Posted April 22, 2021 1:18 pm by

Kano, Nigeria, April 22 – The death of Chadian President Idriss Deby has been a hefty blow to the anti-jihadist campaign in the Sahel, but especially so for Nigeria, locked in a 12-year-old battle with Boko Haram and Islamic State-allied militants.

After Deby’s death announced on Tuesday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari was quick to pay tribute, saying he would leave a “vacuum” in the fight against Africa’s Islamist militants.

Deby was killed on a northern front line by rebels based in Libya, the army said on Tuesday. Commanders swiftly put his son in charge, leaving questions over Chad’s political stability and its regional security commitments. 

Under Deby, Chad’s army was a leading force against jihadists in the Sahel and Lake Chad region.

In 2015, it crossed into Nigeria, becoming the key to driving Boko Haram from key towns in northern Borno state under a regional cooperation deal. Stationed along the border, Chadian troops also acted as a buffer against militants.

Nigerian troops are already on alert, especially along the border, worried that instability after Deby’s death will sap the Chadian army presence there, Nigerian military sources said.

“The military is on high alert in the northeast, particularly in the Lake Chad area along the border with Chad,” one military source said. “If Chad falls into chaos it will affect Nigeria and Niger directly.”

Northeast Nigeria’s Borno state borders Chad in the volatile Lake Chad region, allowing Boko Haram and militants from splinter faction Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) access to the porous frontier area as a refuge and a staging ground for attacks.

Nigeria’s military has struggled to end the country’s conflict since it began 12 years ago, leaving 36,000 dead, forcing two million from their homes and spreading across borders to Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Last year, Deby had warned Chadian forces would no longer send troops over its border after a series of devastating military losses in the Lake Chad region, though troops remained on the frontier with Nigeria.

But he visited Buhari, himself a former army general, in Nigeria just last month to discuss security on the border.

Vincent Foucher, fellow at the French National Centre for Science Research, said the military edge Chadian troops had in the 2015 campaign was no longer the same as Boko Haram and ISWAP were now more experienced fighting forces.

“Chadian troops were supposed to come back. They were expected. With the Nigerian forces taking serious hits now in northern Borno, their presence would probably be welcome. Read More…