I’m outsourcing today’s post: I’m up at African Futures, a blog run by the Social Science Research Council, with a post on proposals to give amnesty to Nigeria’s Boko Haram sect. If you read the piece, please stop back by here and let me know your reactions in the comments section.
Shettima Ali Monguno (b. 1926), of Borno State, is a former oil minister. On Friday May 3, gunmen kidnapped Monguno at Mafoni mosque in Maiduguri after congregational prayers. An account of the kidnapping, which includes a biography of Monguno, is here.
Maiduguri is the epicenter of violence associated with the Muslim sect Boko Haram. Most observers suspect Boko Haram of organizing the kidnapping. Boko Haram showed relatively little inclination toward kidnapping for much of the period since its latest guerrilla campaign began in 2010, but the sect appears to have turned more systematically to kidnappings in recent months, partly in order to obtain ransom payments.
Monguno was released yesterday, possibly after a payment anonymously reported as some $318,000. Notably, this amount is much less than the $3 million ransom that Boko Haram reportedly received for the release of a French family that had been kidnapped in Cameroon.
I want to make two points in this post. First, I do not think the kidnapping of Monguno signals a growing threat from Boko Haram to Nigeria’s oil industry. Monguno served as oil minister from 1972-1975 and is currently retired; my conjecture is that the kidnappers targeted him because he is a prominent northeasterner, because they hoped to obtain a ransom, and possibly because he is chairman of the Borno Elders Forum. I do not believe the kidnappers seized him a message to the oil industry. It is always possible that Boko Haram’s activities will spread into the far south, and several suspected members of the sect were arrested in Lagos in March, but I would still at this point be surprised to see Boko Haram attacks in the Niger Delta.
Second, I do think the kidnapping further complicates the politics surrounding efforts to create an amnesty program for Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan’s Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, inaugurated April 24, has already caused controversy. Monguno’s kidnapping may weaken some Nigerians’ hopes that amnesty is possible. One member of the Northern Elders Forum told the press that Monguno’s kidnapping represented an effort to sabotage plans for amnesty. While the committee will undoubtedly be heartened by Monguno’s release, the prospect of further kidnappings and ransom payments casts a shadow over the committee’s ongoing deliberations, and may even scare individual members. In my view some form of dialogue will be necessary to end the Boko Haram crisis, but movement toward dialogue faces daunting political and security barriers.
Baga (map) is a fishing village on the coast of Lake Chad in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. The international media (see ABC), drawing on local accounts, has reported that fighting between the Nigerian military and the militant Muslim sect Boko Haram caused around 187 casualties during a battle on April 16-17. Human Rights Watch, on Wednesday, released satellite images and an analysis suggesting over 2,000 homes were destroyed in a military raid. The Human Rights Watch analysis is worth reading in full, as is an AFP report from post-raid Baga.
For many observers, alleged abuses by Nigerian soldiers will immediately raise the question of security sector reform. How, observers may ask, can Nigeria deal with Boko Haram, politically or military, if harsh military crackdowns fuel ordinary people’s mistrust of the government? In the worst case scenario, military abuses might even increase Boko Haram’s capacity to recruit among young men. Concerns about abuses are not new: back in fall 2012, Human Rights Watch (in October) and Amnesty International (in November) published reports detailing abuses by Nigerian security personnel. Amnesty called the security forces “out of control.”
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan promised after the Baga attacks that his government will punish any soldier found to have committed abuses. Reuters called these words “a rare statement admitting the possibility of abuses by his forces.” We will now see whether more information comes to light about the events in Baga, and whether that information prompts any change in accountability measures within the Nigerian security forces.
The northern Nigerian sect Boko Haram employs a constellation of tactics in its fight against the Nigerian state and other targets. Boko Haram is constantly experimenting with new tactics, from drive-by shootings to suicide bombings to the destruction of cell phone towers to arson to, more recently, kidnappings. While prison breaks are far from the most spectacular tactic in Boko Haram’s arsenal, they have remained a core tactic since the start of the group’s current guerrilla campaign in fall 2010 – indeed, one of the very first incidents in that campaign was a prison break in Bauchi, where Boko Haram set some 700 inmates free. Prison breaks aim at releasing the group’s imprisoned comrades, and possibly also aim at gaining new recruits among other freed inmates. Without in any way minimizing the importance of other tactics the group uses, I would argue that these prison breaks deserve more attention as analysts continue attempting to understand the group and its recruitment patterns.
