South Sudanese Rebels Launch Recruitment Drive to Expand Military Operations

Andrew McGregor

From Tips and Trends: The AIS African Security Report

March 30, 2015

On February 2, a spokesman for the rebel faction led by former South Sudan vice-president Riek Machar (now operating under the name Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement in Opposition – SPLA-IO or SPLM-IO) declared the rebel movement was planning to undertake a massive recruitment drive before launching a new offensive to drive government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir Mayardit from strategic cities in South Sudan: “We now have more than 10 active fronts. There are already more than three major fronts in Bahr el Ghazal and another front in Lakes State will soon go into operation” (Sudan Tribune, February 2, 2015).

Abdel LatifMajor General Khamis Abdel Latif

Operations in the Lakes State will be led by Major General Khamis Abdel Latif Chawoul Lom, a controversial figure who defected from the SPLA to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) in the 1980s and later served a year and a half in a Port Sudan prison after being convicted of rape (, November 21, 2014). Whether the current struggle power intensifies or not will depend largely on the impact of a U.S.-sponsored motion to have the UN Security Council impose strong sanctions on both government and rebel leaders.

Washington has become fed up with the inability of both sides to follow up on any peace agreements or initiatives and the fighting has become something of a diplomatic embarrassment to the United States, which was the main sponsor of South Sudan’s independence. In response to the growing pressure, President Kiir has offered a conditional amnesty and reintegration into the government of the rebel leaders, but the package fails to address any of the issues that sparked the rebellion in the first place. Sporadic but often intense fighting can be expected over the next few months as the two sides jockey for position in ongoing talks.

South Sudan Rebels Now under the Command of General Dau Aturjong Nyuol

Andrew McGregor

From Tips and Trends: The AIS African Security Report

March 30, 2015

Aturjong 2

Major-General Dau Aturjong Nyuol (Upper Nile Times)

In command of the SPLA-IO fighters is Major-General Dau Aturjong Nyuol, a professional soldier with over two decades of experience who is regarded as an expert in guerrilla warfare. General Aturjong’s defection appears to have been the result of coming out the loser in a political struggle in Northern Bahr al-Ghazal with Paul Malong Awan, a powerful politician known as “King Paul” who was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the SPLA in April 2014 at the expense of General James Hoth Mai, a veteran Nuer commander loyal to the Dinka-dominated Juba government. Within the complicated network of personal, regional, political and tribal loyalties that dominate every government activity in the South Sudan, Aturjong is regarded as a follower of the late SPLA/M leader Dr. John Garang (d. 2005), while Malong is viewed as loyal to President Kiir, Garang’s one-time deputy who has taken the new nation in directions opposed to Garang’s vision for South Sudan.

South Sudan MapAturjong claims the southern revolution was hijacked by “a tyrant dictator [i.e. Salva Kiir]” after Garang’s death, accusing Kiir and his lieutenants of targeting innocent civilians of the Fartit of Western Bahr al-Ghazal, the Dinka of Jonglei State, the Shilluk of Upper Nile and the Murle of Jonglei State (, May 30, 2014). The general became bitter after the SPLA/M turned down his candidacy for the governorship of Northern Bahr al-Ghazal in the 2010 elections, throwing its support behind Malong instead. Running as an independent candidate, Aturjong was defeated in an election that many considered rigged. Since his appointment as C-in-C of the South Sudan military, Malong continues to function as the powerful chairman of the SPLM in North Bahr al-Ghazal, a clear violation against the Ministry of Defense’s rules against serving officers engaging in politics (Sudan Tribune, February 24, 2015).

According to General Aturjong’s own biography, he left school to join the Anya-Nya II rebels and later the SPLA in the early 1980s. Like many of his generation, he received military training within Dergue-run Ethiopia in 1984. Aturjong was appointed commander of the Nile Battalion in 1987, was involved in several major campaigns in Equatoria in the 1990s and finished the war in Western Bahr al-Ghazal after having commanded a number of different brigades as well as the SPLA’s heavy artillery. In 2004, Aturjong studied military administration at Iowa State University ( If ongoing reconciliation negotiations are unsuccessful, Aturjong could prove an important asset for the opposition’s military campaign against the Juba government.

