Cameroon’s military campaign against the Boko Haram insurgency started late but has met with partial success. To consolidate gains and bring lasting peace to the Far North, the government must now shift to long-term socio-economic development, countering religious radicalism and reinforcing public services.
For the last two-and-a-half years, Cameroon has confronted the insurgents of the Nigeria-born group Boko Haram. The conflict has already caused 1,500 deaths, and led to 155,000 displaced persons and 73,000 refugees. Although the first attacks occurred in March 2014, the jihadist group’s presence in Cameroon’s Far North region dates back to at least 2011. It has benefited from a network of local collaborators and has exploited vulnerabilities that the region shares with north-eastern Nigeria. While the first eighteen months of conflict were characterised by conventional warfare, the group has now switched to an asymmetric mode of attack. The Cameroonian government’s focus on a military response has been partly successful, but the structural problems that allowed this threat to arise have not been addressed. The fight against Boko Haram requires adapting and improving security structures, and long-term crisis resolution policies that will prevent a revival of this threat in a different form, and stop insecurity in the region reigniting.
The Far North is the poorest of Cameroon’s regions and has the lowest school enrolment rate. A combination of weak national integration and historic neglect by the state have for many years contributed to violence and the presence of smugglers in the region, with a proliferation of highway robbers, traffickers and petty criminals. It was vulnerable to this jihadist insurrection due to geographical and cultural overlap with north-eastern Nigeria, the presence of an intolerant version of Islam and the repercussions of the Chadian civil wars.
Boko Haram exploited these vulnerabilities to make the Far North a logistics base, a safe haven and a source of recruitment. The group has particularly gathered support among disaffected youth in districts adjacent to Nigeria through the use of ideological indoctrination, socio-economic incentives and coercion. Cameroonian security forces, starting in 2013, dismantled hidden weapon stockpiles and arrested Boko Haram leaders, pushing the group to threaten and eventually attack Cameroon directly. In the last two-and-a-half years, the Far North region has experienced at least 460 attacks and about 50 suicide bombings.
Cameroon’s government was slow to react against the Boko Haram menace, due to historic tensions with Nigeria, an aversion to intervening in what it perceived as its neighbour’s internal problem, and a fear of becoming a target. Despite these early lapses, the government was later able to put in place an effective military response. This response disrupted the group and guided the reaction of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), the sub-regional task force with which Cameroon was reluctant to associate at first. Nonetheless, the weak point of the Cameroonian response remains the lack of commitment to development initiatives and the absence of counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation programs. Indeed, some measures adopted after the Maroua attacks in July 2015, such as the ban on full-face veils, the closing of the border, restrictions on motorcycle taxis, and abuses by the military could radicalise a portion of the population, including women, and have already accentuated socio-economic vulnerabilities for many young people, leading some to join Boko Haram.
Despite the geographical distance, the war against Boko Haram has not only impacted the Far North. The conflict has reinforced President Paul Biya’s leadership and boosted the legitimacy of the nation’s defence forces with parts of the population. The war has nonetheless had a negative effect on the country’s economy and has created ethnic and social cleavages, as seen in the stigmatisation of the Kanuri people in the Far North, often indiscriminately associated with the jihadist group. More generally, the conflict highlights a deficit of representation, although without fundamentally threatening the legitimacy of the state: the gerontocratic political elite of the Far North is increasingly challenged by a very young population.
The fight against Boko Haram is a test for security cooperation and sub-regional solidarity. The intervention by Chadian armed forces both in Cameroon, and, alongside forces from Niger, in Nigeria has reduced the group’s conventional military capacities. Despite some mistrust, the countries in the region have been able to establish the MNJTF and Nigeria finally accepted that Cameroon may intervene on its territory. This new multilateral force has slowed down the frequency of suicide attacks in Cameroon and is currently engaged against a dissident faction of the group in the Lake Chad Basin. However, the MNJTF lacks funding and logistical resources.
