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S.Africa intel sees ‘abuses’ in Nigeria battle against Boko Haram

Nigeria faces a prolonged battle to quash the bloody Boko Haram insurgency despite a “hardline” campaign that has witnessed rights abuses by both the state and the militants, according to a South African intelligence assessment obtained by AFP.

A National Defence Force Defence Intelligence division briefing — delivered to visiting Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan on Tuesday — offered a blunt assessment of Africa’s crises, including Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram and its Islamist offshoot Ansaru.

The government in Abuja faces a “prolonged armed insurgency” with little prospect for resolution, the briefing said, adding that the “security situation in Nigeria is expected to deteriorate”.

“Prospects for conflict resolution are likely to remain bleak — government persists (in a) hardline counter-insurgency response to the crisis that has degenerated into human rights abuses by the state and militants alike.”

Thousands of people have died in Boko Haram’s bloody five-year campaign to establish an Islamic state in the mainly Muslim north of Nigeria.

The insurgency, long a worry for regional governments, gained worldwide notoriety following the April kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote town of Chibok in Borno state.

Deadly bombings and killings have become an almost daily occurrence in Africa’s largest economy, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence.

South Africa and Nigeria, both African powerhouses, are also political and economic rivals, vying for influence in Beijing as well as lucrative Chinese contracts.

Nigeria earlier this year surpassed South Africa as the continent’s largest economy.

There are heightened fears that the Boko Haram insurgency is spreading after three car bombings in Abuja in as many months and a similar attack in Lagos last month.

Security experts say the overstretched and under-resourced Nigerian military is incapable of fighting an effective counter-insurgency against an enemy that is believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have accused the Nigerian authorities of carrying out hundreds of extrajudicial killings and disappearances every year.

But the government has repeatedly rejected the accusations.

– Pirates and militants –

South African intelligence also warned the Chinese of a “threat of increased militancy in the Niger Delta,” where the bulk of Nigeria’s roughly two million barrels of oil a day are produced, as well as piracy off the Nigerian coast.

A rise in piracy off the Gulf of Guinea has corresponded with a decline off the coast of Somalia.

“Attacks (are) launched primarily from Nigeria, with the aim of stealing from vessels,” the intelligence report said.

“Levels of violence (are) higher as pirates are less concerned with maintaining the wellbeing of hostages than their Somalian counterparts,” the South Africans claimed.

It is not clear if the briefing — which is not marked with any security classification — is based on first hand intelligence or open source material.

The South African National Defence Force Intelligence Division is responsible for gathering and evaluating foreign military intelligence and for counter-intelligence within the military.

The report also provided a security overview of several African regions including the “ongoing lawlessness” and “widespread humanitarian crisis” in the Central African Republic.

It said the Christian anti-balaka groups and “rogue elements” made up of members of former armed forces were “becoming increasingly organised” but with no clear political objective.

In Somalia, the Defence Intelligence report said it believed that the end of a partial suspension of a UN arms embargo would “assist in developing the security sector.”

But, it warned, there is a “risk of weapons finding their way to Al-Shebab or other hostile militias”.