Separatists of Nigeria and Cameroon join forces; growing list of security risks

Surges of violence across West Africa, as groups join forces, and insurgencies see infighting 

Boko Haram and ISWAP infighting 

Clash between herdsmen and farmers increases

Africa on the verge as separatist movements join forces

By Rachel Brooks

“Nigeria Outlook” 

May 25, 2021 

Analysis and commentary

Boko Haram, which started as a movement against western education and reached the levels of a caliphate Islamist entity, has broken into factions. The Islamic State of West Africa Province abbreviated ISWAP, reportedly branched off of the Boko Haram and now attacks the Boko Haram leadership. The political infighting between two massive Islamist entities adds a strain to Nigeria, a nation at an inflection point, following rally protests against SARS, and calls to separate from the state by Indigenous People of Biafra organization, a separatist movement in support of the former breakaway Biafran republic. 

On Tuesday, France 24 reported an escalation of hostilities between herdsmen and farmers, citing pastoralists of the Nigeria Middle Belt locale. The conflict between herdsmen and farmers has been described as “one of the world’s deadliest conflicts.” The conflict, which started over resources and territory claims, is growing into one of religious tension, as the herdsmen are primarily Muslim and the farmers are primarily Christian. This, coupled with the wars between Islamist sects, creates an environment of grave challenges for Nigeria’s security future. 

On Tuesday, the United States government publication Voice of America wrote that the rise in insecurity is contributing to calls for separation from Nigerians. The Indigenous People of Biafra were noted as one of many separatist movements. Biafrans hold out renewed hope for an independent Biafra as “intercommunal violence” continues to erode Nigeria. Foreign Policy wrote that separatist movements within Nigeria are uniting with the Ambazonia separatist movement in Cameroon, which is one of the entities engaged in Cameroon’s polarizing Francophone-Anglophone conflict. Foreign Policy warned that these escalations could be a risk to regional stability. These movements add to the list of existing regional risks that add major pressures to West Africa, placing a greater burden on Central Africa and intercontinental displacement.

As the western world increases its seed funding of Africa, and as Nigeria advances its startup projects, the nation continues on the verge of collapse. Western hopes for the region reach for a boost of economics, yet the ground reality of collapsing defense systems adds a major strain, as the vision and the reality do not quite meet. This was noted by The Africa Report in a recent analysis of the French President Emmanuel Macron’s growing interests in Africa’s economic boosting and sustainability.

Nigeria’s President Buhari had recently approached French President Emmanuel Macron for support against the threat of Boko Haram,as internal pressures on Nigeria’s government adds an air of desperation to its hold on power. The Council on Foreign Relations commented on this, noting that the Nigerian governmental plans to “crackdown” on separatist movements “looked nasty.” Operation Restore Peace has been described as “designed to destroy the Indigenos People of Biafra” movement. CFR stated that the Nigerian governments efforts to subvert the IPOB movement must “not be constrained” by “humanitarian efforts.” Punch Nigeria reported that the acting Inspector General of Police Usman Baba had “declared war” on “Biafaran agitators,” for “attacking and destroying” police infrastructure in the South-East and South-South locales.

“Don’t mind the media shout; do the job I command you. If anyone accuses you of human rights violation, the report will come to my table and you know what I will do. So, take the battle to them wherever they are and kill them all. Don’t wait for an order,” said Baba, as he was quoted by Punch Nigeria news.

The outlook of the Nigerian police could likewise create tension between the western entities seeking to boost Nigeria and Africa. Political response to the governmental response against rampant insurgencies and sailing crime rates adds to the confusion within Nigeria,and its potential for spill over. This has already been seen by the response the CFR commentators had.

“So, the IGP is not only giving the green light to human rights violations, but also promising his protection for those who commit them. In addition, he is threatening those who might hang back with the loss of pension benefits! Usman is implying that he has the full support of President Muhammadu Buhari,” wrote John Campbell on the Council on Foreign Relations blog.

Despite the western outcry, IGP Baba told his troops to take action, and not to let their arms be taken “by criminals.”