In order to consolidate military gains against Boko Haram and bring back lasting peace in the Far North, Cameroon’s government must shift from a security-based approach to focus on socio-economic development and countering religious radicalism. Due to heavy losses during confrontations with the Cameroonian army, Boko Haram has concentrated most of its efforts for the last three months in the Cameroonian areas of the Lake Chad Basin (Darak and Hile Alifa), where it controls part of the fishing economy and illicit trafficking and continues to stage suicide attacks. This shift in Boko Haram’s centre of gravity calls for a reinforcement of the security package around Lake Chad, as well as measures to counter the group’s financing in that area. A long-term solution should see the return of the state, which would build on the role of civil society and the youth, as well as local elites and external partners to rebuild public services in a long-neglected region.
To encourage development in the Far North, combat religious radicalism and reinforce state presence and public services
To the government of Cameroon:
Elaborate a development and economic relaunch program in the Far North by, as a priority:
improving assistance to internally displaced persons and victims of Boko Haram, as well as education opportunities and health infrastructure;
reopening the Cameroon-Nigeria border for heavy goods vehicles and traders, with security provided by military escorts, restoring and developing the road network and launching high labour-intensity construction projects; and
ensuring transparency and good governance of projects initiated in the Far North, in partnership with local populations, including youth and representatives of different ethnic communities.
To finance this program, allocate to the region a share of the budget of the triennial emergency plan and of the public investment budget and coordinate with countries of the Lake Chad Basin to ask for support from donors.
Create a program of awareness raising against religious radicalism, and a program of de-radicalisation in prisons.
Encourage the security services and judiciary to distinguish among members of Boko Haram taking account of the seriousness of their crimes and their level of involvement in the group, understanding that categories can overlap; ensure that suspects and detainees are treated fairly and in accordance with international law; and support the creation of a “restorative justice” program, including a social reintegration component for forced recruits, informants and low-level logisticians, not suspected of serious human rights abuses.
Arrange an official visit of the president, leaders of the opposition and civil society, to the departments of the Far North targeted by Boko Haram, and organise the next 20 May national parade in Maroua. This visit would be an opportunity to launch a social cohesion and intercommunal reinforcement program to counter the stigmatisation of communities perceived as being Boko Haram sympathisers.
To civil society, elected and traditional chiefs of the Far North:
Adopt a collective and inclusive approach to raising awareness on religious radicalism, including by taking into account cultural, gender and social particularities, and emphasising the need for dialogue tolerance and openness within families and in places such as Quranic schools, mosques, markets and prisons.
To countries of the sub-region:
Elaborate a medium-term development strategy for the Lake Chad Basin, coordinated with the Cameroonian development plan for the Far North and ask for support from donors for financing such plans.
To Cameroon’s donors:
Encourage the government’s development projects in the Far North, and coordinated initiatives in the sub-region for the development of the Lake Chad Basin, by guaranteeing 50 per cent financing, assuming suitable guarantees of the proper use of funds.
To improve the security response to the Boko Haram threat
To the government of Cameroon:
Cut off Boko Haram funding sources while closely monitoring the livestock market in the Far North and economic activity in the Lake Chad region.
Block Boko Haram recruitment:
by improving cooperation between the Cameroonian armed forces and the local population. This can be achieved through civil-military operations and eradicating human rights violations perpetrated by security forces, notably by consistently sanctioning wrongdoers;
by lifting, on a case by case basis, restrictions which currently affect economic activity such as that on motorcycles; and
by putting in place a more efficient communication strategy through drawing on and supporting community-based radio stations, through the creation of awareness-raising shows on national channels, aired in local languages in the Far North, and through countering the promotion of violent radicalism on social networks.
Adapt security structures to respond to recent changes within Boko Haram, and improve the strategy against suicide attacks via collaboration with the local population and reinforced forward-looking intelligence.
Ensure better coordination between the three military operations in the Far North, including through the Multinational Joint Task Force, and reinforce cooperation with Nigeria and the other countries in the Lake Chad Basin.
Limit the usage of vigilante groups, and progressively demobilise them if Boko Haram continues to weaken.
Plan for the progressive return of better-equipped police and gendarmerie units along Cameroonian borders if Boko Haram continues to weaken.
To Cameroon’s donors:
Co-financing the preparing of the Multinational Joint Task Force for operations, adding an important component of training on human rights in wartime, while possibly making funding conditional on respect for human rights by armies of the region.
