Following the regional conference on the stabilization of areas affected by Boko Haram insurgency held in November 2017 in N’Djamena, Chad, a workshop on the development of a Regional Strategy for the screening, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of Boko Haram associated persons in the Lake Chad basin countries was launched on Tuesday, 10th April 2018 at the Hotel Radisson Blu of N’Djamena. This workshop was jointly organized by the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and the African Union (AU) with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Organization for Migrations (IOM), the Counter-Terrorism Executive Director (CTED) and the United Nations Office against Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). The aim of the workshop was to enable participants to have a common understanding of the approach to be used to implement the regional stabilization strategy.
The four-day workshop was an experience, lessons learned and good practices sharing platform as part of the execution of DDR process under several circumstances. It is worth noting that representatives from member countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, namely Cameroon, Chad, CAR, Libya, Niger and Nigeria, and from other parts of the world such as Colombia, Uganda, and Somalia as well as Experts from the United Nations System and other international organizations participated in this meeting with a view to identifying ways and means to set up common criteria and to defining regional collaboration framework for repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of Boko Haram associated persons.
Discussions also focused on a brief presentation to recall the current situation in the Lake Chad basin area, the relevant international counter-terrorism framework including international human rights and humanitarian law standards, screening, inquiries and prosecution of terrorism-related crimes, the rehabilitation, reintegration, case handling and definition of a road map, etc.
The opening ceremony was chaired by the Secretary of State in Charge of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and International Cooperation of Chad, Her Excellency KADE N’DILGUEM ELISABETH in her capacity as Guest of Honor of the Meeting and in the presence of the Executive Secretary of LCBC, Ambassador MAMMAN NUHU and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and Head of the AU Liaison Office in N’Djamena, Her Excellency ZAINA NYIRAMATAMA as well as the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force of LCBC’s member countries and Benin Republic, Major General LEO IRABOR.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of LCBC thanked participants for accepting to attend the workshop. He further stressed that the meeting falls in line with the recommendations made by the meeting of the council of Ministers of Defence of LCBC’s member countries and Benin Republic held in February 2017 in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria. The council acknowledged the need to put in place sustainable post-operation strategies by supplementing military successes recorded on ground by development activities in the long run. To address the root causes of the insurgency in an effective and efficient manner, Ambassador Mamman Nuhu pointed out that the Council of Security of the United Nations, AU Peace and Security Council and LCBC member countries should speak the same language.
He recalled that the meeting of N’Djamena is the second one out of the series of three meetings decided by the African Union and LCBC with a view to developing a regional stabilization strategy. He stated that the overall objective is to develop a regional strategy in consultation with all the stakeholders in line with internationally recognized standards. He concluded his remarks by wishing that the conclusions of the meeting will be used to further improve the initiatives of the African Union and other local, national, regional or international actors willing to support LCBC and its member countries affected by Boko Haram activities to move towards to the stabilization of the affected areas.
Mr. Stephen Tull, UNDP resident Representative in Chad and Resident Coordinator of UN System pointed out that, on behalf of the agencies of the United Nations System, it is not a classical DDR process as in this particular case, focus is made on the reintegration of Boko Haram associated persons. The UN diplomat added that the reintegration is the light at the end of the tunnel that should guide the rest of the process. He also pointed out that the ultimate end of this process is for affected individuals, families and communities to recover normal life, to be reintegrated in their different communities thereby contributing to the legal economic and social tissue with concrete opportunities. According to the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System, this is a requirement to protect them from Boko Haram activities, and a turning point in the stabilization phase thereby paving the way for hope and prosperity in the region.
In her speech, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission gave an overview of the situation since the outbreak of Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad basin area. She further stressed that the development of a regional stabilization strategy falls in line with the efforts being spared by her organization in fighting against and eradicating terrorism at the Lake Chad basin level in particular and all over the African continent in general.
She also indicated that this is the reason why the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) was authorized by the United Nations Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council with a view to not only eradicating Boko Haram terrorist group perpetrating barbarous attacks on soft targets in the Lake Chad basin area, but also to contributing to enhance peace, security, democracy and sustainable and inclusive development in affected areas and beyond.
Moreover, she stated that the workshop is the starting point for the translation of the recommendations issued during the regional stabilization conference into concrete actions, which calls for the creation of synergies among member countries concerning the process of repatriation, rehabilitation and reintegration of Boko Haram associated persons. To conclude her remarks, Ambassador ZAINA NYIRAMATAMA pointed out that the task consisting in ensuring a sustainable stabilization of the region is both onerous and urgent.
In her opening remarks, the Guest of Honor of the workshop, the Secretary of State in Charge of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and International Cooperation of Chad stated that the meeting is timely as the hope created by the regional stabilization conference within populations affected by the barbarous attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorist group require an urgent implementation of the recommendations formulated by the first conference.
Madam KADE NDILGUEM ELISABETH further added that her country Chad, likewise the other LCBC member countries is facing the issue of returnees of Boko Haram associated persons as a result of successes recorded by MNJTF as part of its military operations which reduced considerably the military capabilities of this terrorist group despite the fact that all LCBC member countries are facing onerous financial challenges.
The Guest of Honor of the Workshop concluded her remarks by stating that we should learn lessons and capitalize on national experiences in terms of handling of all those repentants while reiterating the commitment of the Heads of State and Government of LCBC’s member countries to facing this unconventional war against Boko Haram by conducting military and humanitarian operations, to strengthening the resilience of populations and to ensuring sustainable development in the affected areas.
The Boko Haram insurgency is one of the worse tragedies witnessed in the 21st century causing more than 27,000 deaths, 2.4 million of internally displaced persons and refugees, 7 million people facing food insecurity, the total destruction or the degradation of socio-economic facilities such as schools, health centers and markets in the Lake Chad Basin area.
In addition to the above-mentioned economic challenges, it is now time to address the root causes of this insurgency such as poverty, population pressure, recurrent droughts, resource shortage and related-conflicts. This is the sine qua non condition to ensure peace, security, stability and development in the region in a sustainable manner.