At least two prison breaks occurred recently.
There was jailbreak on Thursday night in Borno town of Gwoza as men suspected to be members of the dreaded BokoHaram sect attacked a prison in the town with missiles.
It was also gathered that the suspected militant sect attackedFadagwai Village where they shot dead two other persons.
The sect members were alleged to have attacked the same town on March 4, 2013 where a police station and bank were partially destroyed.
The Thursday attack on Gwoza which is about 135 kilometres from Maiduguri, the capital town of the troubled Borno state, started at about 6.30pm and a civilian was said to have been killed in the melee as several prisoners were set free.
At least 25 people died when gunmen attacked a prison, a police station, a bank and a bar in an eastern Nigerian town, police said.
The simultaneous attacks took place in Ganye, a remote town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
The attacks happened on Friday but the death toll was only reported on Saturday.
No group has said it carried out the attack but police said they suspected Islamist militants Boko Haram.
That the latter attack occurred near Cameroon, where a French family now held by Boko Haram was recently kidnapped, may further alarm Cameroonian authorities. Indeed, Boko Haram recently threatened attacks in Cameroon, specifically mentioning that some of its members are imprisoned there. I wonder if we will eventually see Boko Haram staging prison breaks – in addition to other kinds of violence – in Cameroon itself.
The runner-up in Kenya’s presidential election is filing a petition with the Supreme Court Saturday challenging the results. The party of Prime Minister Raila Odinga says it will present to the court evidence of electoral fraud. Odinga’s CORD alliance has refused to accept the first-round victory of Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.
Results released last week by the country’s electoral commission, the IEBC, declared Mr. Kenyatta had won 50.07 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a run-off with Mr. Odinga.
Reuters: “After a Long Fight for Freedom, South Sudan Cracks Down on Dissent.”
South Sudan’s government said it signed an agreement with Ethiopia and Djibouti that may enable the East African nation to export oil by truck from July, while a study on a pipeline linking the three countries is completed.
An accord signed on March 12 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, envisages crude being exported via Djibouti’s Red Sea port of Douraleh, South Sudan Deputy Petroleum Minister Elizabeth James Bol said in an interview today. Douraleh is 1,469 kilometers (913 miles) northeast of Juba, the South Sudanese capital.
South Sudan is considering building two pipelines, one via Ethiopia and another across Kenya to the port of Lamu, as an alternative to the conduit that runs through neighboring Sudan.
Magharebia reports on Morocco’s diplomatic outreach to Mauritania, which is partly motivated by concern over the crisis in Mali.
IRIN: “Call to End Neglect of Emergency Education in Mali.”
Bloomberg: “Senegal Seeks to Become West Africa Hub for Islamic Finance.”
Al Jazeera: “Thousands Protest Unemployment in Algeria.”
VOA: “Development Improves in Ethiopia, But Just Slightly.”
The Guardian (Nigeria): “Northern Christians, Emir [of Anka, in Zamfara State] Oppose Amnesty for Boko Haram.” The titular Christians are the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NORCEF).
Two top leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in Borno State were yesterday assassinated by gunmen suspected to be operatives of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The slayings came less than one week after the officials participated in welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan during his tour of the troubled state.
The victims were Usman Gula (who was the PDP’s vice chairman for Southern Borno), and Hajia Gamboa, who served as the party’s women’s leader for Shehuri ward in Maiduguri.
What else is happening?
Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president, won the presidential election with a slim margin of 50.03 percent of votes cast, provisional figures showed, just enough to avoid a run-off.
Seven loud explosions shook Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri on Friday, witnesses said, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan ended a trip there to try to galvanize support for his battle against Islamist insurgents.