New Rebel Movement Begins Operations in Western Equatoria State

Andrew McGregor

From Tips and Trends: The AIS African Security Report

March 30, 2015

South Sudan’s opposition movement welcomed news of the outbreak of a fresh rebellion in Western Equatoria State’s Maridi County in late January/early February. A new rebel movement going by the name Revolutionary Movement for National Salvation (REMNASA) announced its presence through an attack on SPLA troops in Maridi County, claiming to have killed six soldiers (Sudan Tribune, January 30, 2015; February 3, 2015). The movement is allegedly led by Major Losuba Lodoru Wongo, a young British-educated officer who was considered one of the more promising lights in the SPLA officer corps before taking some 100 to 200 of his men with him into the bush.

western equatoriaWestern Equatoria, with Maridi County in the lower right

Although Loduru’s defection was confirmed by the SPLM Defense Minister, Western Equatoria State governor Joseph Bakosoro has since questioned the existence of both the rebellion (which he claims to have only heard about from the media) and of Major Lodoru himself (Radio Tamazuj, February 23, 2015). Maridi County borders unsettled regions of the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that provide refuge for various insurgent groups. Government authority in parts of Western Equatoria is weak and much of the work of defending local communities from cross-border marauders like the Lord’s Resistance Army in recent years has fallen to local self-defense groups armed with spears and bows and arrows.

Regardless of whether a rebellion in Western Equatoria gains steam or not, it is yet another warning that the main parties in the South Sudan conflict are running out of time to resolve their differences before the region plunges into yet another decade or two of inter-communal violence the young nation cannot afford.

Elephants Trained to Detect Explosives in South Africa

Andrew McGregor

From Tips and Trends: The AIS African Security Report

March 30, 2015

Though the eyesight of elephants is somewhat limited, it has long been known that the senses of smell and hearing in the elephant are exceptional, with olfactory capabilities estimated to be four times that of a bloodhound. African bush elephants have been observed avoiding heavily-mined areas in war-torn Angola, inspiring a new experiment in the use of trained elephants to detect the presence of mines and explosives. The trials are being carried out at a game ranch north of Johannesburg and are supported by the U.S. Army Research Office.

War elephants 1Chisiru, a 17-year-old male elephant, is trained to detect explosives

The elephants are trained to raise a foreleg when they detect explosives by their scent and are rewarded with a treat of marula fruit. Those involved in the training, now in its fifth year, have given assurances the elephants will not be deployed on the battlefield, but may have samples of substances brought to them by robotic devices  (Reuters, February 24; Daily Mail, February 25). Whether these experiments bear fruit in the useful deployment of bomb-sniffing pachyderms is questionable; technological means of “sniffing out” explosives are in development and do not require the provision of massive amounts of feed and expertise in elephant psychology.

War elephants 2A 3rd century representation of a Meroitic king riding an elephant. From the Lion Temple at Musawwarat, Upper Nubia

Elephants have a long history of more active use in warfare in Africa and elsewhere. Elephant training schools were established in the Nubian kingdom of Meroë and by the third century BCE, war elephants from Meroë were replacing Asian elephants in the army of Ptolemaic Egypt. These animals were Forest Elephants, a species that was once found in large numbers in north and central Africa. Smaller than the better known and much larger Bush Elephant of central and southern Africa, the Forest Elephant was easier to train, though unpredictability in battle was a constant problem.  While the elephants were used as a type of primitive tank, unlike a mechanical device they could not be turned off when they ran amok, often with devastating results for the side attempting to deploy them.

