Category Archives: West Africa

US snubs Nigeria to work with Cameroon, Niger and Chad against “terrorism”

Punch

 

Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh

Major rift between the Nigerian and American military authorities have been hampering the fight against Boko Haram militants, which have been carrying out murderous attacks on villages and towns in the North-East, the New York Times reports.

Relations between American military trainers and specialists advising the Nigerian military in the fight against Boko Haram are so strained that the Pentagon often bypasses Nigeria altogether, choosing to work instead with security officials in the neighbouring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger, NY Times quoted defence officials and diplomats as saying.

Following the strain in relationship, the Federal Government in December 2014 cancelled the last stage of American training of a newly-created Nigerian Army battalion and there has been no resumption of the training since then.

This was against the backdrop of the refusal of the US to sell Cobra attack helicopters and other lethal weapons to the Federal Government to combat the Boko Haram insurgency, saying the army could not maintain them.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, scheduled to travel to Nigeria on Sunday, is expected to discuss the security issue and the forthcoming elections with President Goodluck Jonathan when they meet in Lagos.

The NY Times reports that American officials are hesitant to share intelligence with the Nigerian military because they contend it has been infiltrated by Boko Haram.

It said that the US was so concerned about Boko Haram infiltration that American officials had not included raw data in intelligence they had provided Nigeria, worried that their sources would be compromised.

The officials are also said to be wary of the Nigerian military as well, citing corruption and sweeping human rights abuses by its soldiers.

“We don’t have a foundation for what I would call a good partnership right now,” said a senior military official with the US Africa Command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

“We want a relationship based on trust, but you have to be able to see yourself. And they’re in denial,” the official said.

Senator Ahmed Zanna said it was disappointing that the US would bypass Nigeria to work with smaller countries on terrorism.

“For a small country like Chad or Cameroon to come to assist the Americans, that is disappointing. You have a very good and reliable ally and you are running away from them,” he said, faulting the Nigerian government.

“It is terrible. I pray for a change of government,” he added.

A British diplomat noted that the frustration between the two sides (Nigeria and US) has broad implications for the fight against Boko Haram, including making it harder for other international partners who have joined the effort.

“We are trying to work closely with the French and the Americans in support of the Nigerian military and government against Boko Haram, a rift between one of our two partners and the Nigerian government is not a good thing,” the diplomat stated.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – Kerry meets Jonathan and to see Buhari

Premium Times

Photo: U.S. State Dept.

President Goodluck Jonathan meets U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry upon his arrival at the State House in Lagos on Sunday.

United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, is expected in Nigeria ahead of the country’s general election, an agency report has indicated.

According to Associated Press, AP, Mr. Kerry will make a stop-over in Lagos on Sunday to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC, respectively.

The meeting with the two leading candidates in the upcoming presidential election shows deep U.S. concerns about post-election violence in the country that is already devastated by Boko Haram insurgents.

Mr. Kerry’s brief visit is a departure from the U.S. policy that disallow its senior officials from visiting countries about to hold elections, to avoid the perception of supporting one candidate against another.

This is the first time a chief American diplomat is visiting the country since 2012. State Department officials are quoted as saying that Mr. Kerry will hold separate talks with President Jonathan and his leading opponent, Mr. Buhari, a former Army general.

The secretary of state previously has paid similar visits to countries struggling with instability including Lebanon in 2009 and Iraq in 2005.

Briefing reporters Saturday, senior state department officials were quoted to have said Mr. Kerry will appeal to Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Buhari to accept the result of the Feb. 14 election and instruct their supporters to refrain from violence.

A dispute over President Jonathan’s emergence in 2011 had sparked riots in some states in Northern Nigeria that resulted in the death of people including Bauchi, Kaduna and Kano.

The country’s election is coming amid an increasing attacks and kidnappings and destruction by Boko Haram insurgents especially in North-east Nigeria.

The spokesperson for Mr. Buhari’s campaign, Garba Shehu, confirmed told PREMIUM TIMES that the APC candidate was on his way to Lagos to meet Mr. Kerry.

Contacted, the Special Adviser to Mr. Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, also confirmed his boss’ appointment with the U.S. Secretary of State.

“Senator Kerry is meeting with President Jonathan at the State House, Marina at 2pm. today,” Mr. Abati said. “That’s all I can confirm.”

