N’Djamena, 15 December 2017 – The Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Defense of the Lake Chad Basin Commission member countries and Benin Republic was held on the 14 December 2017, at Hilton Hotel in N’Djamena, Republic of Chad, under the chairmanship of Mr. BICHARA ISSA DJABALLAH, Minister Delegate to the Presidency in charge of National Defense, War Veterans and Victims of the Republic of Chad, and in the presence of Mr. Mansur Muhammed Dan-Ali, Minister of Defense of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mr. Kalla Moutari, Minister of Defense Republic of Niger, Mr. Bah Oumarou Sanda, Ambassador of Cameroon to Chad, Representing the Minister Delegate to the Presidency in charge of Defense of Cameroon, Dr. Alain Fortunet Nouatin, Minister Delegate to the President of the Republic in charge of National Defense of Benin and Engr. Sanusi Imran Abdullahi, Executive Secretary of LCBC and Head of Mission of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
It is worth mentioning that the Meeting was, as usual, preceded by a Meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff and Heads of Intelligence and Security Services held on 13th December 2017 and an earlier one-day meeting of experts from LCBC member countries and Benin Republic. MNJTF’s staff officers and officials from the Executive Secretariat of LCBC also took part in the council. The Ministers of Defense of LCBC member countries and Benin Republic reviewed the report of CDS Meeting and adopted it with few amendments. Among other items, the report dealt with the way forward in the fight against Boko Haram Terrorist Group.
They also endorsed the report of the meeting of the committee of experts of Cotonou on the review of the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and the Standing operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF). The Commander MNJTF briefed the Ministers of Defense on the current security situation in the Lake Chad basin area. It was observed that in general the situation is calm, but remains unpredictable and highly volatile. Military operations conducted by MNJTF in conjunction with national forces considerably degraded the military capabilities of Boko Haram Terrorists who now resorts to laying Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), conducting suicide attacks, and incursions in isolated villages searching desperately for supplies for food, weapons ammunitions as well as looting. The trend now is progressively towards the stabilization phase and return to normalcy with the reopening of joint borders of countries engaged. However, the humanitarian situation generated by the Boko Haram insurgency remains critical due to the fact that the living conditions of populations affected are still precarious and the huge challenges facing member countries in managing refugees, IDPs, repentants and suspected Boko Haram Terrorists (BHTs) under custody.
Reports from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) say that close to 17 million persons living in areas affected by Boko Haram activities (North-East Nigeria, Far North Cameroon, West Chad and South-West Niger), are in a dire need of humanitarian assistance as a result of security challenge, high population growth and adverse effects of climate change as well as environmental degradation, rampant poverty and inadequacy of basic social facilities.
2.3 million persons were displaced due to Boko Haram activities and one family out of three in the Lake Chad basin area is affected by food insecurity. Malnutrition and mortality rates are critical in the area.
In his keynote address, Eng. Sanusi Imran Abdullahi, Executive Secretary of LCBC and Chief of Mission of MNJTF, highlighted the relevance of such meetings which enable TCCs to develop sustainable strategies to manage the post-conflict phase:“our region requires multifaceted interventions to move it out from militarized activities to infrastructural development aimed at addressing the underlying drivers of armed groups, poverty and insecurity in the region.”
He further explained that The African Union Commission, together with the LCBC/MNJTF convened a series of International Conferences to develop a regional Stabilization Strategy for the areas affected by Boko Haram, in particular and the region in general. The overall objective is to develop a regional strategy in consultation with all stakeholders and in line with internationally recognized best practices. The outcome of these conferences will be used to finetune anticipated initiatives of the African Union and other national, regional and international actors to provide the required support to the Lake Chad Basin Commission to ensure stability in the region.
It is worth noting that the 14th Summit of Heads of State and Government of LCBC member countries held in April 2012 decided to reactivate the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to face the security challenge in the Lake Chad basin area. Later on, the UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council authorized the mandate of the MNJTF. It became fully operational in 2015 and its troop strength is estimated at 10,000 made up of TCCs national contingents. The MNJTF HQ is located in N’Djamena. The Force has conducted joint military operations since its operationalization, in conjunction with national forces. These operations have considerably degraded the military capabilities of BHTs known with the cruelty and their attacks, particularly against civilians.