from Africa in Transition

Muhammadu Buhari Moves Against Boko Haram

June 9, 2015

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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The Nigeria Security Tracker shows that Boko Haram activity has escalated over the past two weeks, though it is still below the levels seen before the March elections when there was widespread fighting involving government security services. Buhari has visited Niger and Chad to consult with heads of state about next moves, and he is at present at the G-7 meeting in Germany. According to the Nigerian media Boko Haram is at the top of his agenda.

In his inaugural address, Buhari said he would change security service rules of engagement and establish disciplinary procedures to address credible accusations of human rights abuses. He also said that he would relocate the military command and control center from Abuja to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the center of the Boko Haram insurgency. According to the BBC, he has now done so.

It is not clear what the practical consequences of the move will be. Defenders of the move say it will improve decision making. Critics see it as essentially a symbol that Buhari is according Boko Haram a much higher priority than his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

The importance of symbols in Nigeria, where there is often little confidence in government authority, makes a strong argument for moving the command and control center closer to the fighting. It was also an easy move for the new chief of state to make. More difficult will be changing the security service rules of engagement, and there will likely be pushback from at least some of the military. Nevertheless, it is an important step to take. Security service human rights violations have been a driver of Boko Haram recruitment in the past.

More on:

Sub-Saharan Africa

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Nigeria

Wars and Conflict

Heads of State and Government

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