African governments’ failure to successfully penetrate IS affiliated terrorist groups in North Africa and the Sahel increases the risk of further high profile attacks on aviation assets in the region.
Indian businesses have an opportunity to strengthen trade and investment in some African countries to boost supplies of minerals to domestic industries, yet India is unlikely to catch up on China’s dominance.
Over the next year, the gradual demise of Boko Haram will open up commercial opportunities in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries, though a low-level insurgency will persist.
In August 2015, several concrete steps were finally taken towards the establishment of the regional Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF). The 8,700-strong MNJTF consists of the troop-contributing countries of Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria to combat Islamist militant group Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. The countries agreed on a force commander, Nigerian General Iliya Abbah, and to locate the MNJTF headquarters in Chad. It is now likely that the UN Security Council will approve the MNJTF’s mandate in September and subsequently provide further much-needed logistical and financial support.
The MNJTF will prioritise protecting the Lake Chad Basin area that has seen the heaviest Boko Haram activity since June, thus freeing up non-MNJTF Nigerian troops to stage offensive operations on Boko Haram within north-eastern Nigeria. Meanwhile, Chad and Cameroon have committed to step up the offensive within their own countries, after a number of gun attacks and suicide bombings, particularly in Chad’s capital N’Djamena and Cameroon’s Far North province capital Maroua. Northern Cameroon and western Chad, just like southern Niger, have a large population of ethnic Kanuri, around which Boko Haram is based.
On 1 August, Nigerian President Buhari pledged to end Boko Haram’s insurgency before the end of 2015, which is highly unlikely. The MNJTF is unlikely to be fully operational in 2015 and the force will face significant logistical hurdles, including language barriers among its different troop contingents. Boko Haram’s six year insurgency has cost an estimated 15,000 lives. The number of attacks had a brief lull between February and May 2015, when President Buhari took office. Yet since June attacks by Boko Haram have again intensified on an almost daily basis across the Lake Chad Basin, as well as in Chadian, Nigerien, and Cameroonian cities.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram is becoming increasingly divided over ideological allegiances. On 7 March, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), yet it is unlikely that Boko Haram’s nominal leader Abubakar Shekau still has complete control over the various combat units, which have been dispersed across the Basin region. Nigerian President Buhari, a former general who pledged to step up the offensive against the insurgency in his election campaign, has said that the group is no longer capable of confronting military forces and has therefore resorted to attacking ‘soft’ civilian targets. Yet, the influence of IS suicide bombing tactics suggests parts of the group are following a different strategy. Moreover, there is evidence that IS bomb-makers are providing the technical knowledge to remotely trigger devices that are increasingly strapped to women and children.
Risk implications: Over the next year, as the MNJTF becomes fully operational, Boko Haram’s attack capability is likely to be completely eradicated in Chad, Niger, and Cameroon. As a result, business activities around the Lake Chad Basin, such as the construction of the Waza and Dabanga highways in northwest Cameroon and an oil pipeline from Niger through Chad, will face lower risk of disruption. Cargo flows in this region will resume at full pace, as cross-border attacks by Boko Haram drop significantly. A Cameroonian night-time ban on marine (across the lake) and land transportation, including docking and shipments from Nigeria, which was imposed in August, is likely to be eventually lifted.
The group’s core combat units will remain functional in north-eastern Nigeria, yet these will be prevented from attacking large strategic towns that are more than 500 kilometres from its operating base, such as Lagos and Port Harcourt in Nigeria, Douala and Yaounde in Cameroon, and Niamey in Niger. However, given N’Djamena’s proximity to Boko Haram’s remaining strongholds in north-eastern Nigeria, this greatly increases the risk intermittent improvised explosive device (IED) attacks on the Chadian capital. Aspirational targets in the Chadian capital include the presidency, French embassy, military installations, UN compound, and hotels frequented by expatriates. Other Chadian strategically important locations will face similar risk of gun and IED attacks, particularly the southern Doba basin oil fields, where new reserves at Badila and Mangara have come on stream, and the Djermaya oil refinery. Energy firms Glencore, Caracal Energy, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), and ExxonMobil have stakes in these assets.
NIGERIA – 28 August 2015
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