Nigeria – army says it has repelled Boko attack on Maiduguri as Monguno falls

Premium Times

Nigerian soldiers repel Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri as Monguno falls to insurgents

Cameroonian soldiers

The attack by suspected members of the Boko Haram on Maiduguri has been foiled by soldiers, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.

However, the neighbouring town of Monguno appears to have been taken over by the insurgents who are also said to have taken over the military barracks there, a senior soldier in the state capital told PREMIUM TIMES.

As if attacking from various fronts, soldiers were also battling the rampaging insurgents in Konduga, a town 35km from Maiduguri.

The military is expected to release details of the attacks after the battles are completed.

Our source said scores of people including soldiers and insurgents have been killed on the outskirts of Maiduguri since the current battles started late Saturday night.

Confirming the fall of Monguno to the insurgents, our source said “we have decimated the idiots (from Maiduguri) but Monguno has fallen”.

He said the military casualty from the Maiduguri and Monguno battles had been recorded, but would not provide details.

Already, the Army has imposed a curfew on Maiduguri.

The 7th Division of the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri on Sunday announced the 24-hour curfew following the attacks.

The Spokesperson of the Division, Sani Usman, said this in a statement he signed and issued in Maiduguri.

“Be informed of the imposition of a curfew on Maiduguri immediately,” the spokesperson said as quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria.

“The curfew will remain till further notice.”

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: Militants attack key city of Maiduguri

President Goodluck Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri last week, 15 JanPresident Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri on 15 January and visited again on Saturday

Fighters from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have launched an attack on the key city of Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, reports say.

Fierce fighting was reported on the outskirts. The military is carrying out air strikes, and a curfew is in place.

Maiduguri is home to tens of thousands of people who have fled Boko Haram attacks and was visited on Saturday by President Goodluck Jonathan.

Another Boko Haram attack was reported in Monguno, north of Maiduguri.

Boko Haram, which means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, launched military operations in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

Thousands of people have been killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria.

Separately, US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Lagos on Sunday.

‘Pray for us’

Residents of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, say they woke to sustained loud explosions and gunshots. Roads and business have been closed by security forces.

map of areas under attack by Boko Haram

The attack appeared to have begun in the Njimtilo district on the edge of the city.

One resident there, Rachel Adamu, told Reuters: “Please pray for us, we are in danger, under serious attack now.”

A resident of the Moronti area, Buba Kyari, told Agence France-Presse: “It is flying bullets everywhere. All we hear are sounds of guns and explosions. A rocket-propelled grenade hit and killed a person from my neighbourhood who was fleeing into the city.”

The BBC’s Chris Ewokor in Abuja says the military are carrying out co-ordinated air strikes and ground attacks against the insurgents.

Militants also reportedly attacked Monguno, 140km (86 miles) north of Maiduguri.

Security sources told Reuters the army there was being overwhelmed, with houses set on fire.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Launched attacks on Cameroon

Soldiers without weapons

Who are Boko Haram?

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram

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Maiduguri would be a major prize for Boko Haram, which last tried to take the city in December 2013.

President Jonathan visited Maiduguri on Saturday as part of his election campaign for polls in February.

It was his second visit in two weeks. Before these trips his last visit had been in March 2013.

On his visit on 16 January, he told some of the 5,000 refugees who fled recent Boko Haram violence: “I want to assure you that you will soon go back to your houses.”

He pledged that “all the areas under the control of Boko Haram will soon be recaptured”.

His visit came after UK-based human rights group Amnesty International released satellite images of towns attacked by Boko Haram, suggesting widespread destruction and a high death toll.

The pictures showed some 3,700 structures damaged or destroyed in Baga and neighbouring Doron Baga in the first week of the year, the human-rights group said.

Nigeria’s government has disputed reports that as many as 2,000 were killed, putting the toll at just 150.

John Kerry is expected to meet both President Jonathan and rival presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday.

State department officials said Mr Kerry would urge them to appeal to supporters to refrain from violence in the lead-up to the election. Hundreds died after Mr Jonathan was elected in 2011.

Satellite images of Doron Baga Satellite images of Doron Baga which were taken on 2 January, before the Boko Haram attacks, and afterwards on 7 January. The vegetation is shown in red

 

 

Nigeria – Nigeria release 190 in Yobe

Reuters
(Reuters) – Nigerian Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram released about 190 captives, who returned to their community in the northeast state of Yobe between Friday and Saturday, while other people were still being held, local and state officials said.