I.IntroductionThe security situation in Cameroon has deteriorated since Boko Haram’s bloody emergence in 2014. That came as a terrible shock in a country that up to that point had seen itself as a stable state in an unstable sub-region. The Far North – one of Cameroon’s ten administrative regions – is the theatre of this conflict that is sub-regional in scale. This report is the latest in a series of Crisis Group publications on the jihadist threat in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. It analyses Boko Haram’s impact on the Far North, the factors that have facilitated its breakthrough, its recruitment strategies, its alliances and its influence on the country. It also assesses the government’s responses and the repercussions of the conflict for the country. The report is based on documentary research and on more than 230 interviews carried out between January and October 2016 in Yaoundé and seventeen locations in the Far North. A Crisis Group analyst also spent time with the Cameroonian defence forces in March 2016 and visited the advanced positions of Operation Alpha and Operation Emergence 4 at the border with Nigeria.II.Far North: History of a Vulnerable RegionLocated between north-eastern Nigeria and south-western Chad, the Far North has historically acted as a channel for trade and transit between the three countries. With four million inhabitants spread across its 34,263 square kilometres, this Sahelian region is the most densely populated in Cameroon. In the 1990s, climate change and deep poverty in rural areas – home to 85 per cent of the population – exacerbated the competition for access to natural resources in a region already suffering intercommunal tensions and recurrent episodes of violence. Boko Haram highlighted and accentuated the structural problems.A.Far North: Between Violence and SmugglingEver since Cameroon became independent, the Far North has seen trafficking in weapons, fuel and drugs, and various types of violent banditry. This permanent insecurity follows a long history of looting and warfare in pre-colonial and colonial times across this region, whose effect on relations between communities remains evident. Around the 1980s, communal tensions were compounded by the phenomena of highway robbery, hostage-taking and conflicts over land.The first post-independence conflicts in the Far North were intercommunal – between the Kotoko and the Choa Arabs, between the Kotoko and the Massa, and between the Massa and the Musgum in Logone and Chari. They were frequently sparked by struggles for access to resources, particularly those between the Kotoko and the Choa Arabs. Insecurity in the area reached its highest levels between 1990 and 2010, with an influx of former combatants from the civil wars in Chad and the Central African Republic, who linked up with local bandits to form highway robbery gangs from the East to the Far North. The gendarmerie struggled to cope with this more violent and sophisticated banditry, leading the authorities to create the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) in 2001. Some highway robbers then turned to hostage-taking or joined up with poachers.The Far North is located at the meeting point of the frontiers with Nigeria and Chad, where there are significant price and currency differences and intense customs activities. It is an area with a long history of trafficking in a wide range of products: watered-down fuel (zoua-zoua), Tramol, cannabis or Indian hemp (a local drug), arms, medicines, stolen vehicles and spare parts. Trade routes, some of them longstanding, run alongside smuggling tracks, generating unusually dynamic business flows that extend from legal trade to informal trade in legal goods and the trafficking of illegal products.The Logone and Chari department sees substantial trafficking in light and small calibre weaponry, supplied from Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Libya. The Far North is both a market and a transit corridor – which explains the large number of weapons in circulation, as evidenced by the seizures made during police searches of Marou’s Dougoi district and Kousseri’s Mawak and Kodogo districts in 2014. All the region’s departments see trafficking in drugs, medicines, stolen cars and oil. Petrol trading is most significant in communities on the border with Nigeria, where petrol is subsidised. Tramol is often sold from Nigeria into the Far North, while cannabis grown in southern Cameroon is consumed in the Far North and also sold to Nigeria and neighbouring countries.B.A Region Vulnerable to Infiltration by Boko HaramCameroon’s Far North is closely related to north-eastern Nigeria in historical, religious, commercial, ethnic, socio-cultural and linguistic terms, sharing the Arab, Kanuri and Mandara vehicular languages. Rather than being separated by a frontier in the traditional sense, the two regions share a border area. The same ethnic groups – Kanuri, Glavda, Mandara, Choa Arab –, the same families, and sometimes the same villages are spread on both sides. Islamic culture is also a common trait, particularly as many Cameroonians study at Nigerian Quranic schools. Finally, they share a long history, including conquest by Usman Dan Fodio, coming from Sokoto in the 18th century, and important pockets of