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How Boko Haram Is Changing International Politics in Western and Central Africa

Abuja, Nigeria. April 30, 2014. Protesters took to the streets around the three arms zones of Abuja to demand urgent action from the government in finding the 200 school girls kidnapped in Chibok. By Ayemoba Godswill. Demotix (c).

Abuja, Nigeria. April 30, 2014. Protesters took to the streets around the three arms zones of Abuja to demand urgent action from the government in finding the 200 school girls kidnapped in Chibok. By Ayemoba Godswill. Copyright Demotix.

Two suicide attacks on June 22 in Maroua, northern Cameroon, left several people dead and many others wounded. Ten days earlier, 15 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a crowded market in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. The attack came exactly three weeks after a similar bombing claimed the lives of 27 people in the same town.

Boko Haram, a Sahel-based jihadist group that recently pledged allegiance to ISIS, claims responsibility for the attacks. The group struck again a few weeks after the June attacks, this time in Jos, Nigeria, killing at least 44 people. Boko Haram has repeatedly staged deadly attacks in the Sahel region for the past several years. In response, a coalition of West African countries came together to launch a military counterstrike in the hope of curbing the group's influence.

Below is a partial timeline of Boko Haram's offensive in 2015, which spread to Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.

The current situation in Cameroon
After months of captivity by suspected Boko Haram militants, ex-hostages arrive at Cameroon's Yaounde Nsimalen International Airport. Pubic Domain via Wikimedia Commons

After months of captivity by suspected Boko Haram militants, ex-hostages arrive at Cameroon's Yaounde Nsimalen International Airport. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Since January 1, 2015, Boko Haram has carried out at least 28 major attacks on Cameroonian soil —most of them in the far north region. According to the local authorities in Maroua, the July 22 suicide bombings were carried out by two young girls who were seen begging in the streets in previous days. The explosion killed at least a dozen of people at the central market, but the exact number is still uncertain. A security source confirmed that residents heard a double explosion.

Despite these tragedies, the Cameroonian military has enjoyed some success against Boko Haram, though the country has also had to deal with the massive afflux of migrants fleeing the conflict.

The current situation in Chad
Chad Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 at N'djamena Airport CC-BY-40 license. Via wikimedia commons

Chad Air Force Sukhoi Su-25 at N'djamena Airport CC-BY-4.0 license. Wikimedia commons.

The man who triggered a bomb on July 11 was disguised as a veiled woman to conceal the explosives. In light of this information, the government of Chad has decided to ban the veil to prevent similar attacks. The consequences of the Boko Haram insurgency have massively strained the region's stability, especially in Chad, whose military power was the foundation of peacekeeping in Sahel. In recent months, Chad has already been rocked by student protests and the June 20 start of the trial of former leader Hissen Habre.

The current situation in Niger
"Landscape Diffa region Niger" by Roland Hunziker - http://www.flickr.com/photos/rolandh/151126866/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Landscape Diffa region Niger” by Roland Hunziker. CC 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Boko Haram insurgency has forced tens of thousands across the border into Niger's arid southeastern region of Diffa, aggravating an already dire humanitarian crisis. The flood of refugees comes as Niger declares a state of emergency to tackle an insurgency that has brought Diffa's economy to a standstill and left much of the population vulnerable.

The current situation in Nigeria

Prior to the March 2015 elections, the Nigerian Army had considerable gains in repelling Boko Haram. However, a renewed offensive by Boko Haram appears to be underway, ahead of the inauguration of President Buhari's new government. This is despite the fact that one of Buhari's first actions was to move the nation's command headquarters of the military from the capital Abuja to Maiduguri, in Borno State—a hotpot of the Boko Haram insurgency.

Nonetheless, the new government has pushed a great deal for international counterterrorist assistance, as evidenced by President Buhari's recent meetings with the presidents of Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Buhari has sought and received assurances of assistance from the G7 and the United States, where he is currently on a state visit. Buhari promised to negotiate with the insurgents, if that would lead to the release of the 200 abducted Chibok girls, kidnapped more than a year ago:

If we are convinced that we can have the girls, why not, we can negotiate. Our goal is to have the girls. We will ask them what they want and we can free the girls; return them to their school; unite them with their parents and rehabilitate them, so, they can live a normal life.

This post is co-authored by Nwachukwu Egbunike, Dibussi Tande, and Lova Rakotomalala.

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