“The people will be presented to the government tomorrow (Sunday) for assistance as their houses were set ablaze when the insurgents attacked the village, Katarko in the Gujba local council,” Goni Mali, a community leader of Katarko said.

Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the state governor, said the militants released young men, women and children who were kidnapped on Jan 6. At least 20 other people were still being held.

Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. Borno state is the worst hit followed by Adamawa and Yobe.

Some of the women who were released said the militants let them go after they resisted following the rules of the group.

“They say since you have refused to accept our mode of religious teachings, go and follow your ‘Infidels’, we hereby order you to leave,” one of the women said.

The group frequently raids towns and kidnaps young men, women and children as well as some foreign workers. A German national was freed in Cameroon last week after being abducted in Nigeria’s Adamawa state in July.

In neighbouring Borno state, at least 14 people were killed and houses set on fire on Friday in a suspected Boko Haram attack on the village of Kambari, 5 kilometres from state capital Maiduguri, a military source and eye witnesses said.

Nigeria: security chief says it doesn’t need UN help over Boko Haram

BBC

Boko Haram crisis: UN ‘not needed against Nigerian militants’

Nigeria soldiers in Borno state - June 2013Nigeria’s army has so far failed to contain the insurgency during the state of emergency

Nigeria does not need the help of UN or African Union troops to take on Boko Haram, the country’s national security adviser has told the BBC.

Sambo Dasuki said Nigeria, and its neighbours Niger, Chad and Cameroon, were in a “good shape to address the issue” of the Islamist insurgency.

He acknowledged the militants were a “real security threat” and said that close to 50% of Nigeria’s army was now deployed to the north-east.

Boko Haram took up arms in 2009.

It says it is fighting to create an Islamic state.

Since the government declared a state of emergency 20 months ago in three north-eastern states to deal with the insurgency, the group has strengthened and now controls several towns, where it has declared a caliphate.

The militants gained worldwide notoriety after kidnapping more than 200 schoolgirls in April last year – who have yet to be rescued.

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Boko Haram at a glance

A screen grab taken from a video released on You Tube in April 2012, apparently showing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (centre) sitting flanked by militants
  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009 to create Islamic state
  • Thousands killed, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria – also attacked police and UN headquarters in capital, Abuja
  • Abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Controls several north-eastern towns
  • Launched attacks on Cameroon

Soldiers without weapons

Who are Boko Haram?

Why Nigeria has not defeated Boko Haram

line

Recently they have carried out raids into neighbouring Cameroon and this week Boko Haram’s leader said his fighters had carried out the brutal attacks on the Nigerian town of Baga.

He said they had seized enough weapons from Baga’s military base to “annihilate Nigeria”.

Some reports said that as many as 2,000 people died in Baga but Nigeria’s government has disputed this, putting the toll at 150.

Mr Dasuki told the BBC’s Newsday programme the fact that so many of the country’s security sources had been deployed to deal with the militants showed how seriously the situation was being taken.

Chadian soldiers on Cameroon's border with Nigeria - 21 January 2015Over the weekend, Chadian soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s border with Nigeria to bolster security

However, several soldiers have complained about not being given enough weapons and working equipment to tackle Boko Haram.

Mr Dasuki has dismissed such criticisms, saying there were “cowards” within the armed forces who hampered the campaign against the insurgents.

When asked if Nigeria needed outside help, he said “No”, before saying it was an option to involve UN and AU forces, but regional partners were best placed to deal with the problem,

Nigerian soldiers currently make up the bulk of UN peacekeepers deployed to Africa, the security chief has said.

Correspondents say so far the regional fight against Boko Haram has been ineffectual.

Efforts to form a multinational force involving Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon have floundered.

However, following a meeting this week it was agreed that they would seek UN backing for the force – and move the headquarters from the captured town of Baga to Chad’s capital, N’Djamena.

Over the weekend, Chadian soldiers deployed to Cameroon’s border with Nigeria to help secure the porous border.

map of areas under attack by Boko Haram

Nigeria – security head says fight against Boko hampered by cowards in army

Reuters
(Reuters) – Nigeria’s campaign against Islamist Boko Haram insurgents is being hampered by “cowards” in its armed forces, its presidential security adviser said in a rare public sign of high-level unhappiness with the effort.