resistance to this conquest and others. These factors helped Boko Haram extend its reach into Cameroon.1.Dismal socio-economic indicators and absence of the stateIn the Far North, poverty, low school enrolment, social divisions and the weak presence of the state are factors that increase vulnerability. With 74.3 per cent of its population living below the poverty line – compared with a national average of 37.5 per cent – the Far North is Cameroon’s poorest region. Vulnerabilities are higher in rural areas, particularly in the localities on the border with Nigeria, with a poverty rate above 80 per cent in Fotokol, Kolofata and Mayo Moskota districts – those that are most affected by the conflict with Boko Haram. While the net school enrolment rate reached 84.1 per cent in 2014 at the national level, it is only 46 per cent in the Far North – and a mere 20 per cent in the border districts mentioned above. Moreover, behind these averages lie differences between communities: the Kanuri have a particularly low school enrolment rate.Due to many years of neglect of the Far North, the Cameroonian state is partly responsible for a lack of public investment, industrial development and the poor condition of health infrastructure and road networks. The state only invested in security to contain and then, in the 2000s, suppress the growing phenomenon of highway robbery – yet without destroying the smuggling networks that have benefited from corruption among customs officers and the security forces.Before the 2011 presidential election, local elites handed out identity cards to thousands of residents of frontier localities, irrespective of their nationality, hoping they would vote for the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM); this made it easier for criminals and non-Cameroonian members of Boko Haram to get identity documents.These failings left a section of the local population feeling abandoned. This is not a universally shared perception because, despite the weak presence of the state, the Far North is not under-represented in the government or the senior civil service – thanks to an informal policy of geopolitical balance that provides for appointments to be distributed among the elites of all ten regions. The vice prime minister, the finance minister and the speaker of the National Assembly come from the Far North. But the elite is getting old: most members of the government from the Far North are aged more than 60, while the median age of the national population is eighteen. There is an overt rift between generations; young people accuse their elders of pocketing the money earmarked for emergency plans for the region.2.A Sufi Islamic tradition under competitive pressureIn the Far North, Boko Haram has been able to take advantage of the presence of a “radical” or “fundamentalist” Islam. Muslims and Christians each represent about two fifths of the population, and animists a fifth. But this overall average conceals areas of Muslim concentration, such as Maroua and the localities neighbouring the Nigerian border such as Fotokol, Amchidé, Kerawa and Ashigashia.Syncretic and derived from Sufism, Islam in Cameroon is generally considered “tolerant”. Even so, fundamentalist strands have sunk local roots since the 1980s. In the Far North, the predominant Tijaniyya (Sufi) brotherhood now faces competition not only from a syncretic version of Sunniism – historically close to the political authorities, seen as moderate and mainly adhering to the Malekite tradition – but also from a radical or fundamentalist version of Sunniism – drawing its inspiration from Wahhabism and Salafism, it is promoted by preachers, spread through CDs and cassettes sold in markets or circulated via Bluetooth, Facebook or WhatsApp. Although the radical movements are weak in the Far North, they are pervasive in the frontier localities already mentioned, as well as in Maroua.The spread of fundamentalist Islam also owes something to the Ahali Suna movement, which in the 2000s embarked on the propagation of a literal interpretation of the Quran in Yaoundé and the Far North. Islam from north-eastern Nigeria, which many Cameroonian Muslims view as a nearby “Mecca”, is highly influential in the Far North: the local Tijaniyya remains under the influence of the Sufi brotherhoods in Yola, capital of the Nigerian state of Adamawa, while other branches of Sunnism have an allegiance to the leading modibo (marabouts – spiritual guides) in Maiduguri. The Nigerian modibo have always travelled around northern Cameroon and in 2014, their portraits were still on display in rural buses throughout the region.
Old imams are being confronted by some members of the young generation, who have studied in Nigeria, Sudan or the Middle East and have a deeper knowledge of the Quran and the Arabic language. Accusing the old generation of practising an Islam coloured by local traditions and innovations, they lobby to be given positions of responsibility in major mosques. These rifts reflect social factors: for many of these young returnees, appointment as imam offers the sole route to a position in society, because the state does not recognise their Islamic diplomas. That causes frustration, pushing them toward the establishment of their own mosques and greater radicalism in their sermons.
