The President of Chad, Idriss Deby, visited the Nigerian capital Abuja today to meet with both outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan and President-elect Muhammadu Buhari on how to best jointly combat the looming threat of Boko Haram. Speaking to reporters, Deby lamented that cooperation with Nigeria could use improvement, and that such coordination has been a problem in the past.
“If we want to continue the fight we’ll have to make sure that our two armies work together,” Deby told reporters after meeting with Jonathan. Describing the situation as “regrettable,” Deby noted that the long-term military work being done to diminish the Boko Haram threat– particularly now that they have allied with the Islamic State and officially changed their name to “Islamic State West Africa Province” (ISWAP)– has been too unorganized to deliver a final blow to the terrorist group.
“It is regrettable that the two armies, that is the Nigerian army and the Chadian Army, are working separately in the field… If they were operating jointly, they would have achieved more results,” he stated.
Deby has been critical of the Nigerian military since his army first joined a coalition to fight Boko Haram in January. “We want the Nigerians to come and occupy, so we can advance,” he said upon the takeover of the town of Damasak from Boko Haram terrorists, adding that lack of permissions to travel within Nigeria were “wasting time, for the benefit of Boko Haram.” “We’re not an army of occupation,” he added, seemingly addressing potential concerns by Nigerian officials that having a second strong military in their nation would result in an invasion.
The story of Damasak reflects many of the concerns that Chad’s government has regarding the Nigerian military.
The Nigerian military claimed to have liberated Damasak on March 21, reporting findings of mass graves and abandoned weapons and that the terrorists previously occupying the town had fled. Three days later, Boko Haram stormed the town and kidnapped between 350-500 residents, who were all told by the Nigerian military that they had been freed three days prior. It was not until late April, when the Chadian military arrived in Damasak, that the government could official claim the town to have been freed. The Chadian military reported finding dozens of child soldiers hidden across the rubble of what was once the town, who had remained hidden when the Nigerian military arrived, fearing the precise sort of reemergence of Boko Haram that occurred.
Buhari, the incoming president of Nigeria, told the public that he was ready to work closely with Deby to increase the efficiency of their efforts. “We know how Chad, Niger and Cameroun has been helping Nigeria to secure our border and you know this helps in commerce and industry. Due to the insurgency attacks, some of the bridges were blown up while infrastructure were destroyed,” he told reporters. “These were some of the things that we discussed and God willing, when the administration (Buhari’s) is in place, we will sit and make sure we have a comprehensive review of the security situation in the North-east and how it affects the country,” he added.
The remarks come at a time of heightened optimism for the Nigerian military, after rescuing nearly 1,000 girls, women, and children who were being held hostage in the dense Sambisa forest, believed to be the last major stronghold of Boko Haram.