Boko Haram’s bloody uprising to carve out a breakaway Islamic caliphate has seized much of Nigeria’s northeast and poses the worst threat to Africa’s most populous state and biggest energy producer and at least three of its neighbours.

Boko Haram claimed a Jan. 3 attack on the town of Baga that killed scores, possibly hundreds, of civilians and left the jihadists in control of the headquarters of a regional multinational force including troops from Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Nigerian soldiers fled the area after Baga was overrun. It was the latest Boko Haram success to cast doubt on the commitment of some in the military, and 22 officers including a brigadier general are on trial over alleged sabotage in the war effort.

“Unfortunately we have a lot of cowards. We have people who use every excuse in this world not to fight,” Sambo Dasuki, the top security adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, told an audience at the Chatham House think-tank in London on Thursday.

But, he stressed, “there is no high-level conspiracy within the army not to end the insurgency.”

Dasuki denied the army was under-equipped, as critics have asserted, calling this an “excuse.”

He said of troops from Chad, Niger and Cameroon that were supposed to be stationed there at the time of the attack: “That wasn’t that much of a multinational task force, it was by name (only), because they were all supposed to be physically there,” when in fact most were not.

BOKO HARAM LEADER “STILL IN CHARGE”

Dasuki added there was international pressure to set up a multinational task force with headquarters in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, but “Nigerians don’t see what the use is” of the regional force.

Returning to the subject during his talk with journalists later, Dasuki said however genuine cooperation between the forces of all four nations was essential to defeat the insurgency.

Dasuki said the leader of Boko Haram, a mysterious figure known as Abubakar Shekau whom the Nigerian army have repeatedly claimed to have killed, remained in control of the insurgent group.

A man purporting to be Shekau claimed responsibility in a new video on Tuesday for the attack on Baga.

“We believe he is present at every major operation (of Boko Haram),” Dasuki said.

Dasuki added Shekau had travelled “all over the world” to receive training from other Islamist extremist groups. He named Pakistan and Mali as training grounds for Shekau and other Boko Haram fighters.

He said he estimated Boko Haram had about 5,000 active fighters.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and David Clarke; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Roche)

Nigeria – regional threat from Boko Haram

Mail and Guardian

Boko Haram fighters have kidnapped about 80 people, many of them children, in a cross-border attack on villages in northern Cameroon, the first time villagers from that country have been kidnapped by suspected militants. The latest reports say the Cameroonian army has freed about 20 of the captives.

In previous kidnappings blamed on the Islamist group in Cameroon, targets have been high-profile people or foreigners taken for ransom. Sunday’s abductions occurred around the village of Mabass in northern Cameroon. The attacks have fuelled fears that the insurgency is spilling out of Nigeria into neighbouring countries.

Increasing ruthlessness
Boko Haram has grown bolder in recent years, and the recent spate of attacks has coincided with the upcoming Nigerian presidential election on February 14.

Before Sunday’s assault in Cameroon, the militants launched one of their bloodiest attacks yet in Nigeria on the towns of Baga and Doron on January 3, leaving hundreds of people dead and thousands of houses burnt or razed.

Daniel Eyre, Nigeria researcher for Amnesty International, described the Boko Haram assault as “the largest and most destructive” his organisation has analysed. “It represents a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt-out ruins,” he said.

Elizabeth Donnelly, an analyst at the Chatham House think- tank, says Baga – a small town in Nigeria’s Borno state – closes a gap in Boko Haram’s map, fulfils a strategic purpose with its proximity to the border with Chad, where it is reported to have set up camps on islands in Lake Chad, and further bolsters its resources and sense of confidence with a win over a multinational military force.

“The small town near Lake Chad was home to the base of the multinational joint task force, comprising troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad – but despite the military presence, Baga was surrounded in the country’s northeastern corner by what has become Boko Haram territory,” she writes.

Impact on the election
Nigeria’s presidential, parliamentary and state gubernatorial and assembly elections, scheduled for next month, are likely to be more contentious than usual.

According to the International Crisis Group, tensions within and between the two major political parties, competing claims to the presidency between northern and Niger Delta politicians and along religious lines, along with inadequate preparations by the electoral commission and apparent bias in security ?agencies, suggest the country is heading toward a volatile and vicious electoral contest.

