President Idris Deby of Chad has spoken publicly about the 2014 botched ceasefire between the Nigerian government and the jihadist group, Boko Haram, which he was said to have facilitated.
Mr. Deby said he warned President Goodluck Jonathan against holding talks with the militant group, saying the whole episode was orchestrated by Boko Haram to buy time and regroup.
He said President Jonathan dismissed the advice and held talks with the group, a decision Mr. Deby said was for political reasons. He accused Mr. Jonathan of downplaying the Boko Haram threat.
“I told President Goodluck not to open negotiations with terrorists … but it was a political choice,” Mr. Deby told French magazine, Le Point, in an interview republished by AFP news agency.
“It has become something too serious for Nigerians to ignore. The blood of the dead that we have been counting every day for the past few years demands attention.”
The October ceasefire humiliated the Nigerian government after it claimed to have reached a deal with the insurgents, who are responsible for more than 15,000 deaths.
At the time, the Nigerian military said the talks were credible and directed its field commanders to immediately suspend hostilities against Boko Haram.
The talks were reportedly facilitated by Mr. Deby, accused earlier of providing safe haven for Boko Haram militants.
Shortly after the announcement, Boko Haram continued its attacks, sacking villages and killing innocent people.
The Nigerian government initially claimed splinter groups of the sect were responsible for the continued fighting, but later blamed the failure on sabotage.
Mr. Deby said President Jonathan and his military had underestimated Boko Haram for too long.
“The whole world is asking why the Nigerian army, which is a big army… is not in a position to stand up to untrained kids armed with Kalashnikovs,” he said.
Speaking about the ongoing war that involves Chad, Niger and Cameroun, Mr. Deby said the Nigerian military has not cooperated with his country in fighting the jihadists.
He said the two sides have not had any direct contact since Chad became involved in the conflict.
“Two months after the start of this war, we have not had any direct contact with the Nigerian army units on the ground,” he said.
“We would have hoped to have at least one Nigerian unit with us. It was even a direct request to the Nigerian government, but for reasons that escape us, up to now we have been unable to work together.”
He said his country has had to capture territories twice in Nigeria, as the Nigerian military would not take over towns, allowing Boko Haram to return.
“The Chadian army is fighting alone in its part of the Nigerian interior and that is a problem. We have had to retake certain towns twice,” Mr. Deby said. “We are forced to abandon them and Boko Haram returns, and we have to go back. That has a human and material cost.”
Mr. Deby said Boko Haram has long been trained by ISIS in Libya, and that the group’s recent public declaration of allegiance was a mere formality that did not surprise him.
“(IS) has always trained young people from Boko Haram in the use of explosives, the use of heavy weapons and armoured vehicles. They are trained by (IS) in Libya… and are then sent to Nigeria,” he told Le Point.
“I’m not surprised that (Boko Haram leader) Abubakar Shekau, who has difficulties at the moment… is trying to make people believe that he only just made contact with them.”