Well before the Boko Haram attacks, the Far North was prey to trafficking and banditry and was thus a security concern for the Cameroonian state. Inter-communal conflicts, often rooted in old ethnic rivalries and pre-colonial struggles, and instability in neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic, fuelled smuggling networks and accentuated this insecurity. Against a background of state neglect, socio-economic vulnerabilities emerged, including acute poverty, low school enrolment rates and social and generational divides. Subsequently, the outbreak of conflict has paralysed the regional economy, creating conditions for Boko Haram’s recruitment of thousands of youths.
III.Boko Haram’s Infiltration into Far North
A.Boko Haram Sinks Local Roots
While Nigerian jihadist groups have been able to exercise some modest influence in the Far North since 2004, Boko Haram only began to establish itself in the region in 2009. Then from 2014 onwards, as the government dismantled its local networks and cells, the jihadist movement staged head-on attacks against Cameroon.
1.2004-2013: Early traces evolve into an established presence
The first signs of Boko Haram in Cameroon date back at least to 2009. Its presence before then remains a subject of debate, mainly suggested by Nigerian sources. In September 2004, after clashing with the Nigerian police in Bama and Gwoza, several individuals who were later to become members of Boko Haram are believed to have fled and found refuge in the Cameroonian part of the Mandara Mountains, particularly in Gossi and Mayo Moskota. According to Nigerian state security services, Boko Haram’s interest in Cameroon dates back to 2006. Khaled al-Barnawi – who would later lead the jihadist group Ansaru, born of a split with Boko Haram in 2012 – reportedly recruited Cameroonians to join the Talibans in Nigeria and formed the sect’s first logistical network in 2007. In 2009, serious clashes between Boko Haram activists and the Nigerian security forces in Borno state resulted in the death of 800 members of the group, including its founder Mohammed Yusuf; some of those who escaped travelled through the Far North or spent time there.
During this period, Boko Haram was probably not seeking to proselytise or recruit in the Far North border communities, but mainly to take refuge there. But the Nigerian security services were already insisting that the group was using Cameroon as a rear base and had alerted the country’s authorities.
The first sermons by imams linked to Boko Haram in mosques in the Far North took place in 2010, while the first known cases of recruitment – by a few local Salafists drawn to the group – were in 2011. Mahamat Abacar Saley, for example, preached in mosques in the Goulfey district and later went on to recruit eight radicalised youths and to become Boko Haram’s “emir” in the Afadé area. There is proof that recruiters and logisticians from the group were in Mayo Tsanaga from 2011 onwards. Boko Haram’s proselytism initially relied on distributing Mohammed Yusuf’s sermons, on the sermons of local imams sympathetic to the sect and on visits by its preachers to areas along the border.
Cameroonians who had returned from their studies in Nigeria and Sudan – some of whom had become radicalised while they were abroad – also played a role. In Kerawa and Ganse, proselytism was mainly the work of young men returned from Bama in Nigeria who, during teaching sessions, called on their friends to reject Western education, the Constitution and the State. During the same period, Nigerian preachers linked to Boko Haram were touring the Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga for baptism ceremonies – and some parents entrusted their children to them.
In 2012, tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees arrived at Zlevet, Kolofata and Fotokol. Some refugees stayed in Kerawa until 2014, when their attempts to impose their ideas on the population provoked a clash, and arms caches were discovered. Local sources reported that Boko Haram sympathisers were among them. In Kolo-fata, some refugees turned out to be recruiters, slipping into discussions among young people and encouraging the most suggestible ones to deepen their Islamic knowledge in Nigeria.
In 2012, incursions by fighters from Nigeria started and local cells were established in the Far North. Authorities treated the phenomenon as banditry, even though residents of Goulfey and Kousseri had informed them that it was Boko Haram. It was also in 2012 that the group demanded the shutdown of bars and application of Sharia in leaflets sent to the authorities and distributed to the population in Amchidé, Fotokol and Kousseri, and threatened traders and transport operators with reprisals unless they contributed to the financing of the jihad.
Boko Haram thus established the core of its logistics network in the Far North between 2010 and 2014, relying in particular on former smugglers and traffickers, traders and truckers who were offered large sums of money to act as logisticians or suppliers. Kousseri, the capital of the Logone and Chari department, was the main logistics hub: logisticians there arranged arms caches, currency exchange, the production of fake identity documents and printing of propaganda material. Mayo Sava, close to Boko Haram strongholds in Borno, was the main area for recruitment between 2012 and 2014. Fuel and food were delivered in Mayo Tsanaga and Diamaré. Boko Haram used the Mandara Mountains as a safe haven and food and fuel supply corridor.