If the vote is close, marred or followed by widespread violence, it will deepen Nigeria’s political and economic problems. In addition, falling oil prices are eroding government revenue, raising fears that eventually the federal authorities may be unable to pay those who work for them or even maintain essential services.

The Boko Haram insurgency and the state of emergency in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe could prevent voting in parts of those northeastern states.

The law states people must go to their home constituencies if they want to participate in the poll, but many city-based voters will be reluctant to return if they are under the control of the insurgents.

Boko Haram has repeatedly ?stated its opposition not only to Western education – its name means Western education is forbidden, in the Hausa language – but also to democracy and secular government, which it regards as a form of “paganism”, and its ?attacks could intensify to discourage voting. Some 1.5-million people have been displaced by the insurgency.

As of mid-September 2014, the insurgents had seized 25 towns in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. Nigerian media reports say Boko Haram ?has seized and established control over 20 000km2 of territory in the region.

Nigeria’s opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which draws most of its support from the north, says it will not accept a result in which “large swaths of the citizenry” are disenfranchised.

The election pits the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, against General Muhammadu Buhari, who has a reputation as one of the more honest and well intentioned of the country’s military rulers but not as one of the most astute.

What Boko Haram wants
The insurgents’ demands have focused on two main areas: the release of Boko Haram prisoners and the creation of an Islamic state.

The group began to emerge in 2002 and 2003, when followers of a young charismatic preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, retreated to Kanamma, a remote area in the northeast. He advocated a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an and believed that the creation of Nigeria by British colonialists had imposed a Western and unIslamic way of life on Muslims.

The group opposes voting in elections and the wearing of shirts or trousers. Its eventual goal is to create an Islamic state. Northern Nigeria has a history of spawning militant Islamist groups, but Boko Haram has proved to be the most durable and lethal of such groups.

The Nigerian military thought it had finished off Boko Haram when it seized the group’s headquarters in 2009 in the city of Maiduguri and killed Yusuf. But Boko Haram regrouped under Abubakar Shekau, and has grown stronger and more ruthless. In 2010, it carried out assassinations and a major raid on a prison.

A suicide attacker rammed a ?car bomb into United Nations headquarters in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in August 2011, killing 23 people. In 2013, Boko Haram targeted pupils in a series of attacks, culminating in the raid in Chibok deep in northeastern Nigeria in April 2014, in which 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped. Of this number, 219 remain missing.

Scorched-earth tactics
Despite the state of emergency in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe since May 2013 and increased military offensives, the insurgents have adopted and intensified a three-pronged strategy of bombings in cities, scorched-earth tactics in rural areas and assaults on military and police bases.

These attacks resulted in more than 5 000 civilian casualties and the displacement of at least 750 000 people between May 2013 and October 2014.

The weekend abduction of Cameroonian villagers in that country’s far north will fuel fears that the group is expanding its operations into neighbouring countries. In a video posted online this month, a man claiming to be Shekau threatened to step up violence in Cameroon unless it scraps its Constitution and embraces Islam.

Boko Haram has financed itself mainly through ransom kidnappings, bank robberies and other illegal activities. The group is believed to have raided at least one Nigerian military arms depot. Illegal arms are not difficult for Boko Haram to obtain as arms trafficking is widespread in West Africa.

Nigerian response to the insurgency
Since troops were deployed when an emergency was declared, Boko Haram has withdrawn from its urban base in Maiduguri to the vast Sambisa forest, along the border with Cameroon. But the seventh division of the Nigerian army has been stretched and it lacks equipment and training.

Further complicating Nigeria’s response to the attacks is the fact that the armed forces have been criticised for corruption. It is unclear how much has been spent to combat the insurgency. On the economic front, there is the presidential initiative for the ?northeast, pooling funds from federal departments, state governments, foreign donors and businesses to provide jobs for 100 000 youths in a region of desperate poverty, a factor that is exploited by Boko Haram.

But the programme only began in November and it will take time to have any impact. The government has also been criticised for its seeming lack of urgency in getting to grips with the crisis in the north.

After the abduction in Chibok, which triggered the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign that drew the support from such figures as Michelle Obama and Angelina Jolie, it took the president three months to meet any of the affected parents. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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