For the first time in the recent history of the Lake Chad Basin Commission Multinational Joint Task Force (LCBC/MNJTF), the Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Lucky Leo Irabor held a press conference at Hotel Radisson Blu of N’Djamena on 25th April 2018.
Assisted by his entourage, notably the Director of Administration and Finance of LCBC, representing the Executive Secretary of LCBC, Head of Mission of the MNJTF and the Chief of Staff of MNJTF whose staff strength is about ten thousand troops composed of contingents from Troops Contributing Countries, namely Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin with a view to fighting against Boko Haram terrorist group in its area of responsibility, the Force Commander briefed participants on the recent developments witnessed in the Lake Chad basin area. He also gave an update of the MNJTF current military operations to eradicate definitely terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin area. He further assured members of the press and strategic partners very interested by the issue, of his availability to answer all their questions.
The Commander, wearing his grey-green field uniform, informed participants that this first press conference is a beginning of a series and demonstrated MNJTF’ strong will to communicate with both media in particular and the general audience generally in a transparent manner. He further stressed the need for MNJTF to communicate as it has been established by LCBC member countries and authorized by the United Nations Peace and Security Council (UN-PSC) and the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU-PSC) and is fully operational now. It is worth noting that MNJTF has recorded so far successes on ground in dislodging the terrorist group and reducing considerably the military capabilities of the terrorists. MNJTF’s Commander pointed out that the Boko Haram terrorist group is no longer in a position to hold territories or to wage large-scale attacks as they used to do in the sub-region. However, he stated that the remnants that launch attacks on isolated areas are still capable of carrying out surprise attacks and that the terrorist group is still a real menace to the countries of the region as it now resorts to perpetrating suicide attacks and laying improvised explosive devices in LCBC member countries.
In his very informative briefing, the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force recalled the reasons that lead the Heads of States of the LCBC member countries to commit themselves to mutualizing their efforts and assets with a view to restoring peace and security seriously threatened by Boko Haram terrorist group activities. He further gave an update of the activities of the MNJTF since its inception including Ops LAFIYA DOLÉ, Ops GAMA AIKI, Ops RAWAN KADA and the current Ops AMNI FAKAT to liberate isolated islands used by terrorists as hideouts in the Lake Chad.
As far as Ops AMNI FAKAT which means PEACE AT ALL COSTS in Chadian local Arabic language, is concerned, Maj. Gen. Lucky Leo Irabor briefed participants on the outcomes of ongoing military operations which already enabled the clearance of a myriad of islands, the killing of 59 terrorists, the capture of 5 terrorists, the neutralization of 3 suicide bombers, the destruction of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), motorcycles and various weapons and ammunition including mortars of 81 & 82 mm.
Despite the death tool which is 8 and 75 wounded as far as MNJTF troops are concerned in this fight, the Commander stated that his troops are more than ever committed to keeping on performing their duty. He also pointed out that troops on ground will maintain the same tempo until they drive terrorists out of the Lake Chad basin area and attain all objectives set.
Furthermore, he highlighted that current military operations are being conducted in close cooperation with all the MNJTF Sectors in LCBC member countries and with the full support of national operations.
The Commander of the MNJTF also stated that the war against terror is an unconventional war which involves not only security but also humanitarian, religious and environmental aspects. Taking into consideration all these issues, the MNJTF decided, in addition to military operations and ongoing stabilization phase of areas affected by Boko Haram activities, to carry out awareness raising and advocacy campaigns towards the general audience with a view to countering Boko Haram extremist ideology by means of alternative counter-narratives.
In addition to the creation of a web site and the dissemination of flyers and banners showing Boko Haram lies and hatred messages, the MNJTF, as part of its strategic communication campaigns, launched strong communication offensive in the major TVs of LCBC member countries using the major languages spoken in the Lake Chad basin area.
Fully aware of his role and responsibilities within a vulnerable region where ignorance, poverty, injustice or hopelessness lead a myriad of our youths to join extremist groups such as Boko Haram terrorist group, the Commander as a military strategist highlighted that his troops are also involved in communication activities such as conveying awareness raising messages through major TV channels of LCBC’s member countries in the major languages spoken in the Lake Chad area and disseminating flyers. He further mentioned that they are also dealing with humanitarian activities such as the distribution of essential goods to families affected by Boko Haram insurgency.
Maj. Gen. Lucky Leo IRABOR pointed out that the MNJTF, proud of its motto which is “Peace and Security for Humanity”, is more than ever committed to carrying out its duty in compliance with the rules of engagement, internationally recognized standards and human rights as well as to ensuring protection to civilian populations. The Commander states “I directed troops to carry out this operation professionally and in compliance with human rights in general and women rights in particular.” He further expressed his wish to see the MNJTF become a unique model in security and peace operations.
He also pointed out the need for the military operations to be supplemented by the regional stabilization strategy which is being developed. He availed himself of this opportunity to express his profound gratitude to international strategic partners for their valuable support, which enabled to meet the necessary requirements in terms of ground mobility by means of adequate vehicles, air support, communication and air surveillance assets as well as amphibious capabilities and IEDs detection and destruction equipment and the provision of specialized medical personnel. The MNJTF Commander expressed the need to intensify support to the MNJTF so as to enable it to play its role effectively in stabilizing the Lake Chad basin area. He added that in addition to the military operations against Boko Haram terrorist group and other terrorist groups, development activities should follow intensively with a view to improving the livelihoods of populations and providing youths with job opportunities while complying with human rights including women and young girls rights as part of the fight against the root causes of the insurgency leading to violent extremism, thereby facilitating the enrollment of our idle youths by terrorist groups.
MNJTF’s Commander declared that the doors of his Headquarters are open for all those who, notably media organs and strategic partners, would like to learn more about the activities of the Multinational Joint Task Force. He further called for positive contributions and suggestions to improve the work of the MNJTF, thereby restoring peace, security and stability in areas affected.
He availed himself of the opportunity to express his sincere thanks and profound gratitude to the Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission for their valuable efforts to restore peace, security and stability in the Lake Chad basin area and their strong commitment to making the return of affected populations back home. He concluded his remarks by paying a great tribute to the gallant soldiers who paid for their lives to protect our populations and expressing sympathy once again to their families and their respective countries of origin.
It is worth noting that the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) has been reactivated in 2012 taking into account the deterioration of the regional security situation due to Boko Haram terrorist group activities.
In this vein, at the end of a meeting held in March 2014 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Ministers of Defence and Chiefs of Defence Staff of LCBC member countries endorsed the principle to have a force with 8,000 troops whose mandate is to “create a safe and secured environment in areas affected by Boko Haram activities and other terrorist groups with a view to reducing considerably violence perpetrated against civilians including sexual and gender violence, in conformity with the international law, notably the humanitarian law and the United Nations Due Diligence Policy in terms of human rights.”
Taking into account the intensification of Boko Haram terrorist group attacks in the Lake Chad riparian countries, the Heads of State of LCBC and Benin Republic, at their Extraordinary Summit held at Niamey, Republic of Niger in October 2014, reviewed MNJTF deployment modalities.
Following the decision made in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) in March 2015 to authorize the deployment of the MNJTF and the approval of its Concept of Operations (CONOPS), one can say without mistaking that the MNJTF which is lead both by AU and LCBC at the strategic level and by a Force Commander at the operational level and whose headquarters are based in N’Djamena, Chad, enjoys the international legitimacy or the legal mandate required to eradicate definitely Boko Haram menace and any other forms of terrorism within the Lake Chad basin area.