Amine Sahli, Mitchell Dallas, Meaghan Mackey, AFRICOM; Martina Sclaverano, Yannik Hunnold, Isaiah Johnson, W/T
Rohan Rajesh, Argyrios Chatziilias, Editor; Valentina Topatigh, Senior Editor
December 3, 2022
Nigerian soldiers in Niger
Geographical Area | Chad Basin
Countries Affected | Chad, Nigeria, Cameroun, Niger
On November 22, Boko Haram attacked a Chadian military unit near the Nigerian border of the Lake Chad Basin (LCB), killing at least 10 soldiers and wounding several others. The LCB, which straddles Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Nigeria, has been subject to a long-standing humanitarian and environmental crisis that the Boko Haram insurgencies, with its Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’adati wal-Jihad (JAS) and Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) offshoots, have exacerbated. Jihadist groups will very likely increase attacks and operations in Chadian territory, exploiting ongoing food insecurity and energy instability in the Chadian government and the LCB to expand territorial control. Jihadists will likely target oil infrastructure in the LCB to hurt Western interests and increase instability in the region.
Security Risk Level:
Areas of High Security Concern: Boko Haram will almost certainly continue to conduct attacks against military installations and troops in the Chad Basin. The insurgents will very likely target critical infrastructure installations and continue to kidnap civilians, undermining people’s trust in the government’s control. Continuous attacks will very likely worsen the humanitarian situation in the countries bordering the Chad Basin and lead to more internally displaced people. The Chadian government will likely continue to increase its troop presence in the Chad Basin and attempt to establish further military outposts in areas of the basin that Boko Haram has targeted most frequently. Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, and Chad will also likely reaffirm their commitment to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a joint military effort against insurgents in the Chad Basin.
Current Claims: Chad; Nigeria; Cameroon; Niger
Groups Involved in Conflict: Chadian Government; Chadian armed forces; Cameroonian Government; Cameroonian armed forces; Nigerian Government; Nigerian armed forces; Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF); African Union (AU); Boko Haram; JAS; ISWAP; Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT); LCB Militias
Current Conflicts: The Boko Haram insurgency has recently expanded into Lake Chad’s western region and prevented the establishment of a Chadian military base. The insurgents have worsened Chad’s humanitarian crisis due to cross-border security incidents and refugee flows. The November 22 attack constitutes an escalation of Boko Haram’s efforts to undermine the Chadian government’s military presence in the region.
Major Capital Industries: Humanitarian; energy and utilities; oil extraction; fishing; agriculture
Potential Industry Concerns: Continued attacks will increase pressure on the humanitarian sector to provide access to basic necessities and services such as food, electricity, and running water for the increased number of displaced people. Local militias will likely steal international aid, such as food, to exert authority over local populations suffering from climate change-induced crop shortages near Lake Chad. Insurgents will very likely target private and public oil wells to finance their activities. As the climate change crisis worsens freshwater scarcity, local fishermen will likely clash with refugees over freshwater resources usable for drinking, fishing, and agriculture.
Areas of Caution:
Geopolitical: In the aftermath of the 2015 attack on the former MNJTF headquarters in Nigeria, the LCB countries reactivated the task force with support from the AU and the UN Security Council, relocated its headquarters to N’Djamena, increased troop contribution to approximately 10,000, and transformed it from a de facto Nigerian unit to a regional force established to effectively counter the Boko Haram insurgency. The MNJTF does not override national sovereignty or supersede bilateral security agreements; it is a cooperation framework divided in sectors that enables LCB countries to coordinate counterinsurgency efforts at a regional level. Member countries are responsible for threats within their own territory and can pursue terrorists up to 25 kilometers deep in neighboring territories. The MNJTF has been successful in neutralizing Boko Haram fighters, arresting collaborators, recovering stolen supplies, and liberating abduction victims.
Political: Chad’s military junta, which came to power after former president Deby’s death during a clash with rebels, failed to hand over power after the scheduled 18 months of democratic transition, suspending opposition parties in October 2022 and sparking deadly protests. Earlier this year, Chad signed a peace agreement with several rebel groups, although the most important among them, including FACT and eight others, refused the deal. Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis, a long-standing conflict between the country’s anglophone and francophone regions, has seen an uptick in violence since the beginning of 2022, with civilians bearing the brunt of separatists and government forces’ abuse.
