Aug 4, 2014
Alexander Mezyaev (SCF) : In July 2014 the activities of Boko Haram – a terrorist group operating in Nigeria – intensified activities on a broader scale. Skirmishes with the government troops turned into real battles. Terrorist acts became much more frequent and the fighting has gone beyond the state borders. The Boko Haram terrorist group appears to become an international organization.
Boko Haram (1) (usually translated as “Western education is a sin”), is a Salafi militant Islamist organization based in northern Nigeria and influenced by Wahhabi movement. (2)
Formally it was founded in 2009 to periodically stage local terrorist acts and attack Christian shrines. With every passing year their activities were becoming more frequent and well-planned encompassing the whole country. The group abruptly intensified actions including the neighboring Cameroon.
This April Chibok kidnapping took place with over 280 schoolgirls snatched by the militants. The group wanted all its members behind bars to be set free. The government refused. Then the action was followed by a string of attacks against populated areas and police stations. Officials and many civilians lost their lives. In June a blast took place in the port of Lagos, the wave of terror hit the oil-rich shores of the Niger River. The end of July was real hot: terrorist acts became a routine matter. On July 27 – Kaduna bombing with the death toll of 50, on July 30 – at least six people have been killed in a suicide bombing at a college in northern Nigeria’s biggest city, Kano. (3) On July 27 Boko Haram militants attacked the northern Cameroon town of Kolofata and seized several people including the wife of Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali. The official was taken away from the place by his guards. The mayor and his family were taken hostage. The clashes with the Cameroon army lasted for a few days…
How do the international community, Africa and Nigeria respond to the disastrous unfolding of the events?
First, the United Nations Security Council has started to react. In 2014 the Council’s chairman has made a number of condemning statements. But there has been no resolution and it makes ask questions. In July the names of Boko Haram leaders (especially Abubakar Shekau) were blacklisted under the U.N. al Qaeda sanctions list. It means the United Nations considers Boko Haram to be part of Al Qaeda.
Second, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger agreed to provide troops in order to stamp out Boko Haram. With each country contributing 700 troops each the force is strong enough. (4) Finally the United States State Department has listed Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization. This decision gives publicity to the group serving as a kind of advertisement to attract more recruits.
The internal aspect is related to complicated state system of Nigeria with the population of hundreds of ethnic groups and clans living in 36 states. The structure is the legacy of British rule which had rich experience of drawing dividing (5) and coercively uniting borders to make live together the peoples who had a long history of animosity towards each other. The independent Nigeria has faced the consequences of the British colonial policy a number of times. For instance, Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a secessionist state in south-eastern Nigeria that existed from 30 May 1967 to 15 January 1970, taking its name from the Bight of Biafra (the Atlantic bay to its south). The inhabitants were mostly the Igbo people who led the secession due to economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions among the various peoples of Nigeria. The creation of the new state that was pushing for recognition was among the causes of the Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Nigerian-Biafran War that took, according to different estimates, the lives of 1-3 million people.
The aspiration for an independent Biafra is still alive. Before his death in late 2013 Chinua Achebe, the world-wide known Nigerian novelist, who was Igbo by nationality, devoted his last book which was called with obvious meaning There Was a Country. The book is in fact a lament for Biafra and the decline of Nigeria, which he relates directly to the Biafran war. It offers a future outlook.
Half of a Yellow Sun is a novel by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Published in 2006 by Knopf/Anchor, it tells the story of the Biafran War. The author also belongs to the people of Igbo. She wrote about the existence of a special Sun that shines not from the sky but from the banner of Biafra. The book has received many awards, including in Great Britain. It has just been translated into Russian – that’s good news…
The external aspect is to great extent defined by the role of the International Criminal Court which is conducting an official investigation of the Boko Haram activities. Jonathan of Nigeria, the President of Nigeria, is invited as a witness. We believe it to be a grave mistake. Other countries have also faced the situation Nigeria has to tackle today. They have involved the International Criminal Court. For instance, Cote D’Ivoire has invited the Court to make an investigation. Now the President of the country Laurent Gbagbo is in Hague put behind bars. The same thing may be in store for Nigeria. For instance, the recent report by International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda says the crimes in Nigeria are committed not only by Boko Haram but also by government troops often in violation of human rights while fighting terrorists. The insinuation is clear, President Goodluck should simulate the fight but he will not be allowed to hold a real victory. The International Criminal Court is an instrument of global governance. Boko Haram and other terrorist organizations have a mission to destabilize Africa to prevent it from leaving behind the economic backwardness.
What is the reason for making the activities of terrorists in Nigeria and in West Africa more vibrant? Many say it’s due to the system of clans. There are three major ethnic groups in Nigeria (6) and a lot of smaller ones. The groups come to power in rotation. The fragile pattern was broken after former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Hausa by origin, suddenly died in 2010 (being only 58). As a result then Vice President Jonathan Goodluck (Yoruba) stepped in as an interim President to win the next presidential election. In 2015 the country will hold another presidential election. Goodluck is among the hopefuls. The intensification of terrorist activities could be a way to pressure him into rejecting his office in favor of someone who belongs to the Hausa tribe. There are attempts made to make people believe that a Hausa Muslim could tackle the problem of Boko Haram. (7) The religious and ethnic aspects do play some role but not the decisive one.
