By Terrence Kuanum

There has been an upsurge of praises for the Chadian President, Idriss Deby, for the seemingly fantastic exploits in the war against Boko Haram terrorist operating in the Lake Chad Basin Region. I have read commentaries and epistles with regards to this feat by some supposed enlightened minds that dot the nook and crannies of the country.

At the initial stages, I almost joined the bandwagon in giving legitimacy to the Idriss Deby abracadabra. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I restrained and instead chose to understand the issues at stake. And I was glad I towed this line because the revelations afterward typified the height of insincerity of heart and purpose.

I say this for two reasons; one is the fact that Idris Deby of Chad was not fighting terrorism but fighting for his political survival, having held unto power for over 30 years that brought about some form of resentment from Chadian rebels on the Lake Chad islands. Secondly is the fact that some mischief-makers in Nigeria that have either by commission or omission refused to acknowledge the efforts of the Nigerian Military in the fight against terrorism in North-East Nigeria and consequently went to town with disparaging remarks aimed at promoting heroism on the part of the Chadian President and futilely attempting to rub mud on the faces of the Nigerian authorities.

As a start, I am convinced the Idris Deby war escapades have been politicized and hijacked by those whose stock in trade is to propagate fake news in Nigeria, all in a bid to discredit the government and sell their business in return for a plate of porridge. But they got the plot wrong this time around with the revelations as regards to what transpired in Chad.

It is thus pertinent to state that what transpired in Chad was the incursion of Chadian Rebels in the North East region of Chad that led to the death of over 90 Chadian soldiers. This was on the heels that there was an initial attempt in 2019 by the rebel group, Union of Resistance Forces (Union des forces de la résistance – UFR), to reach the capital N’Djamena to overthrow President Idriss Déby and “set up a transitional government uniting all of the country’s forces.” This incursion was aborted following the French intervention.

Accordingly, the Chadian Army stated on 9 February 2019, that “more than 250 terrorists, including four leaders,” were captured, and over forty of their vehicles destroyed. However instructive is the fact that by asking France’s military forces to intervene on his territory for the first time since 2008, President Idriss Déby showed that he took the risk very seriously which was due to a domestic situation marked by growing social upheaval, and also to burgeoning dissent within his ethnic community, which the rebels hope to exploit.

The events that led to the death of 92 Chadian soldiers happened in the Lac province, on the Boma peninsula, which borders Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon in March. Idriss Deby, the Chadian President, saw this as a threat to his continued hold on power, and he consequently went on a clearance mission that now dots the social media spaces.

It must be indeed stated the Idriss Deby of Chad didn’t lead his army to clear out Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria as speculated. Credible information indicates that the Chadian President lead a clearance operation of some rebel groups on the Lake Chad Islands plotting to overthrow his government. This is also on the heels that over 80% of the Boko Haram faction of Islamic State of West African Province are Chadian rebels with operational headquarters in the Lake Chad Islands.

If we recall, Boko Haram’s split occurred in 2016. At the time, due to the counter-offensive launched by the Nigerian Military. Boko Haram – which in 2015 had become a branch of ISIS known as the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) – split in two. One group led by Abu Musab al-Barnawi and Mamman Nur left Boko Haram’s headquarters in the Sambisa forest and reached Lake Chad. There, they successfully rallied the bulk of the rebel fighters in Chad and obtained recognition from ISIS, thereby keeping the name ISWAP.

So the activities of ISWAP have constituted tremendous security challenges for Idriss Deby in his quest to hold onto power, and these series of confrontation led to the death of over 90 Chadian soldiers. It must also be noted that ISWAP is undoubtedly the most dangerous because of its links to ISIS. ISWAP also has ties in the Lake Chad region with the group formerly known as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), an affiliate of the Islamic State, operating in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. The group formed as a splinter from Al Mourabitoun, an Al Qaeda-affiliated militant organization, when Adnan Abu Walid al Sahrawi swore allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) and its emir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

Credible intelligence sources had indicated that ISIS had placed ISGS under the banner of ISWAP with operational headquarters in the Islands on Chadian territories in the Lake Chad Basin Region from where they teamed up with other Chadian rebel groups to launch offensives against the Idriss Deby led government and other countries within the triangle.

For starters, it would make no sense that the Chadian government would carry out an operation in another country without express clearance or participation from that country given the existence of the Multinational Joint Taskforce, a combined multinational formation, comprising units, mostly military, from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria and headquartered in N’Djamena.

So what this tells us is that whatever exploits that have been credited to Idris Deby with regards to that operation was strictly a Chadian affair and on Chadian soil. This much was corroborated when Idriss Déby stated that he had pushed jihadist troops out of Chadian territory, taken back command posts on the lake from Boko Haram factions, and deployed his men into Niger and Nigeria to hunt down fighters who had fled and to “clean up” the border areas with those countries. On 3 April, he also announced that operations would continue in neighboring countries and called on them to provide troops to prevent rebels from regaining lost ground on the border areas of Niger and Nigeria.

This is the actual situation in Chad and not what a segment of the population wants us to believe all in the despicable attempt to discredit whatever gains that have been recorded by the Nigerian Military so far.

I am not concerned with how Idriss Deby is fighting for his political survival. However, I am with the way and manner some of us have elected to turn the truth on its head with regards to national issues, especially the efforts of the government in the fight against terrorism and other militant groups in Nigeria.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is the era of fake news, and in Nigeria, fake news is propagated by fake activists to the detriment of our collective interest. They don’t care about whatever implication their actions and inactions might have on the psyche of the generality of Nigerians. For them, it’s about their interest and their interest is the money.

Still using the Chadian example, it suffices to mention that all that praises heaped on Idriss Deby for exploits in the fight against Boko Haram terrorist was deliberate. It was designed to cast aspersion on the efforts of the government. Little wonder why some of these fake activists had the effrontery to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to demonstrate leadership like his Chadian counterpart by physically leading the war against Boko Haram terrorists in North-East Nigeria.

That was quite a low one, which indeed exposed the mischief behind the news. For whatever it is worth, Idris Deby is fighting for his political survival. The French troops under the code name Operation Barkhane have been on the ground providing him with that military support it needs to keep the rebels at bay.

I am therefore of the considered opinion that Nigerians must as a matter of necessity disregard the mischievous information been bandied around by these group of people all in a bid to cause disaffection in the polity, which on the one hand might be a ploy to heighten tension in the nation so that their paymasters can take advantage of the accompanying crisis to take over government through the back door.

We must also admit that indeed these are trying times, and those against the interest of Nigeria are amongst us. They wine and dine with us, and they also sing the national anthem when the need arises. But in their closets, they are hawks that have sold their souls to the devil in return for a plate of porridge. Yes, this is the starkness of reality facing us. It behooves on all well-meaning Nigerians to rise to the occasion and join hands with the government to preserve our country not just for us, but for the generations unborn who would have nowhere to call home.

For the records, the military expertise of Chad cannot be compared to that of Nigeria. There is no way; it can be said that Chad, under Idriss Deby, is more committed to the fight against terrorism than Nigeria. That is indeed an anomaly. It is fake news, and fake activists propagate it. This is the actual situation of things as it stands.

Kuanum is
Field Researcher,
Global Amnesty Watch


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