The number of people killed in 2015 in the war against Boko Haram in Nigeria rose to 11,000, up from 7,000 in the previous year even through the Nigerian military announced that it recovered all of the towns it lost to the insurgents in 2014, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
In its Armed Conflict Survey 2016, launched in London on Thursday, the IISS notes: “These successes led the government to state in December that the war had been won, but the claim was hard to reconcile with the violence that still affected civilians in villages and IDP [internally displaced persons] camps across the northeast.”
The conflict in Nigeria is one of the six that accounted for nearly 80 per cent of deaths globally last year, according to the Survey.
The others, which accounted for the 167,000 people who died across the world, were in Syria, Iraq, Mexico, Central America and Afghanistan.
The Survey says that notwithstanding the rise in fatalities in Nigeria, the death toll in sub-Saharan Africa’s conflicts fell from 30,000 in 2014 to 24,000 last year.
Dr John Chipman, Director-General and chief executive of the IISS, explained: “In our judgement, the prospects for conflict resolution in Mali, the Central African Republic and Somalia improved during the course of 2015.
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and South Sudan, they became no worse.”
He said that governments responded to territorial gains made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), Boko Haram and other groups by going on the offensive.
He noted: “2015 was the year that, for better or for worse, the state struck back in many of the world’s largest armed conflicts, making territorial gains in the face of considerable resistance.”
Citing Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, Dr Chipman added: “Often this was achieved with the help of foreign allies.”
He pointed to Russia’s intervention in Syria, the role of Iranian forces in Iraq, and offensives by African Union forces in Nigeria and Somalia.
The Survey notes that Nigeria was reluctant to have an AU force in the country because Abuja “was concerned about the implications for sovereignty of allowing foreign troops to be deployed in its territory”.
It adds: “Yet the Nigerian military’s severe lack of capacity and the need for regional collaboration had been made clear by a wave of cross-border insurgent attacks that prompted thousands of IDPs o flee to neighbouring Niger and Cameroon.
“One of the key challenges in the fight against Boko Haram remained the group’s capacity to adapt and change tactics.
“As the military made large strides in the insurgents’ main areas of operation, they resorted to guerrilla warfare to harry and delay its advance.”
There was also “a sharp increase in [Boko Haram’s] use of suicide bombers, particularly women and children”.
The Survey adds: “It seemed possible that Boko Haram’s increased use of women and children indicated weakness within the group, as it resorted to forcibly recruiting civilians chosen at random, as well as hiding bombs near beggars on the street.”
This new tactic is all the more worrying for the parents of the Chibok school girls who were kidnapped two years and who have not been rescued despite several attempts by the Nigerian army to free them.
(By Desmond Davies, London Bureau Chief)
Source: Ghana Times