Nigeria: Taliban Victory Defeats Boko Haram

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August 20, 2021: Efforts to settle long-standing armed disputes in central Nigeria and the Niger River Delta oil producing region down south are not making a lot of progress. Decades-long feuds between herders and farmers continue with the herders being the most aggressive while also insisting they are the victims because farmers are turning grazing land into farms. This happens much less often than farmers seeing their crops ruined by herds of cattle protected by armed Fulani herders. In some areas the farmers are Moslem and get the same aggressive treatment from the herders, or are all Moslem and usually Fulani, who operate like this in neighboring countries as well. The herder-farmer disputes have led to a breakdown in order throughout the north with more bandit gangs operating openly and without much fear or retribution. This land-use violence and increased banditry have surpassed Islamic terrorist related deaths for the last five years.

In the south, corruption in state governments and the police are the main cause of outlaw behavior by many of the unemployed locals angry at the pollution and lack of development efforts to improve life for those who live in the oil producing region.

Borno Bewilderment

In the northeast (Borno State) there has been progress in reducing Islamic terrorist violence because of the demoralization of most Islamic terrorists by leadership disputes between the two main Islamic terrorist factions; Boko Haram and ISWAP ( (Islamic State West Africa Province) . In mid-June Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was killed by a large ISWAP raiding party and the factional dispute declared over. It wasn’t. The death of veteran Boko Haram leader Shekau did not lead to a reunification of Boko Haram under pro-ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) leadership. ISIL released a 13-minute video showing Boko Haram and ISWAP leaders shaking hands and expressing agreement about the merger that had not occurred.

Shekau was killed by dissident Boko Haram members that had joined ISIL and considered any Boko Haram who did not do the same as traitors to Islam. Shekau had been active in Boko Haram from the beginning, in the 1990s, and has been leader since 2009. The army claimed to have killed Shekau several times and the “dead” Boko Haram leader soon put a video on the Internet mocking the military and saying they would never kill him. He was right. He was also correct about ISWAP, the local ISIL affiliate seeking to absorb Boko Haram. That has not happened because so many Boko Haram members preferred to fight ISWAP, or simply leave the movement. Leaders backed this forced reunification without realizing the impact the death of Shekau would have on most Islamic terrorists in the northeast. This became obvious when the number of Boko Haram and ISWAP members abandoning Islamic terrorism increased after the “merger” and death of Shekau was announced. Many of those defectors will switch to organized crime and ditch the religious pretensions. This has already been happening in the last few years but the “merger” caused the trend to spike.

Boko Haram has already appointed a new leader; Bakura Modu (or Sahaba). The new leader is half the age of Shekau and has been in Boko Haram for less than a decade. Boko Haram and ISWAP are both beset by money problems. Over a decade of Islamic terrorist violence in the north have ruined the local economy, sothere are more unemployed young men who can be enticed to join the Islamic terrorist for a “joining bonus” of less than $20 with the promise of more if they can learn to handle an assault rifle and succeed at looting and plundering what is left to steal in the northeast. A merger of economic, not religious, convenience was one thing most Islamic terrorists could agree on.

Since July over two thousand Boko Haram or ISWAP members have surrendered to the security forces or simply deserted. The Boko Haram and ISWAP leaders are trying to turn this around but even the recent of success of the Taliban in Afghanistan has not helped. The Islamic terrorist violence has been going on for over fifteen years in the northeast, mostly central and northern portions of Borno state and those areas are now economic wastelands. The Islamic terrorists are not strong enough to expand and, unlike their inspiration, the Afghan Taliban, Boko Haram does not have a powerful Moslem neighbor like Pakistan supporting them and providing sanctuary. There is also no massive drug production operation, like the heroin cartels of southern Afghanistan. While Boko Haram and ISWAP leaders insist prospects are great, that really only applies to the leadership. The majority of Islamic terrorists in Nigeria have destroyed their own communities for a decade and have nothing to show for it. Their leaders are seen as another bunch of corrupt officials who prosper while the majority sinks deeper into poverty.

August 18, 2021: The recent success of Pakistan-backed Taliban in Afghanistan has African governments and media fretting about Islamic terrorism in Africa, especially the ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) ultraviolence. One thing to keep in mind is that ISIL is at the top of the food chain when it comes to Islamic terror groups. That means ISIL is always at war with all other Islamic terror groups. In other words, the Taliban has long had problems with the local ISIL affiliate and even cooperated with government and American forces to greatly reduce, but not eliminate, the ISIL presence in Afghanistan. In Africa most of the local Islamic terrorists are affiliated with al Qaeda. Africa also has a multitude of small ISIL affiliates. Since 2018 there have been two ISIL “provinces” in central Africa. The smaller one is ISGS (Islamic State in Greater Sahara), which showed up in 2018. ISGS is currently active in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The other, slightly older and larger, ISIL province was ISWAP, which is actually a faction of the Nigerian Boko Haram Islamic terror group, which sees itself as the “African Taliban” and has been around since 2004. SWAP personnel are mostly in northeastern Nigeria as well as smaller numbers in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. ISWAP recently killed the Boko Haram leaders and is trying to absorb Boko Haram into ISWAP. That is encountering a lot of resistance. There is also ISCAP (Islamic State Central Africa Province) which is actually most present in southern Africa and only really active in the southeast African state of Mozambique. The problem with ISIL in southern Africa is that Moslems are a small minority there and the Christian and pre-Christian religions are the majority and fight back, often while ISIL is trying to get established locally.

