The 23 March attack by Boko Haram’s Bakura Doron group on the Chadian army garrison on the Bohoma peninsula and the army’s large and very successful retaliation has shifted the focus of attention on the Sahel’s jihadism from the three borders region — between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — to the Lake Chad region.
It has also raised questions on: whether Boko Haram will try and re-establish itself in the Lake Chad region; the inadequacies of Nigeria’s army; weaknesses in the structure and composition of Chad’s army; and President Idriss Déby’s ongoing commitment to the G5S.
The respective answers are: Boko Haran will try and re-establish itself in the upcoming rainy season; the problems in the Nigerian and Chadian armies will need to be monitored; and Déby is too dependent on the rent income that is earned by his armed forces and the support that he receives from Western allies.
Meanwhile if Chad cannot come up with a convincing answer to the death of Boko Haram 44 prisoners — captured during the army’s successful counter-offensive — it risks severe international reprimands and this could include the withdrawal of Western support for the Déby regime.
The fear of the COVID-19 pandemic will — despite the extraordinary low official numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in the Sahel — have consequences far beyond the medical ones. One of these is likely to be a serious food crisis later this year.
Despite the final results of Mali’s recent elections not yet being known, the exceptionally low turnout and apparent electoral irregularities are likely to compound rather than ease the country’s acute political problems. Mali’s future as a supposedly democratic state is also on the line.
The Malian public’s increasing disinterest and disillusionment with national politics will be further compounded if the investigation into the embezzlement of state funds does not lead to prosecutions.
The same applies to the enquiry into the misappropriation of Niger’s military funds. In both countries, action by elements within the armed forces, in the form of attempted coups d’états, cannot be ruled out.
While the increasing infighting between jihadist groups is being welcomed in some quarters — on the grounds that they will weaken each other — it may lead to a wider realignment and strengthening of jihadist forces across the region.
Mauritania’s parliamentary commission of inquiry into Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s corrupt rule may not lead to the former president’s prosecution but will enlighten the population about the nature of his rule and lead to his permanent disgrace.