Thursday, February 05, 2015

Chad V Boko Haram

The Chadian army is considered to be one of the strongest in the region, mainly because of its knowledge of the terrain. In 2013 it helped French forces to repel Islamists from northern Mali.
In addition to fighting in Cameroon, Chad is now fighting against Boko Haram on Nigerian territory. For Chad, more is at stake than just keeping the terror group out of its territory, Norbert Cyffer, professor emeritus of African studies and an expert on the region, said in an interview with DW.

Chad is to a large extent dependent on supplies from outside its borders, he said. "Supply routes run through Maiduguri in the northeast – the center of Borno State – and then to the west to the Nigerian border, to Gambaru and then to Fotokol on the Cameroonian side." This meant that Boko Haram attacks were also a threat to Chadian economic interests. Another important aspect is the wealth of resources believed to lie beneath Lake Chad which Chad wants to protect against attack. The region around Lake Chad is inhabited by large numbers of the Kanuri ethnic group. In Nigeria, there are believed to be between four and five million of them, and about one million in Chad. Many members of Boko Haram are thought to belong to the Kanuri. Boko Haram attracts mercenaries who join the group for a few hundred dollars without sharing their ideology or even being familiar with it, Cyffer said.

For Lucien Pambou, university professor and co-publisher of the magazine Geopolitique africaine, there are two reasons why Chad is fighting Boko Haram. Firstly, because Boko Haram wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in various countries, and secondly, because Chadian president Idriss Deby wants to show that Chad is important for the security of countries in the Sahel zone as well as in Central Africa. Deby is also facing criticism from within and so "providing help for Cameroon increases his popularity and improves his image," Pambou said.

Boko Haram is now believed to control an area in northern Nigeria the size of Belgium. Cyffer points to a longterm problem. "Chad is trying to repel Boko Haram. It seems not to be possible to eliminate them completely. And so Boko Haram fighters are pushed back from Cameroon to Nigeria, and from Nigeria they flee again to Cameroon." This meant the problem was just being shifted from one area to another while a solution remains elusive.

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