by Fulan Nasrallah
Shekau so far as I know is alive and is still the Islamic State Of West Africa’s Deputy Amir and the Amir of the Lake Chad region. Rather starting with the press conference of President Deby of Chad where he dropped the bombshell that Nigeria has been approached for negotiations by Mahamat Daoud real name Muhammad Daud (Chadians mispronounce Muhammad as Mahamat, while Bornoans change it to Modu), a lot have started coming out. Firstly Shekau has released a new audio recording which from all indications I believe is authentic. I also believe that he did not release a video recording because he is:
a. On the run, and cannot use open spaces to stage his trademark propanganda stunts like before due to fear of airstrikes and detection by drones
b. The Islamic State West Africa’s media arm has probably suffered a serous setback after its chief in Lake Chad theatre is rumoured to have been killed sometime last month in a firefight with Chadian soldiers. Or Shekau has become separated from the media section of his group.
The audio recording was full of rants and railings as usual, nothing new there, except that it is confirmed that he is alive.
Above I mentioned Shekau’s fear of drones. Shekau and most Islamic State West Africa have had a rabid fear of drone strikes and drone surveillance since they decided to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi aka Caliph/Khalifah Ibrahim. I was informed that the fear of drones sneaking up silently and assassinating them was behind the quarrels and storms that preceded the decision to pledge allegiance to Islamic State.
Going back to the main topic, secondly I have become aware of a very interesting story about Muhammad Daud and the story President Deby was telling about his seeking negotiations.
It is confirmed that Muhammad Daud has broken away from Islamic State West Africa with hundreds of his supporters including veteran commanders and fighters who disagree with the extreme brutality of both Shekau and rival factions, and with the pledge to Islamic State. They have retaken the name Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah lid-Da’wati wal-Jihad. This was over two months ago, and they left after a gun battle between the new Jamaa’tu Ahlis-Sunnah and Shekau’s Islamic State West Africa. They have declared Shekau a rebel against the teaching of Muhammad Yusuf, an apostate, a deviant and a religious hypocrite i.e munaafiq. Sources said Muhammad Daud approached the Nigerian Government, through some poltical and traditional rulers, seeking for an alliance against Shekau, a ceasefire, and a peace process to end the insurgency from their side. The Nigerian Government has tentatively indicated that it is willing to negotiate with the new faction, but the potential road block that will ultimately prevent any sort of agreement lies in the conditions both sides have presented. Nigeria is insisting on the new faction’s total surrender and cooperation to apprehend Abubakar Shekau amongst other things. It has also not offered unconditional amnesty so far.
Jamaa’atu Ahlis-Sunnah Daud Faction (as I will refer to them) on the other hand is demanding for the government to give them the North East as an autonomous region (sort of like Iraqi Kurdistan or Indonesia’s Aceh) in which their understanding of Shariah will be freely implemented, in addition to complete amnesty/freedom from prosecution for their fighters, in return for them fighting and wiping out the Islamic State of West Africa. They have however also made it clear that they do not mind continuing their own struggle against the Nigerian State, only that this time they will do it under the banner of Muhammad Yusuf and not Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi or his Islamic State.
Both sides are said to have had several meetings in Abuja in the past months, with the National Security Adviser’s office on point for the Nigerian side, while two members of the group’s shuraa council represented them in Abuja.