Is Boko Haram Really the Islamic State of West Africa?


On 7 March last year, the radical Nigerian group Boko Haram through an audio message pledged allegiance to the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi. The affiliation transformed the territories occupied by Boko Haram in one of ten wilayat of the Islamic State (gone to eleven, after the oath of allegiance of last February by Filipinos jihadist groups) and in less than two months the terrorist organization Nigerian would also renamed Islamic State’s West Africa Province – ISWAP (Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya).

In a first discussion on what has changed, in addition to the name, in these twelve months within the group, it is clear that Boko Haram has been greatly weakened because of the massive military MNJTF’s offensive.

The multinational intervention force has achieved important results in the fight against Nigerian Islamists reducing raid against many towns and villages, eliminating several prominent members of the group and helping to stop partially the media coordination with the Islamic State.

In addition, ISIS did not support in any way the territorial expansion of Boko Haram. The caliphate while continuing to spread in the north of Libya, has not acted in any way to stem the important territorial losses suffered by Nigerian extremists, following the counter-insurgency operations of MNJTF.

Anyway, in the impoverished environment of the northeastern Nigeria would be necessary a valid external assistance from Daesh to procure the financial resources needed to build a fully-fledged caliphate, but economic aid from the Syrian-Iraqi territories are not never arrived.

Not to mention that from his one-year audio tape ago, with announcing the oath of allegiance to the IS, the leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau has made its voice heard on only two occasions. Meanwhile, the Nigerian army inflicted increasingly so hard knocks to the organization and took its strongholds, freeing thousands of civilians from the yoke of Islamic extremists.

In addition, the tactic used by the Nigerian army to cut supply routes to terrorists, that often trespassing neighboring countries, is supporting its effectiveness. Just proves what happened last week in Gwoza, about 100 kilometers south-east of Maiduguri, where dozens of members of the terrorist group have surrendered to the military in the grip of famine, after early as last September and October hundred emaciated-looking Boko Haram members were handed over to the Nigerian forces.

One scenario in sharp contrast with the fears that spread after the act of submission to the caliph al-Baghdadi, according to which the insurgency in the northeast of Nigeria would have assumed an international dimension favored by a potential influx of foreign fighters to the four waterside countries of the lake Chad.

According to the Nigerian analyst Bawa Abdullahi Wase, “effectively nothing has changed since Boko Haram has joined the Daesh. It has failed to attract foreign fighter, nor in obtaining weapons and financing from his new mentor, as many had feared”. In essence, it was just a brand that Boko Haram using to enhance its sinister reputation of terrorist group.

The leader Abubakar Shekau oath of allegiance to the Islamic State and subsequent re-branding of the extremist group in ISWAP has also caused a rift in the Boko Haram leadership, which has led the dissidents to forge links with other jihadist groups operating in the Sahel region.

Some government safety consultants predict that this year the group affiliated to the IS could be reduced to a largely criminal, regional threat along the lines of the Lord’s Resistance Army, Ugandan guerrilla group led by war criminal Joseph Kony.

However, Western governments still consider Boko Haram as a serious danger. For this, the United States has established a new secret base in Garoua in Cameroon, which is currently hosting four Gray Eagle drones to obtain detailed information on the movement and training camps of the extremist group. While the Pentagon is consideringsending military instructors in the northeast Nigeria.

Ultimately, after joining the global jihad of the caliph al-Baghdadi, the only Boko Haram operational reality that is clearly changed is the adoption of the name of the ‘Province of West Africa of the Islamic State’. This, however, does not mean that the mere ideological alignment between the most lethal terrorist group in the world and the ISIS does not stand a latent threat for the whole Africa.