Jihadists’ Focus in the Sahel is Shifting, Intelligence Report Warns 

Too many guns - a fighter with the Coalition of Azawad Movements, the main rebel coalition in northern Mali. Photo: UN Photo/Marco Dormino/Flikr

A political risk consultancy, Menas Associates, has warned in an intelligence report that the focus of attention of jihadism in the Sahel is shifting.

According to it, the focus is shifting from the three borders region — between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — to the Lake Chad region.

Menas Associates which also provides actionable intelligence for its clients, says the development follows the March 23 attack by Boko Haram’s Bakura Doron group on the Chadian army garrison on the Bohoma peninsula.

The political risk consultancy has also been helping multinational companies operate in the Middle-East, Africa and other emerging markets since the late 1970s

The Chadian army’s successful retaliation may be influencing the shift of attention by the Jihadists. 

However, an excerpt from SaharaFocus, Menas’ monthly intelligence report on the Sahara region is raising questions on whether Boko Haram will try and re-establish itself in the Lake Chad region.

Also being interrogated are the alleged 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 Haram will try and re-establish itself in the upcoming rainy season, and the problems in the Nigerian and Chadian armies will need to be monitored.

‘’Déby is too dependent on the rent income that is earned by his armed forces and the support that he receives from Western allies’’, says the intelligence report. 

The report also argues that 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.’’

Continuing, the report says 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’’, says the intelligence report.

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