Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 114, 17 June 2020

Africa: Twin terror attacks by Boko Haram's splinter kills dozens in Nigeria
Abigail Miriam Fernandez

In the news

On 13 June, at least 20 soldiers and more than 40 civilians were killed, and hundreds injured in twin attacks claimed by the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) a splinter group of Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria's Borno state. Militants armed with heavy weapons including rocket launchers arrived in Monguno, which is a base for many international non-governmental organizations where they attacked government forces in the area.

The militants also burned down the United Nations' humanitarian hub in the area, warning all civilians in the region not to work with the military or international aid groups. Further, the militants also entered Nganzai at about the same time. These twin attacks have come just days after the militants killed at least 81 people in a raid in Gubio.

Issues at large

First, the growing influence of Boko Haram's splinter ISWAP. The group has moved geographically from its base on the bank and islands of Lake Chad to waging war across north-eastern Nigeria and other regions. The group has also been able to gather support among the locals by filling the governance gaps and has turned this into a source of economic support. Although the group's methods are often violent and coercive, it has established a strong relationship with the local Muslim population and is much more organized than the parent organization and other rival faction.

Second, the double trouble for Nigeria and the issue of regional violence. Nigeria now has two groups to tackle. The threat of Boko Haram and ISWAP is proving to be detrimental for the country in recent times, with the increase in the number of cases targeting not just military establishment but also civilians. Further, links with the other external Islamist groups will intensify regional security concerns. Together, both the group have killed and displaced vast numbers of people from their homes over the last decade.

In perspective

First, the ongoing battle with insurgent groups continues to threaten the stability and political integrity of Nigeria. The government of Nigeria has for long tried to bring an end to these insurgence groups, but their efforts have been futile. With groups such as the ISWAP deepening roots in the civilian population, the government's position is weakened and threatened, thus causing instability.

Second, displacing the ISWAP will not be an easy task. For Nigeria to counter the ISWAP, more investment will have to be made in cooperative efforts such as the efforts made through the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) a regional command which is supposed to manage the troops of the four Lake Chad basin countries will have to be strengthened. Further, while conducting their counter-insurgent measure, the government will have to bridge the gaps that exist due to poor service and governance, especially in areas controlled by ISWAP to ensure that their defeat is sustained.

Abigail Miriam Fernandez is a Research Assistant at NIAS

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