North Africa’s Carthaginian Empire deployed war elephants extensively, most notably in the Italian peninsula after Carthaginian general Hannibal achieved the seemingly impossible task of marching a corps of war elephants through the frozen and narrow passes of the Swiss Alps. Innovative Roman tactics and a requirement in all Roman peace treaties that the other party forgo all use of war elephants eliminated the battlefield threat posed by elephants in Europe and the Mediterranean region, though the military use of Indian Elephants continued in Asia into the 20th century. In the few instances where African Forest Elephants encountered the stronger and larger Indian Elephants in battle, the latter always emerged triumphant.

Evaluating Sierra Leone’s Military Mission in Somalia

Andrew McGregor

From Tips and Trends: The AIS African Security Report, March 2015

As part of an effort to modernize the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), 850 Sierra Leonese soldiers were sent to join African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping forces in April 2013. The force was reported to have received extensive training from British and American troops before their deployment to Somalia (Standard Times Press [Freetown], May 20, 2012). The RSLAF had some prior peacekeeping experience, deploying a reconnaissance unit to Darfur in 2009 as part of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). Sierra Leone continues to contribute roughly 100 police and a few military specialists to the Darfur mission.

The RSLAF contingent in Somalia, consisting of Sierra Leone Battalion 1 (LEOBAT 1) was under the overall command of Colonel Mamadi Mohamed Keita, a veteran of the ECOMOG deployment in Liberia in 1990, [1] followed by service in the long fight against Foday Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone (1991-2002) (Sierra Express Media, September 20, 2012).

S-L Troops in SomaliaBrigadier General Mamadi M. Keita with RSLAF Troops in Kismayo

The first contingent of the RSLAF arrived in Kismayo via Kenya on April 2, 2013 and were greeted with al-Shabaab land-mines on the road into Somalia. According to battalion commander Colonel Abubakr Conteh, “Somalia as a nation is a gossip society and information relating to the war spreads around quickly and al-Shabaab was fully aware of our arrival in Somalia” (Awoko [Freetown], April 2, 2013). After their arrival in Kismayo, the men of LEOBAT 1 began working in tandem with Kenyan forces already deployed in the region. Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia also contribute forces to AMISOM, which is heavily financed by the United States and the European Union.

Al-Shabaab returned to the attack on June 21, 2013, with an attempted ambush of an RSLAF supply convoy near Tabda in the Kismayo region. The ambush was disrupted without casualties from the RSLAF but al-Shabaab struck again on June 23 in a night-attack on the RSLAF base using RPGs before being again repulsed with heavy Shabaab losses but no casualties reported in the RSLAF detachment (Shabelle Media Network, June 23, 2013; Sierra Express Media, June 26, 2013). An immediate operation to secure the area resulted in the capture of two al-Shabaab fighters.

Kismayo MapIn March 2014, Sierra Leone took command of AMISOM forces in Sector 5 (Kismayo) in relief of the former Kenyan commander. LEOBAT 1 constituted the bulk of the force, with additional companies of Kenyan and Burundian troops and a unit of Nigerian police (Sierra Express Media, January 15, 2014).

The first troop rotation was scheduled for June 2014 at the latest, but this, like several other deadlines, came and went without troop movement, leaving the troops of LEOBAT 1 on an unexpected extended mission after fully expecting to serve no more than a year in Somalia. Troops reported receiving threats of disciplinary action from their superiors if they continued to ask for a timely rotation, adding that they were depressed and missing their families to the point that one lance-corporal had passed away in hospital from “frustration and depression” (Politico [Freetown], May 8, 2014).

Morale was also affected by persistent rumors of misappropriation of the soldiers’ pay back in Freetown (Politico [Freetown], May 8, 2014). The first group of peacekeepers to return were assured by Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (DCDS) Brigadier John Milton that their back-pay was safe and would be distributed as promised: “All of you have your individual accounts that only you will access; all the instructions you left us, is what we did and now that you are back, the public will know the truth” (Awoko [Freetown], January 15, 2015). In any case, there were already reports that the glimmer of extra pay to be obtained by serving in peacekeeping missions abroad had begun to pale in light of the unexpected and determined resistance put up by al-Shabaab forces in the Kismayo region (AfricaReview, May 11, 2014).

