ALMOST two months ago, Abubakar Mohammed fled from Boko Haram as it overran his home town in north-eastern Nigeria. Since then he has been among the wandering ranks of 1m-plus displaced people. But a glimmer of hope now shines on the horizon. Monguno, the fishing village on the edge of Lake Chad that he calls home, was liberated by Nigeria’s army last month. Mr Mohammed is now planning to return.
Monguno is one of about 30 villages reportedly reclaimed from Boko Haram since February 7th. That was the day Nigeria announced a delay of the presidential election until the end of March to give the army time to quell the insurgency, which would have prevented a vote in large parts of three north-eastern states. After years of rampaging almost without opposition, Boko Haram now faces a fight. This change is well timed for the government, since it faced the prospect of electoral defeat before the poll was postponed, not least because of its failure to provide better security.
New tactics are helping. Demoralised battalions have been replaced and new generals have taken command on the front line, says Mike Omeri, an army spokesman. British-trained units have been praised for advances in Adamawa, one of the three most afflicted states.
The army also cites better co-operation with neighbouring countries, which are gathering an 8,700-strong force to fight the rebels. Troops stationed along the borders with Cameroon and Niger are trying to block escape routes. Chadian forces, which entered Nigeria in January, have reclaimed territory. (They helped defeat fighters linked to al-Qaeda in Mali in 2013, and reckon they could end this insurgency on their own.)
But regional relations are still tense. Chad does not take part in joint operations with Nigeria, whose government wants to claim victories for itself. And far from being defeated, BokoHaram has responded with a string of suicide-bombings and attacks on countries that have joined the fray. One of its recent videos shows two victims being beheaded.