2.2014-2016: Open conflict
Since March 2014, the Far North has been the theatre of open warfare. In the course of some fifteen battles, Boko Haram has mobilised hundreds of fighters, armoured vehicles and 4WD vehicles equipped with heavy weapons. After a phase of conventional conflict between March 2014 and June 2015, the group focused mainly on planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and then suicide attacks – whose frequency reached a peak in early 2016.
Cameroonian soldiers face an enemy who deploys multiple tactics: attacking in numbers that range from about 1,000 to just 10, using a wide range of operating modes and sometimes staging simultaneous attacks on towns in different departments. Since July 2015, the armed group, apparently weakened or having lost its capacity to launch frontal assaults, has combined ambushes and small strikes against army posts, looting raids and reprisals against vigilante groups (comités de vigilance) and those who collaborate with the army or the government. It has also multiplied suicide attacks. At first, Boko Haram committed large-scale massacres in communities it viewed as collaborating with the government, avoiding attacks on those where it had a base. But as it suffered setbacks and local populations rallied around the Cameroonian forces, attacks became indiscriminate.
The first clash dates from 2 March 2014: a Cameroonian soldier and six members of Boko Haram were killed in Wouri-Maro near Fotokol. Under pressure from Nigeria and facing incursions along the frontier, Cameroon began to dismantle Boko Haram’s arms caches. This led the jihadist movement – which probably had no political agenda or territorial expansion project in Cameroon at first – to harden its position. Boko Haram then multiplied attacks on border communities, while distributing leaflets calling on the population not to cooperate with the army. A spectacular attack on the Waza construction camp of the Chinese company Sinohydro in May 2014 finally pushed Cameroon into declaring war on Boko Haram and deploying 700 soldiers from the BIR as reinforcements in the Far North. In July 2014, the abduction of the deputy prime minister’s wife, members of his family and the mayor of the city of Kolofata led to the deployment of a further 3,000 troops.
Since March 2014, the conflict has left at least 125 dead and more than 200 wounded among the security forces and led to at least 1,400 civilian deaths. In the course of more than 100 attacks, Boko Haram is believed to have abducted more than 1,000 people, mainly women and girls: some have been used to stage suicide attacks, while others have been forcibly married to members of the group. The defence forces claim to have killed about 2,000 presumed members of the group and arrested at least 970.
Communities that neighbour Nigerian towns controlled by Boko Haram and Lake Chad islands have been the most affected by the jihadist group’s attacks. Some Nigerian towns controlled by Boko Haram – such as Banki, Dilbe, Bama, Gambaru and Ngoshi – were part of Cameroon in the colonial era and even after independence. The important trading towns of Amchidé and Fotokol, attacked because their geographical position could confer an operational advantage on Boko Haram, have been destroyed and emptied of three quarters of their inhabitants – who were killed or displaced. In 2014, Boko Haram was clearly seeking to take control of towns to add them to the caliphate it had proclaimed in Nigeria, and it even raised its flag above Kerawa, Ashigashia and Balochi, although it controlled them for barely a day.
The attacks have been carried out against areas with majority Muslim populations. Christians – of whom there are many in the Far North – were targeted in 2014 and 2015: during the February 2015 Fotokol massacre, the rebels said they were hunting for Christians, and churches were burnt down in Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga. But these cases were few compared with the number of mosques burnt down, and of imams and Muslims killed in the name of the fight against Muslims regarded as unfaithful.
The places targeted have varied with the seasons. During the November-May dry season, the Logone and Chari department – and in particular the Lake Chad islands, Fotokol and Dabanga – has been the main target of attacks, because the rivers dry up during this period, while during the June-October rainy season, Mayo Sava and Mayo Tsanaga have been targeted. The rainy season has also given Boko Haram the opportunity to reinforce its bases and training camps on the border with Logone and Chari and to establish itself in the hard to reach Cameroonian islands of Lake Chad to recruit fighters. Boko Haram has taken advantage of the rise in water levels to traffic arms through the islands of Tchol, Goulfey and Darak or the unidentified seasonally submerged islets.