Those RSLAF troops remaining in Sierra Leone played an important part in containing the Ebola outbreak, most notably through Operation Octopus, the deployment of 750 soldiers to enforce quarantines in the hard-hit eastern part of the country (Reuters, August 4, 2014). LEOBAT 2 was isolated at a pre-deployment camp in preparation for the planned rotation, but an individual soldier who tested positive for Ebola had taken an unauthorized leave and returned infected (Reuters, October 14). Rather than leaving for Somalia, 800 men entered a 21-day quarantine.

In October 2014, the Somali government wrote in an official capacity to the African Union and the Sierra Leone government demanding a halt to further deployments from Sierra Leone and a halt to any possible visits to LEOBAT 1 by officials or other individuals from that country (Raxanreeb Broadcasting Corporation, October 23, 2014; Horseed Media, October 23, 2014). On December 20, 2014, chief of defense staff Major General Samuel Omar Williams announced that the RSLAF force in Somalia would be withdrawn and not replaced.

In his welcome address to returning RSLAF peacekeepers, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma promised he would do “everything possible” to ensure that LEOBAT 2 would go on peacekeeping operations abroad after the disappointment of the cancelled Somalia mission (Patriotic Vanguard, January 30, 2015).

According to battalion commander Colonel Abubakr Conteh, his troops faced a difficult challenge in operating in a battle-zone with no defined area in which nearly any Somali encountered by RSLAF personnel could be a member of al-Shabaab. Nonetheless, Conteh maintained that it was “a worthwhile experience every commander will like to experience. I’m glad to have been part of the peacekeeping and [it] made me have more confidence in the army” (Awoko [Freetown], February 10, 2015). Total losses for the force during the Somali deployment amounted to one combat death and five others from “natural causes” (Awoko [Freetown], January 15, 2015; February 10, 2015).

Ethiopia quickly pledged to replace the Sierra Leonese troops with its own forces. Ethiopia operated unilaterally in Somalia for several years before formally joining AMISOM in January 2014. The new Ethiopian deployment will join 4400 Ethiopian troops already operating in Somalia. Ethiopia’s deployment to Kismayo is part of a larger expansion of its peacekeeping role in Africa that includes a deployment to the disputed Abyei border region between Sudan and South Sudan and the new deployment of three helicopter gunships to South Sudan (Sudan Tribune, February 6, 2015). Ethiopia has roughly 12,000 peacekeepers active in Somalia, South Sudan, Abyei and Darfur.


1. ECOMOG (the Economic Community of West Africa States Monitoring Group) was a Nigerian dominated multilateral military force drawn from the nations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Chad’s Military Takes the Lead in Campaign against Boko Haram: Can Nigeria’s Embarrassment Equal Multinational Military Success?

Andrew McGregor

From Tips and Trends: The AIS African Security Report, March 2015

Chad Troops in MaliChadian Troops in the Field in Mali

In a six-week campaign, Chad’s military has mounted an air-supported ground offensive against Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants that has crossed into both Nigeria and Cameroon. In the process, Chad has shattered Boko Haram strength in the Lake Chad border region but now finds further progress stalled as Abuja denies permission to pursue the fleeing gunmen further into Nigeria. With Chadian operations having scored major successes against Boko Haram, there is now a danger the still inefficient Nigerian military will attempt to take over operations on its own territory to bolster the electoral chances of Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, who faces an election on March 28.

Chad’s Military Intervention in Nigeria

A brigade size group (1500 to 2000 men) was sent with some 400 military vehicles to the Lake Chad border region on January 16, 2015. The legal framework for Chadian intervention in the region was already established by the 1998 agreement between Chad, Nigeria and Niger to form a Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) to combat cross-border crime and militancy. Since their arrival in January, Chad’s military has reported a series of spectacular, if numerically unverifiable victories, including a battle at Gambaru in which the army reported the death of 207 Boko Haram militants to a loss of one Chadian soldier killed and nine wounded (Reuters, February 25, 2015) [1]. Nonetheless, the poorly coordinated offensive is still taking a toll on Boko Haram, reducing its strength and expelling it from towns (and economic support bases) taken in recent months. Boko Haram counter-attacks persist, but most are driven back without great loss.