The Punch: “Boko Haram Destroys 209 Schools in Yobe.”
French forces have seized a significant arms cache in northern Mali believed to have belonged to Islamist jihadist groups, including “tons” of heavy weapons, suicide belts and equipment for improvised explosive devices, France’s defense minister said Friday.
Magharebia: “Algeria Focuses on [AQIM Fighters in] Kabylie.”
IRIN: “Briefing: Militias in Masisi.”
RFI (French): “Central African Republic: Refugees Continue to Flee Fighting and Insecurity.”
What else is happening?
Two noteworthy stories:
Mauritania and Mali
In a speech on Monday, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz expressed greater openness than in the recent past to the idea of Mauritanian deployments in Mali. Mauritanian forces chased fighters from Al Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb into northern Mali at several points in 2010 and 2011, but during 2012 Abdel Aziz stated repeatedly that Mauritania would not intervene in Mali.
On Monday Abdel Aziz also emphasized his country’s role in “encircling [hardline Islamist fighters] in the north of Mali in order to enable Malian units to intervene and finish them off in their dens.” ANI (Arabic) has more on the speech.
On February 28, governors from an alliance of Nigerian opposition parties held a day-long conference in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, epicenter of the violent Boko Haram sect. The Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust commented, “the fact that the governors took the bull by the horns and held their meeting in Maiduguri, despite security reports that there may be attacks and blasts by suspected insurgents speak volume of their determination to give the [ruling] Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) a run for its money.”
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan is set to visit the northeastern states of Yobe and Borno (where Maiduguri is the capital) today. One source says this visit “will be his first to the troubled states since his assumption of office.” Residents in Borno and Yobe interviewed by Leadership expressed a range of views about the visit, with some optimistic that Jonathan may use the moment to announce compensation programs or other initiatives, and others fearful that the visit will bring an even tighter security lockdown.
The Sultan of Sokoto, meanwhile, called on Jonathan this week to offer an amnesty to Boko Haram fighters. The Sultan said, “If there is amnesty declared we believe so many of those young men who have been tired of running and hiding will come out and embrace that amnesty.”
“I cannot talk about amnesty with Boko Haram now until they come out and show themselves,” Jonathan told reporters in Yobe state capital Damaturu, a town regularly hit by the sect’s guerrilla-style bomb and gun attacks.
See also Chike’s remarks in the comments section below.
The big news for the coming week will be, of course, the elections in Kenya on March 4. The BBC profiles the candidates here.
Opponents [of Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan] within his own party say since he has already been sworn into office twice, another term would break the constitutional two-term limit. Cyriakus Njoku, a member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), brought the case.
But Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the High Court in Abuja rejected that argument.
“After the death of Umar Yar’Adua, there was no election. President Jonathan was merely asked to assume the office … in line with doctrine of necessity,” he said.
“He is therefore currently serving his first tenure of office and if he so wishes, he is eligible to further seek his party’s ticket … to run for office in 2015.”
Njoku did not say whether he would appeal to the supreme court.
In my view Jonathan is highly likely to win the 2015 elections.
Efforts were underway Friday to confirm the killing of a notorious Al-Qaeda commander during fighting with French troops in Mali, with Washington calling reports of his death “very credible”.
Algeria’s independent Ennahar TV reported this week that Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a chief of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in northern Mali along with 40 other Islamist militants.
In Washington, a US official speaking on condition of anonymity said reports of his death seemed “very credible” and that if Abou Zeid was indeed slain “it would be a significant blow to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.”
French officials have so far reacted with caution, with President Francois Hollande saying Friday: “Reports are circulating, it is not up to me to confirm them.”
Bloomberg relates that Sudan is reinforcing troop levels in Blue Nile State.
Jeune Afrique (French) on Gao, Mali.
Europe1 (French) reports that Boko Haram is attempting to recruit youth in Cameroon. “Today, dozens of members of the religious sect are in prison in Cameroon. It is to obtain their liberation that the group chose to kidnap seven members of a French family last week in the northwestern part of the country.”
VOA: “Methamphetamine ‘Growing Concern’ for West Africa.”
