from Africa in Transition

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Now, They are Killing Each Other

September 9, 2016

Blog Post

Agence France Press (AFP) is carrying a report of fighting between the Boko Haram factions led respectively by Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The fighting took place in villages near Lake Chad: Yewle, Arafa, and Zuwa. The number killed appears to have ranged from three to “several” to “unspecified.” Nevertheless, the report has an unusual degree of specificity that lends it credibility, though the Nigerian military declined to comment when contacted by AFP. Based on eye-witness reports, the al-Barnawi faction seems to have been the aggressor.

There has long been evidence of violence within Boko Haram, though with few details. Over the years, there have been repeated reports that Shekau has killed rivals and dissidents. Ansaru, a previous splinter group, has gradually been killed off and disappeared. There has been speculation that Shekau murdered its leadership.

It is unclear whether the al-Barnawi faction, now anointed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, is new, or whether it is a resurrected Ansaru. It is also unclear what Shekau’s relationship is with the Islamic State, though he apparently has not revoked his March 2015 oath of allegiance to it. The issue between the two factions appears to be much the same as it was when Ansaru was active: for the al-Barnawi faction, Shekau is killing too many Muslims for superficial reasons.

AFP reports that villagers where the conflict took place have fled, presumably adding to Nigeria’s population of internally displaced.