  • On January 29-30, Chadian forces crossed into Nigeria for the first time, using jet fighters and ground forces to drive Boko Haram fighters from the village of Malam Fatori in Borno State after a two-day battle (ThisDay [Lagos], February 1, 2015; Daily Trust [Lagos], January 30, 2015; al-Jazeera, January 30, 2015).
  • On January 31, 2015, Chadian forces reported killing 120 Boko Haram fighters in a battle in northern Cameroon centered around the town of Fatakol and used two fighter jets (most likely Sukhoi Su-25 recently obtained from Ukraine) to bomb the Nigerian town of Gambaru (Reuters, January 31, 2015; AFP, January 31, 2015).
  • On February 3, Chadian troops backed by armored vehicles took Gambaru after a fight of several hours (Independent, February 4, 2015). One Chadian battalion commander who took part in the attack on Gambaru had little praise for the Boko Haram fighters that had resisted months of Nigerian operations in the area, saying “yesterday’s offensive made us realize that the fighters of the sect, mainly composed of minors, are only cowards” (Alwhihda [N’Djamena], January 30).

The rapid success of Chadian forces against Boko Haram fighters in the border region revealed the sham war that Nigeria’s military has mounted against the Islamists – Malum Fatori, for example, had been held by the militants since October, even though it fell to the Chadians in one day. Chad has succeeded by using aerial bombardments on Boko Haram targets prior to massive assaults with ground troops and armor. These tactics stand in contrast to those of the Nigerian military, which has become notorious for poor ground-air coordination and failing to press attacks, often citing inferior arms or ammunition shortages. Nigerian warplanes were blamed for the death of 36 civilians when two fighter-jets attacked a funeral party in the Niger border town of Abadam on February 17 (Reuters, February 18). [2]

Nigeria – No Longer a Regional Military Power

Nigeria’s foreign minister, Aminu Wali, has tried to explain why Nigeria requires international assistance in combatting Boko Haram:

It is not that the Nigeria army isn’t fighting, it actually is. But in the context of an unconventional war, that is something else. The same thing applies to the war on terror. So the conventional armed forces aren’t adapted to this kind of conflict. We have to retrain them so that they will be capable to fight this particular conflict that they’ve never known before (RFI, January 30, 2015).

In October 2014, Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and Cameroon agreed to coordinate their military efforts against Boko Haram, though follow-up was slow. Nigerian relations with Cameron have been historically strained by rival claims to the Bakassi Peninsula in the resource-rich Gulf of Guinea, which was eventually awarded to Cameroon through international arbitration in 2009. Since then, Cameroonian oil infrastructure in the region has been subject to attacks by a hybrid criminal/separatist movement seeking unification with Nigeria.[3]

Since the joint offensive began, Nigerian military performance has improved, which the government chalks up to newly purchased arms and Special Forces reinforcements being sent to help the ill-equipped, poorly-led and occasionally mutinous Nigerian 7th Division, which took over responsibility for the sector from the Nigerian Joint Task Force (JTF) in August 2013 (at one point troops of the 7th Division’s 101st Battalion fired at former division commander Major-General Ahmadu Mohammed, who only narrowly survived – see ThisDay [Lagos], May 16, 2014). The retaking of Baga by Nigerian troops on February 21 deprived Boko Haram of a major base and gave a boost to the political fortunes of President Goodluck Jonathan, but the town could have been taken weeks earlier if the Nigerian Army had not rebuffed Chad’s offer of a joint offensive, according to Chadian Army spokesman Colonel Azem Bermandoa (Reuters, March 3, 2015). Baga was the scene of a firefight in April 2013 in which the JTF and Boko Haram displayed a callous disregard for the lives of civilians in the town, killing over 185 people. The town was taken by Boko Haram in January 2015 when fleeing Nigerian troops allowed the militants to massacre hundreds of civilians (BBC, February 2, 2015).

