The Death of Man Chari Reveals Uncertainties in Boko Haram

Publication: Militant Leadership Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 6

Since early 2019, the Boko Haram faction led by Abubakar Shekau has been conducting a media surge. One possible reason for this is the desire to demonstrate Shekau’s resilience despite being demoted from the Islamic State-affiliated faction in 2016 and that faction’s own leadership turmoil since March (Sahara Reporters, March 4). This recent media blitz has featured a group of “media martyrs” who were mostly teenagers, battle scenes, and a brief eulogy of Shekau’s deputy, Man Chari, whose alias was revealed for the first time: Abu Sadiq al-Bamawi (MLM, August 3, 2018). This indicates he himself is from Bama, Borno State, which along with Yobe is the home state of Shekau and most Boko Haram commanders as well as the “media martyrs” eulogized in the recent video (Twitter, May 25).

Man Chari had featured prominently in videos of Boko Haram sharia tribunals, Eid al-Fitr prayers, and group allegiances to Abubakar al-Baghdadi before his death (Jihadology, November 2, 2015). He was therefore one of the key leaders responsible for the group’s brutalities. Such brutalities are also among the reasons why Islamic State dropped Shekau from the leadership of its “West Africa Province” in the first place.

Shekau himself is notorious for executing commanders for minor infractions. Notably, in December 2016, only three months after his demotion by the Islamic State, he released an audio to his shura (consultative council) acknowledging that Man Chari left his camp. This might have been because of his disagreements with Shekau, including because Shekau dropped Chari from the shura as a result of pressure on him from Mamman Nur (, February 24, 2017). It was Mamman Nur who had feuded with Shekau over, among other matters, Shekau’s killing innocent civilians and enslaving women, before Shekau’s demotion. Nur’s protege, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, then assumed the leadership of the Islamic State-affiliate faction, to Shekau’s chagrin (Sahara Reporters, March 4).

It should, however, be assumed that Man Chari was killed in battle because, if he had been killed by Shekau, then presumably he would not have been eulogized by Boko Haram. This indicates he was still in the group’s good graces at the time of his death. Regardless of how he met his fate, it is now unclear who Shekau’s most trusted commanders are, but Shekau’s status as Boko Haram leader does not appear to be tenuous. If anything, Boko Haram’s recent media surge, including a video of Shekau himself after a six-month hiatus, and the Islamic State-affiliated faction’s internal squabbles, could present Shekau with an opportunity for a hostile takeover of that faction (The Guardian [Lagos], June 3). However, Man Chari, one of the group’s most avid Islamic State supporters during his lifetime, will not be around to see how this plays out.