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Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari sacks entire military top brass as Boko Haram strikes

Posted about 5 hours ago, July 13, 2015, Source


Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has sacked his entire military top brass, as Boko Haram militants mounted deadly attacks against civilians in the country's remote north-east.


A strike by a lone bomber in the restive city of Maiduguri and two women in the border town of Fotokol in northern Cameroon, killing 11 people, again underlined the regional threat posed by the Islamists.


Both came after a male suicide bomber, dressed as a woman and wearing a full-face veil, blew himself up at a crowded market in Chad's capital N'Djamena on Saturday, killing 15.


Mr Buhari's purge of senior military commanders inherited from his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan was widely expected but is the clearest demonstration yet of his quest for a fresh start.


"President Buhari thanks the outgoing service chiefs and national security advisor for their services to the nation and wishes them well in their future endeavours," his office said in a statement.


The former military ruler has made ending the insurgency his top priority but Boko Haram has intensified its campaign since he came to power on May 29, killing some 570 people in Nigeria alone.


At least 15,000 have been killed since 2009.

Promises to halt Boko Haram unfulfilled

The new appointments are Mr Buhari's first to senior roles in his administration, as he looks to overhaul a military that struggled to take on Boko Haram throughout all of last year.

The outgoing chief of defence staff Alex

Badeh and heads of the army, navy and air force were appointed in January 2014 after a daring raid by the Islamists against military installations in Maiduguri.


Mr Badeh promised at his investiture in January last year that the insurgency "must be brought to a complete stop before April 2014" β€” but if anything, the violence has worsened.


In April last year, militant fighters kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote north-eastern town of Chibok in Borno state, provoking global outrage.


Mr Jonathan's administration and the military were criticised for their response and Mr Badeh promised the 219 girls' swift return yet nothing has been seen or heard from them since May last year.


His time in the post also saw Boko Haram overrun vast tracts of north-eastern Nigeria, capturing towns and villages and even proclaiming a self-styled caliphate.


Demoralised frontline troops were seemingly unable to prevent the take-over and protested over a lack of arms and ammunition to take on the better-armed rebels.


Procurement since the end of last year, the arrival of foreign mercenaries and assistance from Cameroon, Chad and Niger have apparently reversed the unprecedented land grab.


But the rebels have since allied themselves to the Islamic State group, handing a potentially more troubling portfolio to Mr Badeh's successor, major-general Abayomi Gabriel Olonishakin.


There will also be questions over who heads the new, regional force due to deploy at the end of the month, with the appointment of major-general Tukur Yusuf Buratai as chief of army staff.


Mr Buratai had been acting as commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force, which has its headquarters in N'Djamena.

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Boko Haram attacks: Nigeria under international pressure but ill-equipped to crack down on terrorists


Nigeria is under attack. The talk is of the number of dead and injured. It is easy to classify these sorts of events by the number of lives taken, but rarely does one stop and think about who it is that has died, and what can be done.


While Boko Haram has not (yet) claimed responsibility for the latest attacks on a market place in Jos, and on villages in the north of the country, it is only a matter of time before that happens, and then it gets back to planning its next acts of violence.


So on to more pressing and difficult matters. How to stop the violence?

The main problem is that Boko Haram is an ideological group fighting for a cause. It wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in the north of Nigeria. That is a lot easier to write than it is to implement. A couple of facts to establish why.


Last month Nigeria became the biggest economy in Africa, overtaking South Africa. Much of that wealth comes from resources, primarily oil.


Much of that oil is in the north, so as long as politicians and cronies continue to grow wealthy in Abuja, there will be no seceding of any part of the country with oil fields.


The Nigerian military is not equipped to deal with the threat posed by the terrorists. They carry around elderly and rickety looking AK47s and cannot deal with the guerrilla tactics utilised by the enemy.


Since about 300 girls (the fact we still cannot say for sure is another example of the frustrations involved in telling this story) were kidnapped on April 14, regular bombings of suspected Boko Haram bases have been stopped for fear of killing innocent teenagers.


The United States, France, Israel, and the United Kingdom have all pledged to help. To date, helping does not mean providing boots on the ground. Surveillance aircraft and intelligence experts are in Nigeria, no doubt just as frustrated with the lack of action as the rest of the world.


Before the latest attack in Jos, international relations expert Dr Matt Killingsworth was confident a Western intervention was a long away off.


"A lot more would need to happen in Nigeria for there to be a Western intervention," said Dr Killingsworth, who is the director of the politics and international relations program at the University of Tasmania.


"If there is unlikely to be an intervention in Syria, I doubt there would be one in Nigeria. At the risk of sounding callous, while the kidnapping of young girls is tragic, it does not constitute a humanitarian crisis of the magnitude that demands a military response from the West.


"This issue was pretty slow burning too. It took the best part of three weeks for most countries to show an interest."


Even the president of Nigeria himself, Goodluck Jonathan, hardly mentioned Boko Haram until the international media picked up on the story. In light of the most recent attacks though, he has been quick to condemn the group, describing the twin bombings in Jos as "a tragic assault on human freedom".


It is the first time in two years Jos has been the target of an attack, and the style of this attack is more in line with the way Boko Haram operates.


There could be reprisal attacks in central Nigeria now, similar to what is happening in the Central African Republic (CAR) where rival Christian and Muslim militias attack each other regularly.


In Nigeria, religious leaders are already appealing for calm. That is a bad sign.


An official state of emergency has been extended in three states in northern Nigeria, but that has not worked so far and probably will not again.

Boko Haram employs new tactics

The kidnapping of the students was a new modus operandi for Boko Haram.

Education is against their particular interpretation of Islam, and schools have always been a target.


Little attention was paid when almost 30 schoolboys were killed in February. Some of them were burnt to death as their boarding house was set alight.


It seems the fact girls were taken rather than killed - and these were girls studying for an education in a country where that is very difficult – sparked the international condemnation.


The international campaign to free the kidnapped girls is now quite coordinated. Bring Back Our Girls campaign leader Oby Ezekwesili said: "Terrorism is a global problem. When you have a global public good, everybody shares of it. When you have a global public bad, everybody is affected by it in a nasty way and so everybody is connected to a common humanity."


She is keen to keep the story in international headlines.


"Whatever threatens one of us threatens all of us, and the idea that other nations are helping us to solve this problem is one that everyone of us must welcome," she said.


Dr Killingsworth said Boko Haram had not counted on the international reaction to the abductions.


"I do think they over-played their hand. There was a general tolerance and acceptance of them up until the kidnapping of school-aged girls. Having said that, they've got mass coverage from it, which is what most terrorist groups are after," he said.

The deadly consequences of intervention

But does it help their cause?


"They're after their own Muslim state in the north of Nigeria," Dr Killingsworth said. "I can't see how kidnapping schoolgirls helps them with this goal."


It may not have helped at all. In fact, it probably set back their cause.


There is now a renewed impetus to stop the terrorists, but the reality is there are tens of thousands of Boko Haram fighters in that part of the world.

It should be remembered that an African Union mission has been the tool of choice to remove terrorists from another country.


Kenya was a major contributor to the force that managed to evict Al Shabaab fighters from major towns and cities in Somalia. But there have been deadly consequences for intervening.


Kenya is now the main focus of Al Shabaab terrorists who also frequently attack soft targets like markets.


Twelve people were killed on May 16 in a similar twin bombing not far from the centre of Nairobi. These attacks are becoming depressingly regular.


So another fashionable intervention to stop a terrorist organisation may not be the answer after all. Suggestions as to what should be done are welcome.

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