War is Boring. Tension is Better: The Case of the Bickering Countries.
The Nigerian Presidential Election is this month, and Nigeria is going all out in its military campaign against Boko Haram insurgents. The aim is to push the terrorist sect- Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad out of major towns before the March 28 election. In what Nigeria calls a sign of desperation, there has been an upsurge of suicide attacks by the sect and they have threatened to disrupt the election.
Boko Haram was long regarded by neighbouring countries as an internal Nigerian problem, but attacks in Cameroon and Niger last year prompted the regional response. Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Benin and Cameroon agreed in May to join forces against the terrorists with Niger and Cameroun deploying thousands of troops on their borders, and blocking escape routes for Boko Haram.
Even though Nigeria’s ‘next door’ neighbour Chad believes it can eliminate the sect without help, the country complains of meeting a little resistance from Nigeria.
Officials from Chad, Niger and Cameroon say the lack of cooperation from Nigeria has hampered efforts to create a regional taskforce against Boko Haram. Chad had to take unilateral action in January, under a deal that allows it to pursue terrorists into Nigeria, after Boko Haram violence started to choke off imports to its economy.
Chad also tried to entrench themselves into a territory majorly run by a Boko Haram just last week but the military agents were stopped by Nigeria. When Chadian forces last month entered the town of Dikwa, they were told to leave by the Nigerian military, which said it was planning air strikes.
After eliminating al-Qaeda in Mali two years ago, the confidence in the Chadian military is strong. Chad’s military has notched up victories that have driven the Nigerian militants back from the Cameroonian border. In their forward base in the town of Gambaru on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Chadian soldiers displayed dozens of guns seized from the insurgent and a burnt-out armoured vehicle painted with black and white Arabic script. Army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa said, “We turned back because Nigeria did not authorise us to go any further,”
Nigeria’s spokesman for operations in the North-east, Mike Omeri has said cooperation between Chadian and Nigerian forces has brought some major military successes and any issues would be resolved via existing command structures. But the Chadians say no joint operations between the two forces have occurred. Chad’s offer to join a Nigerian offensive to capture Baga, site of one of Boko Haram’s worst atrocities in January, was rebuffed, according to Col. Bermandoa.
Distrust and misunderstandings have hindered preparations for the taskforce. Nigeria had sent low-level representatives to planning meetings, angering its allies. Cooperation between Cameroon and Nigeria has been dogged by long-running border tensions. “Nigeria must get involved and honour its promise of providing between 2,500 and 3,000 to the multinational force,” said Cameroon’s defence spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck.
Cameroon has stepped up its activities since July, when Boko Haram attacked Kolotafa, the hometown of its deputy prime minister, killing dozens and kidnapping his wife. “We have to do whatever it takes to make sure the sect does not occupy any town in Cameroon,” said Colonel Joseph Nouma. But Nouma has said he has orders not to enter Nigeria, and Cameroon has denied Nigerian troops the right to pursue insurgents into Cameroon.
Niger also accused Nigerian troops of cowardice.
Many Nigerians have questions. Why did it take so long to act? With so many lives lost and property razed to the ground, Niger, Cameroon and Chad has said Nigeria neglected the uprising for far too long.
In recent months, General Muhammadu Buhari, running as the presidential candidate for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), has gained popularity with voters anxious for hard-hitting policies both on corruption and Boko Haram insurgency. Nigeria’s electoral commission announced a six week postponement to the February 14 election, to allow the army tackle the security situation in the Northeast so voting could go ahead there. In this time, Boko Haram has certainly suffered a strategic setback maybe improving Goodluck Jonathan’s chances somewhat.
Will tensions ease long enough for the countries to win the war against the evil terrorist sect? The next 24 days will tell.