed a new leader for Boko Haram to replace Shekau who was accused of “mismanagement”. Accordingly, Shekau has been devoted too much efforts in killing fellow Moslems rather than ISIL”s “real enemies”, the Nigerian military and police and their allies.
ISIL appointed by then, Boko Harma’s spokesman since January, 2015 Muhamad Yusuf’s elder son, Habib, 22, as Shekau’s replacement, Abu Musab al Barnawi as the new “wali” (chief) of the terror group. Nigerian bloggers and journalists familiar with Boko Haram remind that Barnawi’s first statement as a spokesman was to claim the organziation’s responsibility in the Baga massacre of hundreds of civilians 2,000 civilians in the North-Eastern Nigerian state of Borono, according to Amnesty International. Ironically, Al Barnawi whose names means the « man of Borno » in the kanuri language was given this “nom de guerre” by Shekau himself after the death of his father, in 2009 by the Nigerian police.
The rivalry for the leadership of Boko Haram has even degenerated into a war of factions. Shekau denied immediately after the news surfaced that he had been replaced by Al Barnawi.
On the last 8 September, quoting local sources, Agence France Presse reported about fightings Accordingly, the Barnawi faction launched an offensive against the villages of Yele and Arafa held by the Shekau group and killed several fighters of his group.
A witness quoted by AFP says that the Barnawi supporters told local villagers that the Shekau group was waging the “real” jihad but was killing innocents, lootings properties and violating the rules of Islam. Many of Boko Haram’s victims are indeed Muslim. The Nigerian paper The Punch reported recently that Boko Haram thugs attacked Muslims going to celebrate Eid el-Kabir on the last 10 September, stole their rams and injured some women in the attack, in North-Eastern Nigeria.
Specialists believe though that divisions are even older. In their opinion, the real reason why Boko Haram posted a message on internet pleding allegiance to ISIL in March 2015, was an attempt to avert a split in the organization.
Though weaker, Boko Haram which provoked a conflict that took 20,000 lives and turned 2.6 million people in refugees over the last seven years, not only in North-Eastern Nigeria but also in Chad, Niger and Cameroon, still remains a serious nuisance, as show recent incidents.
On the last 21 August, three civilians were killed and 20 people were injured in Northern Cameroon during a suicide attack by a man riding a motorbike, who blew himself up on a bridge near the Mora market. On the last 26 August, four Chadian soldiers died after their vehicle exploded on a landmine at Kaiga Kindji, near the border of Niger. There are still Boko Haram armed fighters operating in North-Eastern Nigeria, but more as member of criminal gangs, specialised in the looting of property and kidnappings.
The governments of the region are receiving increasing United States’ support to fight the Boko Haram scourge. A new 250 men strong police elite unit will be trained in Niger at Maïné-Soroa by U.S. military instructors and it will be deployed in the Diffa area in order to improve the control of the Nigerian border. The operation is being financed by the US Department of Defence through the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF).
Yet, United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, though congratulating on the 23 August, the Nigerian army for the setbacks inflicted to Boko Haram reiterated earlier calls to show restraint and not violate human rights during its operations.
Analyst Angela Ocampo, from Belgium’s Justice and Peace Commission bulletin stresses the limits of the Nigerian government’s “War on Terror” approach. Accordingly, the root-causes of the problem also need to be addressed. Boko Haram’s capacity to destabilize large areas of territories in Northern Nigeria has been made much easier by the enormous imbalance between the existence of huge oil resources and the fact that 70% of the population of Northern Nigeria still lives in conditions of acute poverty, she says.