Boko Haram attacks have sadly became commonplace in States surrounding the Lake Chad. Anew, eleven Chadian soldiers died on September 6 under the assault on their position by Boko Haram fighters. Two days before, the group launched another attack in the Nigerian city of Diffa, killing five civilians and a soldier. What assessment can be made about Boko Haram development? Since Nigerian President Buhari’s election, is the fight against the group more intensified?
Boko Haram, or Islamic State of West Africa (as members recently decided to name themselves) was created during 2002 by the Nigerian Mohamed Yusuf. It is only after their leader’s death, in 2009, that group members went underground, launched their first attacks and started to draw media and political attention. Nigerian State is not the only one concerned; attacks have also reached Chadian, Nigerian and Northern Cameroon territories. Since then, a substantial number of people have been the victims of the barbarism the group manifests. According to Amnesty International, at least 1600 people died since June, making overall more than 3500 civilian victims this year in the countries above mentioned. Since 2009, not less than 17.000 people have been killed and more than two million persons have been displaced.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan has regularly been accused of passivity regarding fighting Boko Haram. Indeed, he showed a lack of willingness in effectively tackling the jihadist threat and the resources he provided were insufficient to impede the scourge. Last February, he recognized he had underestimated the group’s ability to cause trouble. Since Muhammadu Buhari’s election, a lot of hopes have been raised concerning the security situation in Nigeria. Tackling Boko Haram was indeed at the core of the candidate’s electoral campaign. The issue was also at the centre of Buhari’s meeting with French President François Hollande last month. One of the main objectives of the visit was to strengthen French support, mainly in intelligence operations. Until now, his first one hundred days in office have shown a lot of commitment in fighting the surge. In spite of another attacks, some estimate “there is visible evidence that the Islamist fundamentalists are beginning to count their days”. Nonetheless, sporadic attacks are still happening, especially on market places, bus stations and places of worship; therefore, it is still too early to contend that the threat is going to be totally eradicated.
In Cameroon, authorities have also taken the measure of the danger posed by Boko Haram. Identity checks have increased, especially in the North of the country. Last August 14, President Paul Biya decided to deploy 2450 additional soldiers as part of the joint multinational force (MNJTF), put in place in cooperation with Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Chad. In the city of Makary, a civilian committee has even been created in order to work with military members and thus facilitate the fight against Islamists.
Tackling jihadist group takes time and requires substantial political will above all. For now, it seems that regional leaders have taken their responsibilities, despite the fact that unpredictable and deadly attacks are still occurring in several countries. Let’s hope African Heads of State will pursue the struggle and be getting human, material and financial assistance from Western powers; too many people have suffered from such a devastating ideology.