EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

Peacekeeping

5 - Nigeria and Boko Haram

Grade: C+
Unity 2/5
Resources 2/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 3/5
Total 10/20

Europe’s support for the battle against Boko Haram has been incoherent, but there are signs of progress

 

At the beginning of 2015, Nigeria appeared to be on the brink of chaos. The Islamist militant group Boko Haram scored a series of victories early in the year, and presidential elections in March were widely expected to spark serious violence or even a civil war.

These worst-case scenarios were avoided. Under pressure from the UK and US, among others, President Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat in the elections, handing power to Muhammadu Buhari in April. Buhari ramped up operations against Boko Haram, promising to defeat the group by the end of the year. While this proved impossible, the Islamists lost much of their territory inside Nigeria in 2015. They did, however, cause major disruption in Cameroon, Niger, and Chad.

France offered considerable diplomatic and military support to regional efforts to contain the threat, although a new multinational taskforce to fight the Islamists – made up of troops from the region – has been slow to take off. Germany has also invested in resolving the crisis, offering support to its former colony Cameroon. The UK assisted the Nigerian military, but there were strategic differences between London and Paris over how to conduct the campaign.

Whereas France pushed in tandem with African states for strong UN political support, and potentially funding, for the proposed regional taskforce, the UK urged a more cautious approach. This reflected concerns about the human rights records of the contributing armed forces, as well as Nigeria’s desire to control operations in its territory. The European Commission earmarked €50 million for the multinational force, but has yet to disburse it due to these disagreements. Buhari has been more open to international humanitarian assistance than his predecessor, and the EU released extra funds for Boko Haram-affected areas in the summer.

Despite the group’s defeats, it has the potential to inflict further violence on Nigeria and its neighbours, and has aimed to build ties with Islamic State (ISIS). Stabilising northern Nigeria and its neighbours will require patience and large amounts of aid.