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Non-International Armed Conflict in Chad

Conflict type:

The Government of Chad is involved in a non-international armed conflict against Boko Haram.

  • The Chadian Government has been involved in a non-international armed conflict against Boko Haram since 2015.
  • Since January 2015, the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has been active in the fight against Boko Haram. The MNJTF is composed of units from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin.

Two criteria need to be assessed in order to answer the question whether a situation of armed violence amounts to a non-international armed conflict:

  • First, the level of armed violence must reach a certain degree of intensity that goes beyond internal disturbances and tensions.
  • Second, in every non-international armed conflict, at least one side in the conflict must be a non-state armed group that exhibits a certain level of organization in order to qualify as a party to the non-international armed conflict. Government forces are presumed to satisfy the criteria of organization. For further information, see ‘Non-international armed conflict’ in our Classification section.

Intensity of violence

Various indicative factors are used to assess whether a given situation has met the required intensity threshold, such as the number, duration and intensity of individual confrontations; the types of weapons and military equipment used; the number of persons and types of forces participating in the fighting; the number of casualties; the extent of material destruction; the number of civilians fleeing and the involvement of the United Nations Security Council. For further information, see ‘Non-international armed conflict – Violence’ in our Classification section.

Since 2015, Chad has been involved in a NIAC against Boko Haram, most notably around Lake Chad. While at first the presence of Boko Haram in the country was limited, in 2015 Chad contributed to the creating of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and started intervening in neighboring countries to fight against the rebel group. This triggered a number of attacks conducted by the group against Chadian forces and civilians alike. In 2015 violence peaked, causing the death of hundreds of individuals, displacing more than 100,000 and damaging the regional economy of the Lake Chad basin. International Crisis Group, Fighting Boko Haram in Chad: Beyond Military Measures, Africa Report N°246, 8 March 2017.

While in the following years violence has substantially diminished, fighting between state forces and Boko Haram fighters have never ceased. Although the intensity of violence did not remain stable over the years, this does not imply that international humanitarian law (IHL) ceases to be applicable. Indeed, as specified by the ICRC ‘a lasting cessation of armed confrontations without real risk of resumption will undoubtedly constitute the end of a non-international armed conflict as it would equate to a peaceful settlement of the conflict, even without the conclusion or unilateral pronouncement of a formal act such as a ceasefire, armistice or peace agreement.’ ICRC Commentary to Article 3 GC (2016), §488.

Since 2021, the situation has deteriorated, and the intensity of violence has escalated. For instance, on 27 April Boko Haram fighters attacked a military camp and the fighting caused the death of at least ten soldiers, 64 jihadists, and five civilians. On 4 August, fighting between the rebels and state troops left 26 soldiers killed in Tchoukoutalia area; the following day President Déby commented the episode reminding that soldiers’ death is “reminder of the security challenges” at border. On 19-20 Septemper, Boko Haram attacked Kadjigoroum village in Lake region, causing the death of nine individuals. In order to tackle increased fighting and security challenges, on 24 September the government announced its intention to increase the size of the army from current 35,000 to 60,000 troops by end of 2022. International Crisis Group, Crisis Watch: Chad.

In April 2021, the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT) crossed the border from Libya and entered Chad, directed towards the capital N’Djamena. Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno deployed the army to tackle the advancement of the rebels. However, he was killed during clashes. A group of army generals decided therefore ‘to instal his 37-year-old son Mahamat as leader of a fifteen-member Transitional Military Council.’ By early May, the army was successful in sending FACT back to Libya. International Crisis Group, Getting Chad’s Transition on Track, 30 September 2021.

Since the end of 2021, Chadian government has made attempts to organize a national dialogue with the rebels. On 13 March 2022, pre-dialogue meetings took place in Doha between representatives of the Chadian government and 52 Chadian politico-military movements, including FACT. However, in May 2022 the government suspended the dialogue indefinitely. On 14 July, the government announced that talks will resume on 20 August in Doha. In response, 14 rebel groups – including Front pour l’Alternance et la Concorde au Tchad (FACT) and Union des forces de la Résistance (UFR) – on 16 July withdrew from the talks because the government did not consult them before deciding a date for the talks. International Crisis Group, Crisis Watch: Chad.

Organization

A series of indicative factors are used to assess whether armed groups exhibit the required degree of organization, such as the existence of a command structure and disciplinary rules and mechanisms; the ability to procure, transport, and distribute arms; the ability to plan, coordinate and carry out military operations; the ability to negotiate and conclude agreements, e.g. ceasefire or peace agreements. If the minimum criterion for organization of the armed groups is not fulfilled, there is no armed conflict. For further information, see ‘Non-international armed conflict – Organization’ in our Classification section.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram (Hausa for ‘Western education/civilisation is forbidden’), also known as Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad), is a non-state armed group which operates in Nigeria in particular and in the Lake Chad Basin region in general, notably in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. See International Institute for Strategic Studies, ‘Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)’, Armed Conflict Database; International Criminal Court, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities 2013, November 2013. In 2015, it pledged allegiance to the “Islamic State” group. ‘Who Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist Group?’ BBC, 24 November 2016. Furthermore, it has strong links with other Islamist groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Islamist groups fighting in Mali and al-Shabab. International Crisis Group, Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, Africa Report no 216, 3 April 2014, p i.

The leader of Boko Haram, the Amir, is the head of the Shura, namely the council of elders. The council has seven members, and each one of them leads a ministry across the administration of the group. Commanders have executive powers and sub-commanders direct and lead foot-soldier operations, called maaskars. See Amnesty International, ‘Our Job Is to Shoot, Slaughter and Kill’. Boko Haram’s Reign of Terror in North-East Nigeria, 14 April 2015. After the death of its founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in July 2009, Boko Haram started splintering into different factions. In 2014, International Crisis Group reported that there were six different factions of the group. International Crisis Group, Curbing Violence in Nigeria (II): The Boko Haram Insurgency, Africa Report no 216,  3 April 2014, p 22; S. Arraf, ‘Nigeria: A Focus on the Boko Haram Insurgency’, A. Bellal (ed), The War Report: Armed Conflicts in 2017, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, 2018, p 107.

All parties to the conflict are bound by Article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which provides for the minimum standards to be respected and requires humane treatment without adverse distinction of all persons not or no longer taking active part in hostilities. It prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, hostage taking and unfair trials.

All parties are also bound by customary international humanitarian law applicable to non-international armed conflict. Customary international law consists of unwritten rules that come from a general practice accepted as law. Based on extensive study, the International Committee of the Red Cross maintains a database of customary international humanitarian law.

In addition to international humanitarian law, international human rights law continues to apply during times of armed conflict. Under human rights law, the territorial state has an obligation to prevent and investigate alleged violations, including by non-state actors. Non-state armed groups are increasingly considered to be bound by international human rights law if they exercise de facto control over some areas.

State parties

  • Chad

Non-state parties

  • Boko Haram
Last updated: Thursday 18th August 2022