by Joachim MacEbong

There is evidence that we may have turned a corner against the insurgents.

 

In an article last month for global intelligence company Stratfor, Scott Stewart evaluated the current capabilities of the terrorist group Boko Haram and made the following observation:

…it is important to look beyond the sheer number of fatalities when drawing such conclusions about a group like Boko Haram. Indeed, a less cursory look at the group reveals that while 2012 has been a particularly deadly year, the Nigerian government has curtailed the group’s capabilities.

He cites a sustained campaign against them by the government, as well as external support from Western governments as reasons for the inability of the group to consistently strike targets outside its stronghold in the North-East, as well as their increased preference for soft targets like churches. This will be scant consolation to the hundreds who have lost their lives in the last one year, but there is evidence that we may have turned a corner against the insurgents. Based on figures from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Nigeria Security Tracker, which maps violence in Nigeria, there has been a decrease in overall deaths from Boko Haram’s activities, in the period up to October 31, 2012.

The above graph shows the weekly deaths attributed to Boko Haram between May 29, 2011 and the end of October, 2012. There is a decline in the number of fatalities as the timeline enters 2012, with only a mild spike around the middle of the year, after which the downward trend continues. This will also be useful in evaluating the impact Sambo Dasuki has had as National Security Adviser after replacing Andrew Azazi in late June, and the trend shows that impact to be a very positive one.

Dasuki prefers a low profile, and is clearly of the ‘do more, talk less’ persuasion, which is yielding results. On the other hand, extra-judicial killings and imprisonment by the Joint Task Force (JTF) run the risk of reversing these gains, by inciting the local population against those supposed to protect them. Insurgencies are best countered with an intelligence based approach which hinges on locals cooperating with the state, but you won’t get information from people who routinely lose their loved ones in the crossfire.

The solution to Boko Haram cannot be a military one, but it is in the interest of the central government to show it can adapt to the threats posed, and prevent a permanent state of fear. Contrary to the prevailing perception, there is progress in this regard, and this is progress that must continue.

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