Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Boko Haram: Regional Force Without Nigeria?
by Our Reporter on Jan 25, 2015
Nigerian Mirror

Latest reports that Cameroun, Chad and Niger, all of them French-speaking African countries, launched a new regional force against Boko Haram, without carrying Nigeria along, seem a strong indicator that there exists a major disconnect among the neighbouring francophone countries and Nigeria, whose North-East region of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe have been the thresholds of ceaseless violent assaults by the Boko Haram Islamist sect since 2009. Cameroun, Chad and Niger are said to have kicked against any major military deployment in areas occupied by the Boko Haram in Nigeria; and their aim of coming out with the regional force is to ward off Boko Haram insurgency and protect their own sides of joint borders with Nigeria, particularly in the Lake Chad region.

The three neighboring countries were said to have taken the initiative because of Nigeria’s weak response to the insurgents’ horrendous killings, abductions and destructions in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, among others. Niger’s Defence Minister, Karidjo Mahamadou, was quoted as saying, for example: “The most worrying situation for us today is Nigeria. It’s the situation of Boko Haram. Since November (2014), we have no longer been at that post (Baga in Borno State). We explained to the Nigerians that we could not stay since we did not wish to put the lives of our soldiers in danger”.  Cameroun was said to be strongly opposed to the Baga deployment option, too; and would not send any troop into Nigeria on a permanent basis henceforth. President Paul Biya, the Camerounian leader, was said to favour the exchange of intelligence reports to enable coordinated operations, instead of joint military operations with Nigerian soldiers. He is insisting that each nation – Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroun – should act on its own territory around Lake Chad, according to reports.

Cameroun has for months been complaining about Nigerian army’s lack of fighting spirit and mass desertions in the face of the ostensibly more gallant Islamists. An unnamed Camerounian military officer was quoted as saying recently that “Nigerian soldiers abandon their weapons when they desert their positions. Those are the weapons with which we are attacked.” Perhaps, Chad opted to work with Cameroun because of what was tagged as “the courageous and determined response of (Cameroun’s) armed forces against the criminal and terrorist acts of Boko Haram”.

We recall, nonetheless, that in February last year, the Boko Haram sect threatened to declare war on Cameroun if she did not cease to support Nigeria’s military campaign against it. This followed vicious attacks and casualties Cameroun’s military inflicted on members of the sect who sought refuge from the onslaughts of the Nigerian military in Cameroun, Niger and Chad. Until the latest development, however, Cameroun did not relent in repelling the terrorists. The country has, of late, reportedly killed them in their hundreds. But it is not unlikely that the latest turn of events has to do with the January 3 to 7, 2015 terrorist attacks on Baga, which led to the massive destruction of a large expanse of civilian settlements and huge loss of lives; in addition to increasing terrorist attacks on the Lake Chad Basin region along Nigeria’s borders with Chad and Cameroun; and in the northern provinces of Cameroun, especially.

But with the outcomes of the May 17, 2014 Paris Summit convened a little over a month after the abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok, Borno State; which underscored the commitment of countries in the Lake Chad Basin region to enhance information sharing, coordination and joint operations, in addition to the support of bilateral and multilateral partners to more effectively combat Boko Haram; the follow-up London and Abuja ministerial meetings; the October 7, 2014 communiqué of the Extraordinary Summit of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) Heads of State; and the November 25, 2014 communiqué of the African Union Peace and Security Council on the efforts of the LCBC member states and Benin Republic to combat Boko Haram, etc., the decision of Cameroun, Chad and Niger to float a new regional force without Nigeria in the picture is a huge shock. It strongly indicates that LCBC Heads of State are incapable of raising a sustainable, viable and effective Multinational Joint Task Force to fight the insurgents.

Nigeria, for whatever reasons, may have been weak in tackling Boko Haram. Her soldiers may have acted cowardly, too, by deserting their duty posts at the slightest opportunity and abandoning their weapons. Yet no country in the Lake Chad Basin region is truly safe with the Boko Haram lurking around. It is bad enough that Cameroun, Chad and Niger withdrew their troops from joint border patrols with their Nigerian counterparts, when what is actually needed to hound Boko Haram out of the region is a concerted African onslaught. If Europe and America are foot-dragging in rendering assistance to Africa in the latter’s fight against Boko Haram; and a discriminatory regional force is being formed behind Nigeria, African leaders should ask themselves far-reaching questions. Cameroun, Chad and Niger should have a rethink. Besides, the Nigerian government owes its citizens detailed explanations on what is really happening.

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