Why Boko Haram’s internal rift probably isn’t good news


Given what we know about insurgencies in general, and Boko Haram in particular, recent schisms within Boko Haram can play out in three ways, analyst Hilary Matfess writes for The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage:

 1) Violence between the sects — The veiled threats made by the leaders of the two factions suggest that fighting between the two groups is possible. …This is what happened in Darfur in the early to mid-2000s. One review of the years following peak violence in the country found that rebel fragmentation prompted “sporadic and diverse” incidents, including battles between the major combatants and among subgroups, and against civilians. In short: More violence between the factions will mean increased civilian casualties, more of an incentive to develop self-protection militias and a rise in overall insecurity.

2) Division, before fading out — This is not the first time that the insurgency has splintered. In 2012, a group calling itself Jama’atu Ansarul Muslimina Fi Biladis Sudan, which means “Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa,” broke away from Boko Haram and established itself as Ansaru. This organization was led by Khalid al-Barnawi (no apparent relation to Abu Musab al-Barnawi)…..

3) Coexistence, and the creation of a dual insurgency — In a third scenario, the new ISWAP faction will be a durable splinter group, capable of engaging in sustained violence against the targets of its choice. Mali saw this dynamic with the founding of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) in 2011 as a splinter group of al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). ….

“While it remains unclear how the factionalization of Boko Haram will manifest itself, none of these scenarios suggest an end to the fighting in this war-torn region,” Matfess adds. “Experiences from other recent African conflicts suggest that the development of this Boko Haram splinter group will make it all the more difficult to put an end to the crisis.”

 Hilary Matfess is a research analyst focused on governance and security in sub-Saharan Africa and a researcher with the Nigeria Social Violence Project


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