Northeast Nigeria MapNortheast Nigeria – Zone of Chadian Operations

Colonel Bermandoa has likewise complained that Chadian forces took the ancient Nigerian town of Dikwa in mid-February but were ordered by the Nigerians to evacuate it so the Nigerians could launch an airstrike on the community. Chadian forces were compelled to retake the town on March 2 at a cost of one dead and 34 wounded (AFP, February 19, 2015; Reuters, March 2, March 3, 2015; Premium Times [Lagos], March 2, 2015; RFI, February 3, 2015).

Cameroon and Niger have played secondary but important roles in the offensive, pouring their forces into their border regions where they have repulsed attacks, cut supply routes and prevented Boko Haram fighters from slipping away across the borders.

Why Chad is Fighting in Nigeria

Landlocked Chad’s main trade routes cross through areas of Nigeria and northern Cameroon that have been blocked by Boko Haram occupation and operations, leading to shortages of goods (including food from Nigeria), interruption in the important export trade in Chadian cattle and rapidly rising prices for most goods (Wall Street Journal, February 26, 2015).

Economic effects have also been felt in northeastern Nigeria, where the important supply of smoked fish from Lake Chad has been disturbed as a consequence of trade routes being cut by the militants and the fear of fishermen on the Nigerian side of the lake that they will be conscripted into Boko Haram, resulting in shortages and soaring prices for fish in Nigeria (AFP, February 25, 2015).

Boko Haram leader Abubakr Shekau threatened to launch a war against Chad, Cameroon and Niger in a January 2015 video in retaliation for their alleged pro-French sympathies. The Boko Haram leader also took the opportunity to mock the Nigerian military, which has long complained a lack of equipment and arms is preventing them from properly engaging Boko Haram:

All this war equipment that you see being displayed in the screen are gotten from [the captured Nigerian towns of] Baga and Doro. Your army kept deceiving the world that you can’t fight us because you have no arms. Liars! You have all that it takes; you are just coward soldiers (Premium Times [Abuja], January 21, 2015).

In late January, Boko Haram spokesman Abu Musab al-Barnawi used a video to issue new threats to Chad and its MJTF partners:

We say to Niger and Chad that if they stop their assault on us and we will stop our assault on them; otherwise, just as you fight us we will fight you. We will inflame a war of which you have not before tasted its bitterness. Withdraw your soldiers before you regret what will come soon and you have no time to regret. (Premium Times [Lagos], January 28, 2015).

Boko Haram made its first attack on Chadian soil on February 13, using motorized canoes to set a fishing village on fire before being repulsed by Chadian soldiers in what the local Chadian governor described as a “publicity stunt” (Reuters, February 13, 2015).

Most Boko Haram members, including its leaders, belong to the once powerful Kanuri community whose former Bornu Empire straddled the modern borderland between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Though most of Boko Haram, including its leadership, are Kanuris, most of the militant group’s victims have also been Kanuri, dispelling any notion that the Islamist movement somehow represents the Kanuri community. Nonetheless, it is clear that Boko Haram members have been able to utilize family ties and other types of kinship to facilitate the cross-border movement of arms, supplies and personnel across local borders. Given this cross-border movement, it seems likely that Chadian security forces will have a close look at the local Kanuri community in southern Chad during their deployment in the region.

Keeping the military busy in the south may also appeal to the Déby regime; the last attempt by factions of the military to mount a coup was less than two years ago, while Déby himself came to power in a 1990 coup. However, continuous deployment to various theatres runs the risk of internal military breakdown and Chad is already committed to maintaining 1,000 men of its small army in Mali as part of UN peacekeeping operations.
Aware of the danger of reciprocal attacks from Boko Haram, Chad’s security forces have stepped up security, mounting roadblocks, securing the entrances to the capital, N’Djamena, guarding assembly points such as schools, markets and places of worship and rounding up suspected Boko Haram sympathizers in N’Djamena. Many of those arrested belong to the Kanuri community, though Interior Minister Abderahim Bireme Hamid insists that “The arrests are not targeted at a particular social group or community, but those suspected of being close to Boko Haram” (Xinhua, January 28, 2015).

