Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Yusuf Buratai had a BBC Hardtalk interview this week with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur. Sackur gave Buratai a very serious Jerexy Paxman style grilling on varied issues such as alleged human rights issues by the Nigerian army, corruption, the Nigerian army’s ongoing fight against Boko Haram, and allegations that Buratai owns properties in Dubai.
It was quite an uncomfortable interview and it got sticky and awkward for Buaratai and several points.
A very interesting review of the process and negotiations that led to the release of over 100 Chibok schoolgirls over the past year.
A Nigerian lawyer named Zannah Mustapha acted as an intermediary between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. Mustapha is trusted by Boko Haram. He has negotiated two prisoner releases with Boko Haram (the 21 girls that were released in October 2016 and the 82 that were released in early May 2017).
Apparently only 20 girls were supposed to be released in October 2016, but Boko Haram added a 21st as a “gift” to Mustapha in honour of their high regard for him. During both the 2016 and 2017 prisoner exchanges, Boko Haram made an elaborate show of reading out the names of all those released, and ostentatiously asked each one prior to their release “Throughout the time you were with us, did anyone rape you or touch you?” All of the girls denied being raped. One girl who was carrying a baby said that she had married and was pregnant at the time she was kidnapped, and that the father of her baby was her husband.
If this is true, then Boko Haram treated the girls with uncharacteristic restraint as other women abducted by Boko Haram have described being gang raped and forced into “marriages” with Boko Haram members.
One of the 82 girls released this week had an amputated limb (apparently sustained during a Nigerian air force strike against Boko Haram). When the released girls met Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja after their release, this wounded girl was sitting in a wheelchair. You can see the image of that meeting here.
Another interesting angle is that some of the Chibok girls actually refused to be released as part of the prisoner exchange that saw 82 girls released in exchange for 5 Boko Haram commanders that were in Nigerian military custody.
The inside story on the recent American sale of military aircraft to Nigeria for Nigeria’s ongoing war against Boko Haram. It seems that the sale is a gesture of goodwill (approved by the Obama administration, but being implemented by his successor Donald Trump). It seems to be “expensive toys” that probably should not be prioritised at this stage of the Boko Haram conflict.
Below is an article I wrote in the New York Times about the changing nature of Boko Haram’s threat and the likely next stage in the group’s evolution.
A few excerpts:
the group now seems to spend as much time engaged in banditry as it does fighting “Western education.” When officials from Nigeria’s Office of the National Security Adviser interviewed Boko Haram prisoners, they were told that most of the group’s soldiers “have never read the Quran.”
Also the group seems to be changing tactics:
Today, Boko Haram is no longer occupying large parts of Nigeria. Instead, it has morphed into a group of well-organized bandits. The military’s successes changed Boko Haram’s threat, but didn’t eliminate it.
My article in the Guardian newspaper about the Nigerian army’s ongoing battle with Boko Haram.
An intermediary who entered Boko Haram’s camp last year to negotiate the Chibok girls’ release was shocked to find their presence dwarfed by other captives. The teenagers may represent less than 10% of the total number of hostages held by the militants, amid estimates that more than 3,000 other teenagers have been kidnapped.
Boko Haram kidnaps, rapes, and impregnates female abductees not just to sow terror but also to replenish its ranks. More than 200 of the women recently rescued are pregnant, and several of the rescued children were born and raised in Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa forest.
Boko Haram has been the beneficiary of some training and equipment from ISIL,” Barlow continued. “Prisoners have told us that Boko Haram is and has been supplied and supported by ‘Europeans’ who have arrived in their safe areas by helicopter.”
Great five part series on the recent gains made by the Nigerian army against Boko Haram. Including the role of South African private military companies, Nigerian special forces, and new weaponry received by the army.
#Nigeria Army Is “an immensely disciplined force” (British Soldier) @BBC Documentary (@BBCTheInquiry)
Very interesting documentary and interviews with Nigerian soldiers and the National Security Adviser Lt-Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd). Dasuki said:
- On the fate of Nigerian soldiers sentenced to death for mutiny: “The military law is clear…There could be executions…you know what the punishment is. It is like getting involved in a military coup”. He likened mutiny to a military coup: failure attracts death.
- Says quality of some soldiers is poor. Many soldiers joined the army simply to get a job, but without any desire to go to the battlefield.
- Denied accusations that soldiers are poorly equipped; citing the fact that Boko Haram shows of massive inventories of weapons seized from the army as evidence of how well armed the army is.
- He admits to issues in weapons procurement from Western countries, and that Nigeria “hit brick walls here and there” when trying to buy weapons from other countries. He said Western countries gave “all sorts of excuses” for not selling weapons to Nigeria.
- Over time – the military being in government does not go much good. It affects the morale and discipline of the army. The “main pre-occupation of any military administration is self-preservation. Your greatest threat is the military.” Thus their capability to overthrow a sitting military government is reduced if they are not armed to the teeth. Dasuki is well qualified to comment on this issue because he has been a part of multiple military governments and has participated in a military coup.
Colonel James Hall (former British officer who spent last 3 years of his career advising Nigerian military):
- Said he has never come across a military as disciplined as Nigeria’s: “They are an immensely disciplined force. I don’t think I’ve ever come across an African army that has a clearer says of discipline at all ranks”. Says the discipline of the Nigerian military would challenge that of Western armies. However that discipline can break when subjected to extreme pressure in the battlefield.
- However there are “massive challenges” facing the Nigerian military. “They have got it badly wrong…things have got worse rather than better”.
- “Their equipment is old, broken, and is frankly not well maintained“. Soldiers are facing Boko Haram fighters who are armed with identical weapons to the soldiers.
- Communications are poor – commanders often try to communicate with their units using mobile phones (which are unreliable, and often get switched off during military operations).
- Thinks Nigeria’s military should be given pick-up trucks, APCs, and radios.
- Training: there was a time when the Nigerian army was “the best trained” and one of the best equipped armies in Sub-Saharan Africa. military takes academic training very seriously but “their tactical training is not as good as they think it is”. Troops need more combat training, e.g. coping in a firefight/combat.