Another tiny ISIL affiliate is ISS (Islamic State in Somalia) which was never popular with the local Islamic terrorists (al Shabaab). ISS spends most of its time and effort trying to survive in the northern mountains.

In Africa, corrupt local governments are a far greater threat but those same governments appreciate Islamic terrorists, especially ISIL, because it gives the local leaders something to blame all the economic and political problems on.

August 17, 2021: In the southeast, police arrested several of the men believed responsible for recent armed attacks on soldiers and police. The arrests confirmed that these attacks were organized by an associate of a local state governor and the gunmen were members of one of the many criminal gangs that work for state governors to ensure the governor continues to win elections and intimidate or silence any outspoken critics of these corrupt practices. The lethal violence is usually somewhat discreet and does not involve the army and police. These attacks were apparently in response to an army effort to eliminate some of these gangs as part of the anti-corruption effort.

August 15, 2021: In central Nigeria (Plateau state) Fulani Moslems returning from celebrating Islamic New Year celebration further south, were ambushed by armed men who separated the Moslems from Christians and killed the 25 Moslems. This was apparently a revenge attack for earlier Moslem attacks on Christian villages. Police quickly arrested 33 local men who had been openly angry about continued Fulani attacks.

The source of this violence is Moslem, usually Fulani, herders bringing their livestock into farming areas so their cattle can fatten up on crops. The armed Fulani often get away with it and when soldiers or police do show up and seize the cattle the Fulani have to pay compensation to the farmers to get their cattle back. Some of these Fulani go after local farmer leaders. These are often Christian clerics, as most of the farmers are Christian.

In central and southern Nigeria, the fighting between aggressive and heavily armed Fulani herders is against Moslem and non-Moslem farmers. This has been a growing problem since the 1990s and serious proposals to enact laws prohibiting “open grazing” in any grasslands not explicitly allocated for that are stalled in parliament. The Fulani promise armed resistance to such a law, but that would be nothing new as the Fulani and farmer militias have been clashing more frequently anyway. There are more farmers than herders and the Fulani reputation as warriors cannot overcome that, especially if the police and army are obliged to automatically enforce any law making “open grazing” a crime. Fulani call it a “shoot on sight” law but the Fulani have been doing that to farmers for generations and for the last seven years deaths from these grazing feuds have been higher than those caused by Islamic terrorist violence.

August 12, 2021: In the south the NDA (Niger Delta Avengers) are apparently behind attacks on navy forces that were shutting down oil-theft and offshore piracy operations. This is another example of how earlier amnesty efforts have failed. Back in June the NDA announced they would probably resume their attacks on oil installations because the government had not done enough to clean up the oil pollution caused by oil-theft gangs that NDA members often work with. Government efforts to persuade the NDA to remain peaceful have failed again. In early 2017 the government resumed payment of salaries to Niger Delta rebels who accepted the 2009 amnesty. Most of these belonged to MEND (Niger Delta tribal rebels) and many have gone on to form a new group; the NDA. In 2009 the government thought it had solved the Delta rebel problem with an amnesty deal. Like everything else in Nigeria, corruption prevented that arrangement from working. Many former rebels accepted government sponsored security jobs. These jobs were basically a payoff for gang members to ensure observance of the “no more violence” part of the amnesty deal. The violence against oil production declined substantially in 2009 because of the peace deal that over 30,000 local rebels accepted. That eventually changed as corruption caused the government payoffs to the former rebels to gradually disappear. In 2015 the violence began to reappear and by early 2016 there were one or more major attacks a month on oil facilities. Since then, new “anti-corruption” governments promised that the 2009 amnesty crowd that the payments will now reach them. The Niger Delta community has heard this before and expects the corruption to soon return and make their payments disappear. A lot of Delta rebels aren’t waiting and are already seeking to extort large payments or other concessions from the oil companies or the government to avoid more attacks that will reduce oil exports.

August 11, 2021: In the north (Kaduna state) army and police efforts to find camps used by local bandits have succeeded and in one recent case the surprised bandits were so distracted by the approaching security forces that eleven of their captives, being held for ransom, managed to escape. The gangs put these camps in remote locations and post sentinels to warn of a raid by the security forces. This has led to new tactics by the security forces which have a lot more aerial reconnaissance capability because of UAVs and more manned aircraft as well as better intel in general. Raids are now planned after obtaining some information about camp security and this has led to more raids that catch the bandits before they can get away, or at least cause the evacuation of the camp to be hasty and sloppy, which means lots of equipment, and sometimes hostages, left behind. In many other cases hostages are able to escape while the bandits are distracted.

 

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