28 July 2016
To bring an end to the Boko Haram threat in the Lake Chad Basin region, affected countries must address the root causes that contributed to the emergence of the group.
The declaration was made at the United Nations on Wednesday by Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, when he briefed the Security Council on peace and security in Africa.
Lake Chad Basin countries – Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria – are affected by activities of the terrorist group.
Issues Feltman listed that must be addressed by the countries include the social, economic and political grievances of marginalised communities.
A report on the UN website quoted Feltman as telling the Security Council that “a military approach, while essential, will not bring end to the Boko Haram threat.’’
Feltman said the Boko Haram crisis must be addressed holistically and beyond “an exclusively security lens’’.
He called for international support for the affected countries so that military operations are followed by stabilisation measures and restoration of state authority.
Attacks by Boko Haram continue, mainly in north-eastern Nigeria and southern Niger, and to a lesser extent, in northern Cameroon and the Lac region of Chad.
Terrorists persist in targeting innocent civilians, including through suicide attacks, often using young children.
Feltman observed that the group continues to threaten regional stability, as illustrated by the June 3 attack on a military base in Bosso town, south-eastern Niger Republic.
He noted, however, that the regional offensive involving Chadian, Cameroonian, Nigerian and Nigerien troops operating under the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), had recaptured 80 per cent of areas once under Boko Haram control, freed thousands of captives and prevented terrorist attacks.
He also noted that the affected countries had expressed their growing impatience over delays by international partners to support the MNJTF financially, as the Force’s success depends on timely and actionable intelligence as well as specialised counter-terrorism skills and equipment, given the evolving tactics of Boko Haram.
“The UN and the five countries from the Sahel – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – will together produce the outline of a capacity building framework for counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism, including concrete regional projects,’’ he said.
The second Regional Security Summit for the Lake Chad Basin held on May 14 in Abuja, reaffirmed the need to address the root causes.
Among the noteworthy recommendations was the need to utilise services of community and religious leaders to discourage impressionable youth from being radicalised and to lead de-radicalisation programmes.
On the human rights front, Mr. Feltman said the UN had received reports of increased incidents of sexual and gender-based violence among the displaced.
“States must adopt measures to protect civilians and respect due process when dealing with persons arrested for Boko Haram-related charges.
“Children used by Boko Haram should be treated as victims and dealt with in accordance with international standards for juvenile justice.
“The Boko Haram crisis has devastated the region’s economy,’’ Feltman said.
Economic growth dropped sharply with the decline of oil prices and other commodities. Decreasing resources affects the states’ ability to deliver basic social services and to pay the salaries of security forces and civil servants, Feltman to the Security Council.
He said insecurity had disrupted trade routes between Chad and Nigeria, interrupting the supply of basic goods and producing price hikes. Youth unemployment is at a worrisome high, providing recruitment ground for Boko Haram.
Also briefing the Council was Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who stressed the need to urgently strengthen international attention on the “neglected’’ situation in the Lake Chad Basin.
The basin, he said, hosts Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis.
He said more than nine million people need humanitarian assistance in the Lake Chad Basin.
About 2.8 million of these people have been displaced, fleeing violent attacks in their towns and villages. Children are particularly vulnerable, especially the 1.7 million children who had been displaced across the Lake Chad Basin, he said.
O’Brien told the Security Council that Nigeria was bearing the brunt of the crisis and accounts for seven million of the nine million people in need across the Lake Chad Basin.
“Last month, the Nigerian authorities rightly declared a nutrition emergency for Borno State. Direct reports from the field indicate that affected communities are rapidly running out of food.
“We have no time to lose: the lean season, which puts millions in this region at real risk of hunger and malnutrition each year across the Lake Chad Basin, has already started.
“If we do not act now, the human suffering will only get more extreme,’’ O’Brien stressed.
One single attack by Boko Haram left over 70,000 people displaced in Bosso town, Niger Republic in June this year, bringing the total number of displaced people in the Diffa region to over 160,000.
Niger is the poorest country in the world; yet despite living on virtually nothing, families there have welcomed the displaced into their homes, and shared their meagre supplies of food and water with the newcomers, O’Brien observed.
The UN humanitarian chief also said that needs are also dire in Chad’s Lac region, where there are over 60,000 registered displaced persons, and tens of thousands who have not yet been registered.
In the Far North region of Cameroon, which has been under a state of emergency and lock-down for security reasons, the number of people in need of immediate food assistance has quadrupled since June 2015, to over 200,000 today, and the total number of internally displaced persons has increased in the same period to around 190,000, he said.
“We all know that the humanitarian response in itself is insufficient to re-establish people’s lives and livelihoods,’’ he added, stressing the need to move from delivering aid to `ending need’, a crucial outcome for the World Humanitarian Summit.
That means that, in parallel to providing life-saving assistance and protection, political actors must address the root causes of the violence, and development partners must address the drivers of vulnerability across this region.