Prior Performance in Military Interventions

Chad’s expeditionary force in Mali performed well in 2013 and did much of the fighting to expel the various armed Islamist groups that had seized northern Mali. However, heavy losses from ambushes and suicide bombings compelled President Déby to announce he was withdrawing the Chadian contingent because “The Chadian army does not have the skills to fight a shadowy, guerrilla-style war that is taking place in northern Mali” (Reuters, April 14, 2013).

Some observers have contrasted the Chadian military’s performance in Mali with their more controversial intervention in the Central African Republic from 2013-2014, where they were accused of political manipulation, arming the Séléka [4] rebels and brutality towards the non-Muslim population that culminated in the massacre of 30 unarmed civilians and the wounding of 300 others when they opened fire on a crowded Bangui market without apparent provocation. [5]

While there was much that was questionable and even indefensible in the performance of Chad’s army in the CAR, it must be recognized that the troops were carrying out N’Djamena’s own agenda in the country, which both modern Chad and pre-colonial sultanates in that region have always regarded as a political and economic hinterland (and prime source of slaves for Chad’s pre-colonial Islamic sultanates) whose rulers were determined by their northern neighbors. In this case, Déby pursued an agenda that involved installing a pliant, Muslim-dominated government in the CAR that would secure the oilfields of southern Chad and prevent opposition forces from using the CAR as a staging-post. Ultimately, pursuit of this policy led to large-scale protests against the Chadians in Bangui and the withdrawal of the Chadian mission.

Chad – A Growing Military Favorite of France and the United States

Chad’s more serious approach to military development and reform has attracted the support of the United States, which now finds serious flaws in its former Nigerian security partner. U.S. training programs and arms sales have broken down in recent years as a result of American concerns with human rights abuses, corruption in the officer corps, infiltration of the Nigerian security forces by Boko Haram and the failure of Nigerian forces to act on U.S.-supplied intelligence (New York Times, January 24, 2015). American concerns with infiltration are not unjustified; a number of senior Nigerian officers have been charged with divulging intelligence to Boko Haram.

Chad is currently host to Flintlock 2015, this year’s version of Flintock, a U.S.-led multinational military exercise conducted by Special Operations Command Forward – West Africa in the interests of improving cooperation and capacity in Saharan counter-terrorism operations. The three-week exercise, which began on February 16, involves more than 100 soldiers from the U.S. 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) as well as trainers from a number of Western nations.

Though President Déby was publicly musing about expelling all French troops from Chad only a few years ago, there has since been an about face on this policy, with Chad welcoming a boost in French forces as part of France’s major redeployment of its military forces in Africa, a shift in focus to mobile counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency units and bases known as Operation Barkhane. As part of this redeployment, French forces in Chad were boosted from 950 to 1250 men, with N’Djamena providing the overall command center at Kossei airbase, with two smaller bases in northern Chad at Faya Largeau and Abéché, both close to the Libyan border. Chadian opposition parties and human rights organizations were dismayed by the new agreement, which appears to legitimize and even guarantee the continued rule of President Idris Déby, who has held power since 1990 (RFI, July 19).

France is currently mounting reconnaissance missions in the Lake Chad border area and is supplying intelligence, fuel and munitions to the military coalition as well as providing ten military specialists to help coordinate military operations from Diffa in Niger (Reuters, February 5, 2015).

Despite the presence of roughly 200 ethnic groups in Chad, the military continues to be dominated by members of President Déby’s northern Zaghawa group despite being only somewhere between 2 to 4% of the population. This situation, however, seems to trouble President Déby more than it does his French and American allies.

