Sunday, 8 February 2015

Tackling Boko Haram

The scowl on the face of Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Aminu Bashir Wali spoke volumes as he emerged from a meeting at the Sheraton hotel on 29 January. Earlier that day, Nigeria had suffered the indignity of its internal security failings being scrutinised by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council at the AU summit.

Two weeks earlier, Ghana’s President John Mahama had suggested that the AU consider backing a multilateral force in West Africa to tackle the Islamist insurgents of Boko Haram. Based in north-east Nigeria, Boko Haram  was fanning out and slaughtering civilians in neighbouring states. But, if the AU were to set up a multilateral force to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan’s detractors would inevitably compare it with the AU force helping Somalia fight Al Shabaab. So Nigeria’s diplomats at the AU, including Wali, fought to scupper the proposed force.

That will now be just a Lake Chad Basin security initiative between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger. However, Chad’s military successes against Boko Haram this week have raised fresh doubts about Nigeria’s political will to tackle the militia. Some 2,500 Chadian troops crossed into Nigeria and ejected Boko Haram  fighters from Gambaru near the Cameroon border. So far, General Muhammadu Buhari, Jonathan’s main opponent in this month’s election, has resisted publicly reminiscing. Thirty years ago, he was military head of state, having seized power after a weak civilian government had failed to back its military in border skirmishes – with the Chadian army.

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