Following a series of military setbacks in the country’s fight against Boko Haram, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has chosen to replace his entire military leadership, including the national security advisor he inherited from former President Goodluck Jonathan. The London Times has more on the shake-up, which has elevated leaders from Borno state, where Boko has a strong presence:
The move was part of reforms promised to revive the Nigerian army’s reputation as one of Africa’s best and to push back Boko Haram, which has carried out kidnappings, mass killings and suicide bombings during its conquest of swathes of the country. Nigeria’s army has been overrun in places, relying on Chad to fight its battles. N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, was the target of a suicide attack yesterday as a result.
The President has also shifted the base of military operations against the jihadi group to Borno.
Boko Haram, which is thought to be responsible for more than 10,000 deaths since 2009, has intensified its efforts following the election of Buhari. With a regional response force beginning to make progress against conventional Boko Haram forces, the terror group has once again resorted to attacks and suicide bombings against civilian “soft targets” in Nigeria as well as in neighboring countries such as Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.
In addition to losing the initiative in the armed struggle against Boko Haram, many members of Nigeria’s military leadership have also been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a recently released report by Amnesty International. Among the accused is the now-former chief of the defense staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh. A section of the report—about actions for which he is held responsible— reads:
More than 1,200 people have been extrajudicially executed by the military and associated militias in north-east Nigeria. The worst case documented by Amnesty International took place on 14 March 2014 when the military killed more than 640 detainees who had fled Giwa barracks after Boko Haram attacked.
Many of these killings appear to be reprisals following attacks by Boko Haram. A senior military official told Amnesty International that such killings were common. Soldiers “go to the nearest place and kill all the youths… People killed may be innocent and not armed,” he said.
President Buhari ran on a platform of fighting corruption within government, announcing during his inauguration that “We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human rights violations by the armed forces.” He now appears to be taking aim at the failures of the military establishment. For Buhari, the time for change has clearly arrived.