Nigeria: Chasing Ghosts And Finding Failure

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October 6, 2014: The government believes that the main reason Boko Haram has not been defeated yet is because of continued support for the Islamic terrorists from some clergy and politicians in the northeast. Some of this cooperation is a side effect of the corruption that has long been a prominent feature of political life throughout the country. Politicians will basically deal with anyone, including criminals, if it is in their interest to do so.

In the last month the army has concentrated its efforts in the vicinity of the towns of Konduga, Damboa and Benisheik in Borno State. This was in response to Boko Haram gunmen more frequently raiding around the state capital, Maiduguri. The raiding of towns and villages, which sometimes involved randomly killing civilians and always going after soldiers and police, had depopulated many areas around the capital. About half the four million people in Borno state are now living in or very near the capital. A growing number of people in Maiduguri fear this is a prelude to an effort to take the city, or at least establish Boko Haram in the city again. This is the city where Boko Haram began and there would be some symbolism if Boko Haram could take control.  The government responded by replacing a lot of the senior army and police commanders in the northeast and telling the new guys that failure is not an option. This appears to have worked, although Boko Haram has helped by angering so many of the locals with their random killings. Moreover, in the few areas where Boko Haram has been able to settle down their rule has not been much more palatable. Refugees from these areas tell of capricious and cruel rules imposed on civilians and Boko Haram disdain for the suffering their presence causes. This is a typical pattern with Islamic extremist groups, who eventually turn the population they claim to be serving against them. The Boko Haram are correct in accusing the current government as corrupt and inept, but it is becoming clear that Islamic radicalism is not a better alternative. The heavy combat losses Boko Haram has suffered in the last month appears to have demoralized many of their gunmen, who are increasingly surrendering, sometimes with their weapons. Meanwhile Boko Haram appears to have told its men to flee army operations in Borno and shift attacks to neighboring Adamawa State.

Christian leaders in the north, especially senior Roman Catholic clergy, dispute government claims that Boko Haram controls no territory. Catholic leaders say that there at least 25 towns in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States that are under Boko Haram control according to Christians living (or recently fled from) there. The Christian clergy accuse the government of ignoring the true seriousness of the security situation in the northeast.

In southeastern Niger the number of Nigerian refugees from Boko Haram violence has grown from 37,000 to over 100,000 in the last year. It appears that nearly 400,000 people in the northeast have fled their homes so far this year to escape Boko Haram. The government believes that Boko Haram violence has killed 13,000 people since 2009.

Secret (or at least unpublicized) negotiations to swap sixteen (the number varies) imprisoned Boko Haram leaders for the 220 schoolgirls kidnapped in the northeast last April have apparently failed because of disagreements within Boko Haram and doubts that Boko Haram actually has control over the 220 girls they claim to hold. It is believed that the captive girls have been dispersed and that no one in Boko Haram really knows where they all are at this point.

Another casualty of the Boko Haram violence in the northeast is economic activity in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States. These states are in a semi-desert region that contains only twelve million people, which is only seven percent of Nigerians. A third of the people in the three northeastern states have had their lives disrupted by the Boko Haram violence and the military response. Most of the violence is in Borno state, where 27 counties (including the state capital Maiduguri) have Boko Haram activity. In Adamawa state it’s only six counties and in Yobe state it’s only five. Thus 71 percent of the counties troubled by Boko Haram are in Borno. The constant raids by Boko Haram and the resulting use of numerous checkpoints on the main roads by soldiers and police have seriously hurt the local economy. Worse, a major new economic activity, producing oil from the new fields discovered in Lake Chad, have been delayed because the companies doing this work will not risk the safety of their employees in the area until Boko Haram is dealt with. This oil (at least three billion barrels, worth over $300 billion) would be a boom to the historically poor northeast.

October 4, 2014: Boko Haram put a video on the Internet showing the wreckage of an air force jet (a two seat Alpha jet armed for ground attack) that crashed in the northeast on September 11th. Boko Haram claims to have shot it down but the air force denies that. The video also shows a man (identified as the pilot) being beheaded. The other pilot in the Alpha jet was apparently killed on September 11th. The air force first denied that the man being killed in the video was the pilot. But friends of the missing pilot confirmed that the beheaded man in the video was the pilot. After that the air force said it would avenge the death of the pilot with more air raids against Boko Haram.

October 3, 2014: In the northeast (Adamawa State) hundreds of Boko Haram gunmen have taken control of several villages in the Michika area, looting and then destroying over 500 buildings and terrorizing the local civilians. The people there complain that this has been going on since early September and no soldiers or police have showed up. Over 10,000 people have fled to the state capital (Yola).

September 28, 2014: Cameroon announced that over 300 Boko Haram members had surrendered in the northeast over the past three weeks and asked for asylum. The Islamic terrorists surrendered large quantities of weapons and ammunition. Across the border in northeastern Nigeria the army has been attacking any Boko Haram it can find in Borno State and apparently chasing some of the Islamic terrorists into Cameroon. Many of those who recently surrendered in Cameroon were identified as having been operating on both sides of the border for months.  

September 27, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) clashes with Boko Haram in the last three days have left at least 40 of the Islamic terrorists dead along with eleven soldiers (plus three who are missing). Most of these clashes took place in Konduga, Damboa and Benisheik as troops search for Boko Haram men and their camps.

September 25, 2014: The army recently claimed to have killed the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, or at least the man who appeared on a recent Internet video claiming to be Abubakar Shekau. The army claims to have killed Shekau several times in the last year and it is believed that “Abubakar Shekau” is either the generic name Boko Haram gives to whoever is in charge or that a series of different men have appeared in Boko Haram videos claiming to be Abubakar Shekau.

September 24, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) Boko Haram gunmen on motorcycles rode through the two towns (Shaffa and Shindiffu) killing 19 and wounding many more. These attacks concentrated on Christians and ten churches were also burned down. Elsewhere in Borno soldiers stopped a truck carrying fifty young men and after questioning discovered that they were Boko Haram members fleeing a recent defeat by soldiers. Their leaders had been killed and these recent recruits dropped their weapons and fled.

One of the girls kidnapped by Boko Haram in the northeast last April was found wandering around in Adamawa state. She was traumatized and unable to answer questions about her captivity or how she escaped.

September 23, 2014: In the northeast (Borno state) 135 Boko Haram men surrendered near Konduga, where the army has been searching for Boko Haram camps.

 

 

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