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Boko Haram in 2016: A Highly Adaptable Foe

Courtesy of Surian Soosay/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 7 February 2017.

Significant security gains have been made in the fight against Boko Haram, but the war is far from over.

Last year marked the seventh year since Boko Haram re-merged following a heavy-handed crackdown on the group in July 2009. Since then, the outfit has employed violence in Nigeria and the surrounding region at a dizzying pace. In 2014, according to data collected by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), it was the world’s most deadly terrorist entity.

A lot has changed in the struggle against Boko Haram since then, including the advent of operations by the Multi-National Joint Task Force and the eviction of militants from most areas of territorial control.

This past August, the movement split into two factions. Long-time leader Abubakar Shekau favours a more indiscriminate attack profile, while the new Islamic State-backed Abu Musab al-Barnawi faction prefers to engage security forces directly (such as in Bosso, Niger in June). Despite these developments, the high rate of violence perpetrated by the group remains a consistent feature.

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Africa’s Pastoralists: A New Battleground for Terrorism

Faces

Courtesy of Kris Haamer/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the African Center for Strategic Studies on 11 January 2017.

In January 2013, Hamadou Kouffa led Islamist forces from northern Mali south toward Konna and Diabaly, an act that precipitated an African and French intervention eventually driving the militants out of entrenched positions. Two years later, Kouffa reemerged on the international scene at the head of the newly founded Macina Liberation Front (Front de Libération du Macina, FLM). Since January 2015, Kouffa’s group has claimed responsibility for several attacks in central Mali, including assassinations of local political figures and security forces, as well as the destruction of an ‘idolatrous’ mausoleum.

In its goals and methods, FLM resembles other Islamist terrorists operating in the Sahel and Sahara, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). What makes the FLM different is the attempt to rally nomadic Fulani herdsmen to its cause. Kouffa, a Fulani marabout, communicates to FLM members in the Fulani language, and the name Macina harkens back to a nineteenth-century Fulani state based in central Mali and governed under Islamic law.

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Buhari’s Make or Break Strategy against Boko Haram

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria. Image: U.S. Institute of Peace/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) on 4 September, 2015.

On 5 September 2015, Muhammadu Buhari will mark the first 100 days of his presidency. As expectations are high, particularly regarding his strategy and actions against Boko Haram, these first 100 days are a useful indicator of what is to come.

As Michael Watkins puts it in the Harvard Business Review, ‘what new leaders do in their early days has a disproportionate impact on all that follows’.

While this is not his first time at Nigeria’s helm, this former major general faces far different challenges than during his first tenure as military head of state from 1983 to 1985. » More

Could a Long-Term Solution to Boko Haram Come from the World Bank?

Muhammadu Buhari, president of Nigeria. Image: Chatham House/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the Institute for Security Studies on 7 August 2015.

When it comes to the fight against Boko Haram, Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari has been busy. He has finally got the Multinational Joint Task Force up and running, which combines troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria into one regional force: a necessary weapon against what has always been a regional rather than national problem.

He has worked to repair frayed relations with regional leaders like Idriss Déby of Chad and, more recently, Cameroon’s Paul Biya. His visit to Cameroon in July culminated in an agreement to allow troops from both countries to engage in ‘hot pursuit’ across borders, which will make it harder for militants to skip across national boundaries to evade capture. » More

Chad: Taking the Lead in the War on Boko Haram

The President of Chad, Idriss Déby. Image: Rama/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Strife on 6 February 2015.

The ground offensive in Gamboru, in which over 200 Boko Haram fighters were reportedly killed, followed several days of air raids against the militants and is the latest in a string of successful strikes by Chad against the Islamist group. As Boko Haram has stepped up its attacks in recent weeks, so Chad has stepped up its military presence in neighbouring countries: Chadian troops now operate in Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. On 29 January, Chadian forces drove the Islamists out of the Nigerian town of Malum Fatori after attacking their positions from across the border in Niger. In mid-January, Chad deployed its military to Cameroon to assist its neighbour in fending off Boko Haram’s incursion into its territory and recapture Baga, the Nigerian border town ravaged in a massacre earlier that month. » More

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