MS Risk Blog

JNIM to Release New Video Calling on Fulani to Wage Jihad

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On 7 November 2018, reports emerged that JNIM announced the forthcoming official release of its new video entitled “Go forth whether light or heavy,” featuring the first audiovisual speech as part of JNIM by Katiba Macina founder Amadou Kouffa. The video reportedly calls on the Fulani in West Africa and in Cameroon to wage “jihad.”

This new video demonstrates how terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region have increasingly sought to integrate themselves within the local communities, particularly the Fulani ethnic group, which is one of the largest in West Africa and which is spread across the Sahel region.  The Fulani have traditionally been cattle herders and have been engaged in a struggle with farmers across the Sahel region as pasture-land and resources in the region have diminished.  They are increasingly being pushed deeper into poverty and feelings of political exclusion may result in a rebellion that could destabilize the West African region. There are growing concerns across the region that jihadist groups like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and others, such as JNIM, could use ties into the Fulani community in a bid to exploit their anger and expand their areas of operations in the Sahel region. This has been seen in the past, with AQIM tapping into Tuareg networks to advance its objectives in West Africa.

This video also shows how terrorist groups are aware of regional issues, both on the local and national scale, and how they may attempt to exploit these situations in a bid to further push their ideologies and expand their areas of operation.  In particular, the mention of Cameroon is of concern.  While the African country has been affected by terrorism, particularly in its Far North region, where Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram has carried out numerous deadly attacks and kidnappings, Cameroon has been spared from the destabilizing situation that is affecting Mali and regional countries, in particular Burkina Faso and Niger.  Nationally however Cameroon is in turmoil as separatists in the North West and South West regions, which are the English-speaking areas of Cameroon, have destabilized the region in their bid to create a breakaway republic, which they have named The Federal Republic of Ambazonia.  The current crisis affecting these two regions erupted in October 2016 in Bamenda, the capital of the North West region, with a strike by English-speaking lawyers demanding respect of the Common Law and the translation into English of the Code of the Organization for the Harmonization Business Law in Africa and other laws.  Weeks later, teachers joined the move as they organized a rally against the lack of English-speaking teachers and the non-respect of the “Anglo-Saxon” education system in the English-speaking regions.  Many locals joined the cause, driven by numerous demands ranging from a lack of decentralization of power as well as a lack of investment in infrastructure in the region.  The strikes that began in the North West region would later spread into the South West region and police clampdowns have only further fueled tensions. Clashes between the insurgents and security forces have killed scores of people and have displaced tens of thousands more since the conflict intensified late last year.  Insurgents have abducted and killed soldiers, policemen and local politicians in hit-and-run guerrilla raids, while Cameroonian forces have been accused of burning down villages and opening fire on fleeing residents, accusations which the army has denied.  The conflict gained world-wide attention with the killing of an American missionary in late October and the unrest now threatens the stability of one of Africa’s larger economies.  Tensions are likely to remain heightened in the wake of incumbent Paul Biya winning another term in office in the 7 October 2018 presidential election.

JNIM was formed on 2 March 2017, with the merger of three regional jihadist groups:  the Saharan branch of AQIM merged with Ansar al-Dine and al-Mourabitoun to form Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam was Muslimeen (JNIM).  JNIM’s call for Fulani to wage “jihad” in Cameroon in particular can be seen as an attempt to benefit from the instability in the North West and South West regions.  The militant group will likely attempt to infiltrate some of the local populations, further fuel discord between the separatists and the Cameroonian government, and eventually openly call for attacks against the central government in the capital Yaoundé.  JNIM and other regional terror groups may also use the situation in this region of Cameroon to recruit new forces while at the same time spreading their influence and areas of operation.  Gaining a foothold into Cameroon will likely result in the further destabilization of the Central African region, which is currently affected by a number of conflicts, including ongoing crises in the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, both of which have forced thousands of people to flee the region.  JNIM’s call for “jihad” in the West African region and in Cameroon therefore poses a serious threat not only in West Africa, but to the stability of the greater African continent, especially Central Africa.