Boko Haram: Nigeria, Cameroon And The Conundrum Of Diplomacy

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The Nigerian Military have successfully pushed the Boko Haram terrorist out of their hideouts within Nigerian territories into the mountainous forests on the borders of Nigeria and Cameroon from where the hell bound insurgents now plan and launch attacks against (mainly, but not restricted to) border communities. But Cameroon has been nonchalant or even hostile to several diplomatic overtures by Nigeria for her to act on Boko Haram taking refuge in Cameroonian territory. 

Nigeria has done quite reasonable diplomatic shuttles thus far but Cameroon appears to be recalcitrant, while we watch our own citizens murdered senselessly almost on a daily basis. 

At this stage, I believe Nigeria should shell all those KNOWN mountain hideouts of Boko Haram in Cameroonian territories since the country’s authorities have failed or refused to do the needful. The military action should be rapid, intense and very short, aiming and hitting at KNOWN targets which Geospatial Intelligence (GeoInt) can/has identify(ied). As long as no economic interest of Cameroon will be a target of the strikes, the international community will be compelled to prevail on Cameroon not to retaliate but come to a round table for discussion. A war between Nigeria and Cameroon is a conflict the world cannot afford at this time.

But I am concerned about the prospect of Cameroon retaliating and Nigeria going to war with them, a country believed to have the full military backing of France in the event of hostilities between the former (but still loyal) French colony with any nation. 

I am worried because recent activity of the insurgents has exposed the flaw in the state of preparedness and response of our Military in the event of hostilities with any nation. It is worrisome that terrorists will launch attacks on communities for upward of 6 hours killing maiming and burning while travelling by road and the military cannot deploy! I am surprised and worried that terrorists don’t ever get caught by the military for violation of curfew. Instead we hear that these terrorists move freely from wherever they come from, driving in long convoys of SUVs and ATVs and wielding sophisticated arms only to unleash havoc by killing and maiming innocent Nigerian citizens including school children, abducting women and girls then destroying properties (most times) unchallenged.

I have had discussions with friends who think that disabling communication services was responsible for the military not knowing when and how the attacks take place. This line of argument is fundamentally flawed because (for instance) in 2 incidences, the same community was attack 3 days earlier so there should have been military presence there at least carrying out investigations especially with the area under a state of emergency. Furthermore, the fact that communication services have been disabled does not mean that the military should not be able to communicate.

I am also concerned that our military, even in a state of emergency have obviously not done a threat vulnerability assessment and mapping of the crises area. That is why schools, airports, Military and Police Barracks as well as some critical commercial/Public infrastructures have been soft targets for these terrorists. Meanwhile there abounds modern technology to help in these regards!

While I applaud the call for the Political, Traditional and Religious leaders to assist in curbing the menace of Boko Haram, I also want to quickly point out that the terrorists have instilled fear and mutual suspicion on the locals who maybe potential sources of actionable intel in the fight against Boko Haram. It is on record that all clerics and sometimes political and traditional leaders who have openly criticized the activities of the terrorists have themselves been victims of murder. The recent case of Albany who was murdered in Zaria along with his wife and son is a case still fresh in our memories.

While I also agree to some extent that the military may not have enough man power to secure potential targets, I do strongly believe that our military men are being abused because Generals now use them as bodyguards. It is a common sight today to see a Military General who works and lives in Abuja driving to and from work having two Hilux trucks, each loaded with eight heavily armed soldiers as guards. But that is a matter for another thread…

Let me opine here that I don’t believe that Conventional Intel gathering may be effective at this stage of the war against terror in the Northeast owing to reasons of mutual distrust and fear I earlier mentioned. To this effect, the necessity of geo-spatial intelligence for sustainable National Security in its entire ramification cannot be over emphasized. Therefore our Defence, National Security and Intelligence Agencies should as a matter of urgency embrace GeoInt (Geospatial Intelligence). Not just the use of UAV otherwise called drones but the procurement, Interpretation and analysis of satellite imageries etc

Danjuma Azemobo Musa Is Executive Director, Academic Planning, Research and Development at the Centre for Advance Spatial Technologies and Mapping, Abuja from where he wrote in from. He is also a Non-partisan public affairs commentator passionate about Nigeria.

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