A precautionary evacuation of a village in the Lake Chad region near Niger has been called for by authorities following a deadly attack by Boko Haram on a village on the evening of July 19, reported Al Jazeera. The attacks, which left at least 18 people dead, 10 women kidnapped and have forced a further 3,000 villagers to leave their homes as part of this precautionary measure, come as Chad has seen an increase in attacks by the group.
Speaking to Al Jazeera on Sunday, Lake Chad’s governor, Mohammed Aba Salah noted, “Boko Haram fighters slit the throats of two [people] and shot the other 16.” He added, “One of the 10 women abducted by Boko Haram managed to escape and return home.” African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat has condemned the attack and offered his condolences to the families, the Government, and people of Chad. Mahamat highlighted the need for renewed efforts to stifle attacks by Boko Haram, reiterating the African Union’s determination to mobilize all support required, as well as that of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) who is mandated to fight the Boko Haram terrorist group.
In 2016, Chad sent 2,000 troops to Niger following a deadly assault on Nigerien soldiers. However, they withdrew these troops in October last year, which has generated renewed concern about security in the region. The military effort by Nigeria has been joined by Chad, Cameroon and Niger, where the group has also conducted deadly raids. The MNJTF, composed of the Lake Chad Basin countries including Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad aswell as the Republic of Benin made considerable advances and recorded several victories, reclaiming territory in 2016. However, more recently these successes have been undermined by poor communication between the member countries, whose relationships often fluctuate, as well as with the local population. Funding also remains a perpetual issue for the force, unable to meet its budget of $700 million even with the assistance of the UK and EU. While a military response is warranted to fill security vacuums and reclaim territory currently under Boko Haram’s control, both the forced and precautionary evacuation have resulted in huge numbers of displaced people who require humanitarian assistance. Funding both the MNJTF and UNHCR should remain priorities.
Since taking up arms in Nigeria in 2009, Boko Haram has left over 20,000 dead, displaced over 2.5 million and remains one of the world’s most prominent protracted crises, states Al Jazeera, which is largely being dealt with by African Union (AU) member states. Currently, Boko Haram is in control of the area across Lake Chad’s borders with Niger and Nigeria, Salah noted. The Islamist insurgents’ sustained campaign of terror has largely been centred around attacking government buildings, military bases, and schools, as its members seek the overthrow of Nigeria’s political establishment and the founding of an Islamic caliphate.
As suicide bombings continue, food security remains uncertain, and child soldiers are released from security holdings requiring social and psychological assistance, a well-rounded response must follow. While the MNJTF has been heralded for its African ownership, as part of the ‘African solutions to African problems’ rhetoric that has been advocated for by the African Union, support must also be given by countries outside the region, given the financial shortfalls which are undermining military and humanitarian assistance, contributing to refugee movements across the globe. If member states of the MNJTF and AU can boost the operational capacity required to stabilize and reclaim territory under Boko Haram’s control, an environment more amenable to the much-needed humanitarian aid can be provided, as can the process of rebuilding and reintegrating members, particularly kidnapped children and soldiers.
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