(Originally published in War on the Rocks on June 1, 2015)
Since February, the counter-Boko Haram fight has gained momentum, a function of the imperative imposed by a need to improve security prior to Nigeria’s elections, as well as increased regional cooperation with neighboring Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, and an influx of South African mercenaries. Yet, up until weeks before his loss to the newly inaugurated president Muhammadu Buhari, Goodluck Jonathan’s approach to Boko Haram was a microcosm of the ineffectiveness that plagued much of his administration. Buhari’s inauguration now raises the question of whether he can contain the spread of terrorism from northeastern Nigeria more successfully than his predecessor.
In spite of recent momentum, several factors are working against the new president — namely the damaged credibility of the Nigerian military, in which General (ret.) Buhari served for over two decades, including as a military ruler between 1984 and 1985. Formerly a major contributor to United Nations and regional peacekeeping missions, Nigeria eventually withdrew the majority of its forces from Mali and Darfur due to its difficulty managing the expansion of Boko Haram. Its reputation as a regional security provider bruised, Nigeria now has half as many peacekeepers in UN missions as it did in 2008. Morale is low, with some of the military’s rank and file asserting they have not received the training and equipment necessary to be effective in military operations in the northeast. Some soldiers have been fired for cowardice, while others have been sentenced to death for refusing to engage Boko Haram in combat. There have also been allegations of security sector corruption, which has eroded the military’s ability to fight Boko Haram.
(Read the Rest of the article on the War on the Rocks website)