Nigeria’s newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari has made the fight against Boko Haram one of his key priorities. Since his inauguration in May this year, he has toured West Africa to reinforce a regional approach to tackling Boko Haram.
In this week’s View on Africa David Zounmenou, a senior research fellow based in ISS Pretoria, asked if this regional approach has accomplished anything significant and whether Buhari’s engagement, both in the region and beyond, is an effective strategy against Boko Haram.
- President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned on the promise to eradicate Boko Haram. He has undertaken to tour the region and discuss his strategy with Nigeria’s neighbours. It is too early to assess the effectiveness of this approach, but we can discuss where the fight against Boko Haram is heading.
- Since February 2015, the tide has turned on Boko Haram. A major development is the decision by a coalition of countries to fight the terrorist group, which has become a regional threat. Boko Haram has been defeated in some areas, but it remains a serious threat after recent attacks in Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria.
- Even though Buhari wants Nigeria to take the lead in the fight against Boko Haram, he recognises that it is no longer just a Nigerian problem. This approach is part of Nigeria’s overall policy re-orientation to improve national security and create a stable environment for socio-economic development. It has included a change in the military hierarchy given the problems that various national security agencies were facing under the former administration.
- The relocation of the army headquarters to Maiduguri took the fight to Boko Haram.
- Domestic initiatives will be reinforced by regional efforts to set up the new Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) made of 8 700 troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Bénin. MNJTF will be headquartered in Njamena under Nigeria’s command. It is proposed that the MNJTF be placed under AU leadership.
- The recent successes of Chad’s army prove that a well-trained and equipped military force can limit Boko Haram’s ability to operate freely across the region. But while this is welcome, other measures are also needed like effective border control, strict control of the sources of funding and weapons, information sharing and a drastic change in the legal system to deal with the problem.
- A multi-pronged approach to Boko Haram is needed and Nigeria must display leadership in this regard.
What to watch
The key question will be how to sustain the recently forged alliance between Chad, Niger and Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram.
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