With its leader missing, Boko Haram may have a new man in charge who is willing to negotiate

Will Boko Haram’s reign of terror end?
Will Boko Haram’s reign of terror end?
Image: Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye
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Boko Haram apparently has a new leader, and he is willing to negotiate with Nigeria.

Founded in 2002, the militant Islamist group that advocates for an Islamic state in Nigeria rose to notoriety last year when it kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok. Its numerous attacks have left many people dead and displaced. For the past four months, there has been speculation about the whereabouts of the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.

He was last seen in a video in March, announcing his allegiance to ISIL, also known as the Islamic State. Since then, he has been missing in action. In the most recent video released by the group in March, Shekau was absent—raising further questions about who is leading Boko Haram.

Idriss Dèby, the president of Chad, may have provided some answers. Speaking in N’Djamena yesterday (Aug. 12), Dèby announced that Abubakar Shekau was longer in control of the group, France24 reported. He said Boko Haram had a new leader, who is willing to negotiate.

“There is someone apparently called Mahamat Daoud, who is said to have replaced Abubakar Shekau, and he wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government,” Dèby said. “For my part, I would advise not to negotiate with a terrorist.”

Dèby did not say what had happened to Abubakar Shekau, though he claims that the insurgency group has been weakened. Chad has been leading the regional fightback effort against Boko Haram and, along with Cameroon, Niger and Benin, and Nigeria’s military, are part of the five-country regional military force that is being put together to fight Boko Haram’s six-year reign of terror.

“Boko Haram is decapitated,” Dèby said. “There are little groups [of Boko Haram members] scattered throughout east Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon. It is within our power to definitively overcome Boko Haram.

Earlier this year, Chadians troops helped Nigeria regain control of northeastern towns and villages in the country. But despite the increased military operations of both Chad and Nigeria, bombings and attacks have continued—with the latest attack having taken place yesterday in a market in Borno, in the northeast of Nigeria, killing 50 people.

It is not the first time negotiations between Boko Haram and Nigeria have been mooted. Last October, Nigeria’s ceasefire attempt with Boko Haram failed. The insurgency group claimed that it had not agreed a ceasefire with the Nigerian government.