Violent Extremism in the Lake Chad Basin Region: Evolution and Impact of Boko Haram

Terrorism and violent extremism remain significant threats to peace and security in Africa. While no country is immune to these threats, countries bordering Lake Chad have been particularly susceptible. The Lake Chad Region, comprising Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, has become the scene for an offensive by Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awatiw’al Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram. While ideological, religious and socio-cultural ties shared by countries bordering Lake Chad eased the group’s territorial expansion, socio-economic challenges, environmental degradation and poor governance provide further insights into understanding the group’s ability to gain ground in the region. The relentless attacks perpetrated for more than a decade by Boko Haram in a region already characterized by multiple dynamics of instability, therefore, raise a sense of urgency. It threatens to keep the region embroiled in conflict and violence if not adequately addressed. Much as national and regional responses, notably the military campaigns by the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) are commendable, their activities have encountered several challenges which have limited its effectiveness. It is becoming evident that the war against Boko Haram cannot be won by relying solely on the MNJTF given that the region’s main approach that focuses on military operations is yet to achieve total victory. If the Lake Chad Region is to fully utilize its resources and potentials, overcome its challenges and thrive, countering Boko Haram’s strength and exploiting its weaknesses beyond military response becomes a necessity. This calls for the implementation of policies and approaches that address the root causes of the insurgency in order to find sustainable solutions to violent extremism in the Lake Chad Region.