The MJTF is slated to be replaced by an expanded and African Union-mandated version of 8750 men that will include troops from Benin as well as Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. Logistical and intelligence support will be supplied by France and the United States. Command of the new force will rotate amongst member nations, beginning with Nigeria. The force is proposed to include the following contributions of troops: Nigeria 3500; Chad 3500; Cameroon 750; Niger 750; Benin 250 (BBC, February 25, 2015). A mandate for the mission from the UN Security Council is being sought with French support; this would provide greater funding and access to equipment and training.


If Chad succeeds where Nigeria failed, the result might be a collapse in confidence in Nigeria’s federal government leading to a further break-up of the country as various regions and ethnic groups seek to provide for their own security. The trick will be how to integrate Nigerian forces into the multinational group’s operations despite a well-deserved lack of confidence in the Nigerian military’s ability to mount operations or safeguard intelligence, especially in the midst of a Nigerian presidential campaign pitting a northern Muslim against the southern Christian incumbent. At the moment, there is little cooperation between the various militaries in the Lake Chad region as each continues to operate largely independently – a state of affairs Abuja appears to favor. This appears to be a Nigerian vote in favor of continuing the regional status quo, in which multilateral cooperation is lacking, trade minimal and effective transportation networks so absent that it is impeding the struggle against Boko Haram. As one recent report noted, “it is still easier to fly to Europe from Nigeria than to any of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.” [6]

Given the resilient nature of Boko Haram, its appeal to local religious extremists and its growing connections to the international jihadi community, it is worth asking whether the Chadian deployment will have to be open-ended in order to prevent a Boko Haram revival even in the event current operations destroy existing militant formations. Nigeria’s military will not become reliable or capable overnight regardless of what types of weapons the government obtains during its current buying campaign from international illegal arms markets. An extended stay will be expensive for N’Djamena, which is suffering from a sharp decline in oil prices, but if the costs are covered by the West and compensation is offered in terms of French and American advanced training and arms for the elite corps of the Chadian military, the prospect might take on a greater appeal for Déby and his Zaghawa-dominated regime. However, Chad’s army remains small, and the current tempo of operations cannot be maintained for long. There is a window of opportunity now for the destruction of Boko Haram, but it is slowly being shut by political considerations in the Nigerian capital.


1. Boko Haram spokesman Abu Musab al-Barnawi recently described the Hausa-language term “Boko Haram” (loosely translated as “Western education is forbidden”) as a media invention designed to denigrate the Islamist movement, which he insisted be described in future using its full and official name: “We say that we did not name ourselves “Boko Haram. “Our call is not limited to prohibiting foreign schools and democracy. We are Jama’at Ahl al-Sunnah Lil Dawa wal Jihad. Therefore, this name [Boko Haram] is an attempt to bury the truth. We carry out the support for the Sunnah and establish governance of Allah in the land” (Premium Times [Abuja], January 21, 2015).

2. An amateur video purporting to show a hot firefight between Chadian troops and Boko Haram fighters can be seen at a pro-Chadian government news-site: Though there is the continual sound of gunfire it is difficult to tell whether any of the rounds are actually incoming. There are no apparent Chadian casualties despite the failure of many of the soldiers to seek any kind of cover; at one point a soldier crosses in front of the Chadian firing line without suffering harm. More credible video of Chadian operations in Nigeria can be seen at:

3. For the Bakassi dispute, see: Andrew McGregor, “Cameroon Rebels Threaten Security in Oil-Rich Gulf of Guinea,” Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor 8(43), November 24, 2013,

4. Séléka was a coalition led by the now-exiled Michel Djotodia and composed of the following groups: Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain (FDPC – led by General Abdoulaye Miskine [real name Martin Koumtamadji], a career rebel/freebooter in the Chad/CAR border region); Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP); Union des Forces Démocratiques pour le Rassemblement, UFDR; Convention Patriotique pour le Salut du Kodro (CPSK); and the Alliance pour la renaissance et la refondation (A2R).

5. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Press briefing notes on Central African Republic and Somalia, Geneva, April 4, 2014,

6. Onyedimmakachukwu, “It’s Time for Lake Chad Countries to Move from War Comrades to Business Partners,” February 24, 2015,