It’s worth to note that the terrorist activities intensified at the time of Nigeria becoming the leading economy in Africa (at the start of 2014) leaving behind the main competitor – the economically strong South Africa. It may not suit the plans of those who stand in the way of progress.
The Boko Haram escalated its activities right at the time the situation in Africa started to seriously deteriorate. The regime of global governance has reasons for concern: the Africa’s GDP growth (8) has been 5, 6 % during the recent ten years against 3, 8% in the world. (9) It was only 1, 1% in eurozone. The economic reasons give rise to the new wave of destabilization in Africa.
In 2013 such countries as Mali, the Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Somalia, Kenia and some other stares faced great difficulties. No matter that, the growth of Africa’s GDP was 5, 7% by far exceeding the world average of 4, 1%. It means the pressure on Africa will grow including terrorist activities.
In 1984 the book Nigeria on Fire in Russian written by former President of the country Olusegun Obasanjo hit the bookstore shelves in 1984. The book describes the war in Biafra, the operations of federal troops and the aid provided by the Soviet Union. Thirty years have passed. Nigeria is hit by fire again. The fire has spread to other countries and is threatening the whole continent. Though the continent is an intermediate goal, Boko Haram fights to make the whole world a caliphate without any borders.
Related background analysis:
Jan 26, 2014
This is a huge field of operations as large as Europe, but almost entirely desert. “Armed terrorist groups” (GAT, according to military acronym) that travel does not know national boundaries, with a line drawn by former colonial administrations in the middle of … nothing. As his enemies, the French army, which is at the forefront in the war against the jihadists in the Sahel, decided to abstract these boundaries. To this end, the Ministry of Defence in depth reorganizes its military presence in Africa.This “regionalization of the Sahel” is being implemented: no ads mirobolantes but a discrete adjustment work here are the highlights.
Everything starts with an analysis of the threat after defeating – but not entirely removed – TGA in northern Mali in the first half of 2013, the French army and intelligence services, not surprisingly, found that these were, in part, scattered in neighboring states. Particularly in the south-western Libya, where has been a real “safe black hole” in the Fezzan around the triangle Oubari-Sebha-Mourzouk. It is from this base that the jihadists back back north Mali – nineteen of them were killed during a special operation in December – and Niger, where a significant terrorist act has recently been thwarted. The GAT borrow a line more than a thousand kilometers, after the pass of El Salvador, following the border between Niger and Algeria. The tracks also borrowed going well on the Algerian territory that Nigerian. France’s strategy is to cut the jihadists their rear base in Libya, where it is impossible to speak openly.
For the French military, three states in the region now form a single theater Mali, Niger and Chad.Their three governments involved in the fight against terrorism and cooperate with France.
In the region, France will have four main bases: N’Djamena (Chad), Niamey (Niger), Gao (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso). A N’Djamena: combat aircraft Rafale and Mirage 2000, supported by tankers and ground forces – and the staff who will control operations in the Sahel. In Niamey, intelligence assets, including two new Reaper drones purchased in the United States and will be operational in the coming days. These monitoring devices controlled from the ground in Niamey are collocated with those of the U.S. Air Force. This base can also accommodate combat aircraft and Atlantique 2 maritime patrol, used both above the desert of the ocean. In Gao, land forces, with a large helicopter detachment. Finally, more discreetly, in Ouagadougou, the group of special forces Sabre operates throughout the area from the rear base. These four main bases, the French army will add support points further north, that is to say, closer to possible interception areas of terrorist groups. Two of them were chosen: Tessalit, in the far north of Mali, and Faya-Largeau in northern Chad. Another is still being sought in the north-eastern Niger, knowing that special forces are already present in the Arlit mining (northwest) area. These support points must have airstrip, even briefly, for depositing light vehicle or implement helicopters. Not to mention the collection of intelligence, human or electronic … In total, this device in the Sahel mobilize 3,000 French soldiers permanently with air assets nearly thirty aircraft (fighter, transport, helicopters, drones, etc).
The whole of this new device, which has not received baptism generic name, will be supported by three rear bases in Africa: Dakar (Senegal), Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) and Libreville (Gabon). To compensate for the rise in the Sahelian zone, the number of Dakar and Libreville and those of Djibouti will be revised downwards. The abandonment of Abidjan, a time considered, is no longer valid, quite the contrary. Logistical role is even considered as a priority towards the Sahel. Djibouti, turned to another theater of operations – including Somalia – will see its numbers continue to decline.Relations between France and Djibouti government are no longer what they were … A regiment, the 13th DBLE has already left the country to settle in the United Arab Emirates.
In total, about 6,000 French soldiers who remain active in Africa, permanently, half the Sahel. That’s a lot. More so than any other Western country. The idea to withdraw from the continent, caressed in the drafting of the previous White Paper of Defence (2008), fizzled. France remains more than ever, a permanent African military power far beyond operations decided by François Hollande, Serval Sangaris Mali and the Central African Republic.