Boko Haram Defections Spike in Nigeria and Cameroon
from Africa in Transition, Africa Program, and Nigeria on the Brink

Boko Haram Defections Spike in Nigeria and Cameroon

A wave of defections from Boko Haram are not necessarily an indication of progress in the fight against jihadis in the Lake Chad Basin.
Former Boko Haram fighters are seen in Meri, Cameroon on April 9, 2021.
Former Boko Haram fighters are seen in Meri, Cameroon on April 9, 2021. Moki Edwin Kindzeka/Voice of America

More than one thousand members of Boko Haram have surrendered to the Nigerian army in recent weeks, along with hundreds of women and children that presumably made up their family units. The Cameroonian authorities, too, have announced that at least eighty-two Boko Haram operatives have surrendered or defected, also with their families. According to the Cameroonian authorities many of the Boko Haram defectors are Nigerian; several are also Chadian.

The Nigerian army attributes the surrenders and defections to a “recent escalation of offensive operations.” Perhaps. However, the stream of surrenders and defections has escalated since the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, which was both a result of and a catalyst for the ongoing consolidation of Lake Chad Basin jihadi groups under the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA). There is the possibility that the defections and surrenders are among those who were on the losing side or who cannot accept the new leadership.

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Boko Haram

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Nevertheless, Boko Haram defections could be good news for the beleaguered people of the Lake Chad Basin—including parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and northern Nigeria—if they lead to a reduction of violence. Thus far, however, there is no sign that this has happened. To the contrary, jihadi activity, apparently led by ISWA, has accelerated.

More on:

Boko Haram

Nigeria

Cameroon

Islamic State

Terrorism and Counterterrorism