Military: In the aftermath of the March 2020 JAS attack that led to the death of 98 Chadian soldiers, the wounding of 47 others, and the destruction and reappropriation of military equipment, the Chadian junta decided to increase the size of its military by recruiting and training new recruits with a goal of 60.000 troops by the end of 2022. Following an ISWAP ambush that killed at least 100 Nigerian soldiers carrying out counterinsurgency operations in Lake Chad during March 2020, the Nigerian military also switched tactics by establishing fortified super camps in the Lake Chad area and complementing them with forward operating outposts to pursue insurgents.
Economic: Insurgent activities will severely affect vulnerable industries in the LCB, such as fishing, agriculture, herding, and transborder trade. The continuous shrinking of Lake Chad and population growth exacerbate humanitarian needs by severely limiting the viability of income-generating activities. Oil represents 60% of Chad’s exports, mostly drilled from the Doba basin in the country’s south through Exxon Mobil, while the significant Lake Chad reserves remain too unsafe to fully exploit due to security risks posed by insurgent activities.
Emergency Management: The ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Chad Basin has left 9.7 million individuals requiring humanitarian assistance. Around 2.5 million people have fled the conflict, becoming internally displaced. The communities that took in the refugees lack medical facilities, trained staff, and medical supplies to adequately treat the displaced people. Additional displaced people will likely seek safety in refugee camps in Nigerian border regions exacerbating existing shortages of food, clean drinking water, shelter, and sanitation.
Who: Boko Haram and its offshoots, JAS and ISWAP, will almost certainly continue to carry out attacks against LCBC military, Muslim and non-Muslim civilians, humanitarian and oil industry workers. Lake Chad populations will very likely continue fleeing the region to avoid persecution from Boko Haram and other national militias such as FACT. LCB countries’ militaries will almost certainly seek to establish forward operating bases in the region to pursue insurgents.
What: Attacks in the LCB will likely continue exacerbating existing conflicts over resources by deterring foreign or regional investment, stunting further development. Militias and terrorist groups like Boko Haram will likely prevent attempts to establish oil drilling platforms by attacking infrastructure or workers. Climate change will almost certainly intensify and hasten competition over resources in the LCB. The Chadian and Cameroonian governments are unlikely to devote enough military resources to effectively tackle the Boko Haram threat due to their ongoing nationalist insurgencies. Attacks on Chadian military personnel will very likely result in retaliation by the Chadian military, escalating tensions and reducing public trust in the government, which will likely increase political instability in the country.
Why: Existing resource shortages will very likely encourage internal conflict in LCB countries. The resulting poverty and political instability will likely cause an anti-government sentiment, likely driving military-aged men to join militias or terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. Oil facilities and other key economic activities will very likely pollute and consume fresh water from Lake Chad, almost certainly straining dwindling resources. Government cooperation with these companies will very likely further escalate political tension in the region by reducing trust in LCB governments.
When: The ongoing violence in the LCB will likely worsen as resources grow more scarce and jihadist groups gain confidence from successful attacks to date. Jihadist attacks are unlikely to decrease in the near future, likely due to internal divisions in LCB countries. Public trust in the Chadian government will very likely decrease in the coming weeks, very likely increasing recruitment for Boko Haram. Boko Haram will almost certainly carry out further attacks to create further internal instability within Chad in the next several years.
How: Resource scarcity will likely divide not just governments and militias, but also demographics in the LCB, such as nomadic herders and traditional farmers. Political conflicts will likely transform into conflicts over livelihood and will almost certainly further divide LCB countries and cause internal divisions, likely increasing violence. Lack of centralized authority is also likely to exacerbate conflicts of livelihood in the LCB.
The Counterterrorism Group’s (CTG) AFRICOM and W/T Teams recommend that LCB countries strengthen logistical and financial support for the MNJTF to better coordinate transborder counterinsurgency operations. International private sector companies should increase their corporate social responsibility expenditures to support local economies through jobs and education to decrease the appeal of terrorist recruitment. The LCB governments should work with international organizations to coordinate humanitarian aid dissemination and implement development programs to mitigate the impact of climate change on the LCB and its population. Citizens and local officials should prepare for an uptick in violent attacks and larger flows of refugees over the border. Foreigners and citizens who can leave should prepare exit plans in the event of a larger jihadist offensive. Oil companies should increase security at drilling infrastructures at risk of attack or theft and should make alternate plans for the shipment of oil to Cameroon in the event of increased jihadist attacks.
The AFRICOM team will continue to monitor the conflict development and the effects on the humanitarian crisis in the Chad Basin, that resulted from the clashes. The W&T team will observe and analyze changes in Boko Haram’s strategies and arms to enable state actors to adapt their military response to the evolving threat. The CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crimes, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H) Team will provide updates on new attacks and incidents involving the conflict parties.
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