Nigeria′s anti-terror strategy isn′t working | Africa | DW | 07.11.2014
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Africa

Nigeria's anti-terror strategy isn't working

Nigeria's ceasefire with Boko Haram has petered out, military offensives aginst the Islamist militants are ineffectual. President Jonathan is doing nothing to halt their advance, Nigerians grumble.

"This was a purely orchestrated scam to deceive - and in the end they succeeded in deceiving not Nigerians - but themselves." said Emman Usman Shehu, director of the International Institute for Journalism in the Nigerian capital Abuja. He was referring to a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram announced by the Nigerian military on October 17.

It wasn't only the killings and the bombings that were supposed to end. The Nigerian government had also expressed confidence that the Chibok schoolgirls, seized more than six months ago, would soon be freed.

None of this happened. Shehu, who is active in the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, said blisteringly that the Nigerian government "have made themselves a disgrace in the eyes of the world."

Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Sheku, denied that there had been any understanding with the Nigerian government, thereby dashing hopes of the girls' release.

Nigeria Boko Haram Bring back our Girls

The kidnapping of the Chibok girls has raised international awareness of Nigeria's chronic insurgency

His fighters are still spreading terror across the country and targeting Shiite Muslims. They also recently murdered a prominent moderate Sunni cleric and have captured several more towns in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram has been enforcing strict Islamic law by punished alleged wrong-doers in public in the towns it has invaded. A witness in Mubi, speaking to DW, confirmed reports that people suspected of theft have had their hands cut off.

The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed the lives of some 5,000 people over the last ten months. The group's avowed aim is the creation of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. It has bases in neighboring Cameroon and Chad and, according to some accounts, in Niger as well.

Ryan Cummings, chief analyst for sub-Saharan Africa with corporate risk consultants Red24, also doubts whether there was ever any genuine ceasefire agreement between the Nigerian government and Boko Haram. "The first question we have to ask is whether the Nigerian government was actually dealing with Boko Haram itself," he told DW.

Cummings said that the ceasefire had been declared unilaterally by the Nigerian government and that a lot of Boko Haram's directives came from Abubakar Sheku and that in the absence of any communiques from him suggesting a ceasefire had been reached "we always needed to treat it with much skepticism."

Nigeria Soldaten

Analysts say Nigeria's armed forces lack the resources to defeat Boko Haram

Even after the breakdown of the supposed ceasefire, the Nigerian armed forces are still unable to contain the insurgency and even appear to be retreating. Residents of the state of Adamawa told DW on Thursday (06.11.2014) the army had abandoned checkpoints near Yola, capital of Adamawa. Having taken Mubi, Boko Haram announced that Yola was its next target.

Cummings described President Goodluck Jonathan's efforts to combat the insurgency as a total failure.

"The Nigerian government doesn't have the requisite security assets, the manpower, the resources," he said.

Supposed ceasefires with Boko Haram in previous years have proved as ineffectual as Nigerian army offensives. Such anti-terror offensives against Boko Haram not only failed to shore up security, they also did considerable damage, claiming more civilian lives than Boko Haram's terrorist assaults. .

Civilian confidence in the military has been lost and civilian intelligence sources - essential in any anti-insurgency campaign - have dried up.

Cummings also said funds allocated for fighting the ínsurgency were not being used properly.

"We've seen guys within the 7th Infantry Division up in the northeast which is supposedly the anti-Boko Haram force going on to the battlefield without enough ammunition," he said.

Cummings believes the only option for the Nigerian government would be to arrange a genuine ceasefire with Boko Haram. Once the violence has ceased, the causes of the insurgency - poverty, underdevelopment and illiteracy - could be tackled.

Shehu, the Bring Back Our Girls activist, is in no doubt that some of the blame at least lies with Goodluck Jonathan. "This is a president whose house is on fire. But he is going to Ouagadougou to try and preempt an outbreak of a crisis in Burkina Faso. Is that not ridiculous?"