Hybrid governance mechanisms in the Lake Chad Basin
Understanding the operations of Boko Haram in the Lake Chad area first requires an understanding of the hybrid nature of governance mechanisms that operate within and between communities around the Lake and national governments, as well as the modes of livelihood and subsistence commonly practiced there. This section will consider the former; the next section will provide an overview of the latter. It has been argued that every society produces its own space as a means for the reproduction of power,25 binding together global and local, centre and periphery; and therefore somehow defying the territorial nature of the states. Paasi’s research on the Finnish-Russian frontier underlined the complex multi-dimensional nature of spaces as socially produced practices and discourses in contrast to more state-centric approaches.26 Being contested and negotiated, practices of space in Africa have problematized colonial legacies and the very nature of the postcolony thr ough the employment of “networks and other lateral types of connections and obligation”.27 In the Lake Chad Basin region, practices of economic and religious contestation have historically converged in the marketplace, moulding a space where confrontation and contestation often mobilize political activism and communitarian claim-making and forge new collective religious experiences. Owing to a long-standing tradition of space-management through circulation, trust-networks are therefore the prominent element through which those living in the Lake Chad Basin challenge progressive economic marginalization taking place because of a decline in long-distance trading flows. Flows, and the means to control or extract wealth from them, are centred around the inescapable presence of the frontier, as either an obstacle or as a lever: frontier sometimes takes the form of a market and sometimes appears as civil society.28 Statehood, as noted by Bbrzel,29 is normally considered as a property’ of the state. Following Weber’s reasoning, the state is conceptualized as a rule structure defined by institutions that allow it to enforce political decisions and claims to (successfully) exercise a monopoly over the means of legitimate violence. Following this rationale, the Chadian state holds limited empirical statehood, despite its claim to a wider reach of its monopoly over the legitimate use of force. In certain regions of the country, domestic sovereignty is severely circumscribed. The central power located in the capital city struggles and forcefully negotiates with local networks of power in order to extend its control over means of violence and authoritatively enforce political decisions. In the Lake Chad area, the state’s ability to exercise power is significantly limited in specific domains. In the economic policy area, for example, the state struggles to impose its rule as practical norms overwhelmingly overshadow formal rules. The latter are often circumvented not only by informal economic actors but also by state actors, occasioning a “grey” situation in which state and non-state economic actors are mutually dependent and interested in maintaining the status quo. The state, until the humanitarian emergency related to the Boko Haram crisis, has also had great diffrcultie in enforcing political decisions with regard to certain segments of the local population, specifically the Budunra groups inhabiting the inner lake’s islands. Recent manifestations of such
The margins at the core 127 limitations to the writ of the state have been highlighted by the recruiting dynamic of Boko Haram factions in the Lake. The hybrid nature of social and economic governance in the region has manifested itself as informal trading mechanisms that have been activated in mutual cooperation between non-state (private) and state actors (“governance with government”). The provision of determined services is effecti ely provided in both instances, although modes vary according to the degree of consolidation that the state enjoys. The state, on the shores of the lake, appears as lesser or intermittently functioning, having incorporated the historically determined governance mechanisms of “indirect rule”, fostered in colonial times and reinforced in the post-colonial period to maintain the “peace deal” between the political centre and its periphery. During colonial times, the administration presence in the area was extremely light, as the French preferr ed to set rtp or sponsor customary chiefs who were held accoirntable for the administration of the day-to-day affairs of the territory.30 After Chad’s independence, the first post-colonial regime attempted to impose more authoritative rule, leading to the formation of the Front de Libération Nationale du Tchad in the late 1960s. The Saharan and Lake Chad regions of Chad sirbsequently experienced intermittent rebellion and insurgency, with the state’s role always in question. During cyclical stages of mobilization, the state brokered peace deals nominating administrative officer and customary chiefs, sous-préfets and chefs de canton. Indeed, the Lake Chad region has traditionally hosted different claim-making rebellions, the most recent one being in the mid-1990s,31 and in a region where local Buduma groups are traditionally mistrusted by both central authority and neighbouring groitps. As a conseqitence, the efficac of the state’s claim to a monopoly over legitimate violence on the shores of Lake Chad is not obvious. Political steering appears conditioned by the state’s capacity to create and manipulate incentives and to enforce sanctions in order to induce desired behaviours. On the shores of Lake Chad, authoritative steering has poor sitccess vis-à-vis persuasion and communicative leanring processes33 employed by Boko Haram in mobilizing local actors. The governance configuration of the economic realm appears politically steered by state authorities in connection with local capital-endowed private entrepreneurs who exercise extended functions, have set rtp a favourable environment and act in mutual dependency with informal trading trust-networks. Within what might be labelled as a “cross-border micro-regionalism’’,33 the coordination of social action is guaranteed through a set of practices where neither state nor non-state actors are able to exert full monopoly. An asymmetry between governance actors also exists in terms of discursive power. On the lake’s shores, the local faction of Boko Haram has sitccessfully employed the ability to frame their arguments within a wider cultural understanding to achieve its political steering. Positioning itself and its discourse in the long-standing Islamic tradition of the former Kanem-Borrnr Empire (and its later developments) and through recourse to the memory of 18th-century Uthrnan dan Fodio’s jihad, the Lake Chad Boko Haram faction has been able to legitimize its claims and pursite its agenda through a vernacular declination of the wider jihadi-Salafi ideology. The faction has proved able to mobilize both material and discursive resources and to overshadow any attemptby the state to seek authoritative rule in the area. This has shaped a widely shared alternative claim-making performance that successfully influences the cost-benefit analysis of social and economic actors and counters possible brokerage deals proposed by the state to demobilize and give up aimed labour.