IRIN: “Why the Sahel Needs $1.6 Billion Again This year.”
Human Rights Watch: “High Stakes: Political Violence and the 2013 Elections in Kenya.”
Malian government soldiers fought mutinous paratroops in the capital Bamako on Friday in a clash that threatened to undermine a French-led offensive against Islamist rebels which has moved up close to the Algerian border.
In the southern capital, local residents fled in panic as heavy gunfire echoed from the Djikoroni-Para paratrooper base on the Niger River and army units with armoured vehicles surrounded the camp. At least one person was killed, state media reported.
Smoke rose from the base, where mutinous members of the ‘red beret’ paratroop unit loyal to deposed Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was toppled in a coup last year, started firing with their weapons to protest attempts to redeploy them.
After several hours of firing, calm returned at the camp.
French troops took the airport at Tessalit, northern Mali yesterday, and a suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint outside Gao.
RFI: “Mauritania’s Oil Minister Discusses Mali Conflict Fallout.”
Magharebia: “In Amenas Attack Magnifies Belmokhtar, AQIM Rift.”
An open letter (French) from a Nigerien Tuareg to President Mahamadou Issoufou:
Since the beginning of the conflict in northern Mali, Tuareg groups in Niger have stood out by their silence – this, in order to give a chance at Peace, and to save our country Niger, over which hangs the specter of an armed uprising which would feed into that of Mali, compromising all the efforts already agreed to by your government and ex-rebels. And this despite the inertia of authorities from the 5th, 6th, and 7th Republic who have not found ANY SOLUTION to the armed rebellion that ended in 2009, and so to the 4,000 ex-combatants still awaiting reintegration!
Magdi el Gizouli on the Sudanese preacher/activist Yusif al Koda and his interactions with Sudanese rebel movements.
Reuters: “Gunmen Kill Nine Polio Health Workers in [Kano,] Nigeria.”
Reports of human rights violations and ethnic tensions in Mali:
- Amnesty International: “The Malian army has committed serious human rights breaches plus violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) during the ongoing conflict against armed groups in the country, including extrajudicial executions of civilians.”
- Human Rights Watch: “Malian government forces summarily executed at least 13 suspected Islamist supporters and forcibly disappeared five others from the garrison town of Sévaré and in Konna during January 2013…Islamist armed groups in Konna executed at least seven Malian soldiers, five of whom were wounded, and used children as soldiers in combat.”
- AP: “Northerners living in the central and southern parts of Mali say they have faced discrimination and fear of reprisals by those who blame the country’s problems on anyone who looks Tuareg or Arab.”
- IRIN: “The Dynamics of Inter-Communal Violence in Mali.”
- IRIN: “Killings, Disappearances in Mali’s Climate of Suspicion.”
Yesterday, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono began an eight-day tour of the Middle East and Africa.
After a two-day stay in Monrovia, the delegation will fly to Abuja, Nigeria, for a state visit. Yudhoyono said he would utilize his bilateral meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to seek new economic opportunities.
From Nigeria, Yudhoyono will then fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on a working visit. He and his wife will also make a minor pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina.
The government will set up business meetings in both in Abuja and Jeddah that will feature top businesspeople in both countries.
“Indonesia has become one of the greatest investment destinations in the world. We want more real cooperation, particularly with the Middle-East,” Yudhoyono said.
Yudhoyono plans to conclude his trip by attending the 12th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 6, despite unrest in some Egyptian cities.
Reuters: “Gunmen Kill Five North Nigeria Police, Ceasefire in Doubt.”
Magharebia: “Mauritania Arrests Salafists.”
At least 300 refugees from Sudan’s South Kordofan are crossing the border into Yida, South Sudan’s largest refugee camp, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.
The influx of refugees, it says, calls for creation of new sites away from the “volatile” border area where Yida, currently hosting an estimated 61,000 Sudanese refugees, is located. The move, it added, seeks to ensure the safety of the refugees and maintain the civilian character of the settlement.
Al Jazeera: “Q&A: Kenya’s Upcoming Elections.”
What else is happening?