Visiting Mission to the Lake Chad Basin Region
Expected Council Action
Council members will undertake a visiting mission to the Lake Chad Basin region at the beginning of March. The mission is intended to improve members’ understanding of the crisis in the vast area of operation of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Members will visit Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
France, Senegal and the UK are co-leading the mission. The chairperson of the AU Peace and Security Council is expected to accompany Council members.
Background and Mission
Increased military cooperation among countries of the region over the past two years has resulted in Boko Haram’s losing much of the territory it held at its peak in early 2015 and much of its conventional military strength. The group continues, though, to conduct a destructive insurgency through suicide bombers, improvised explosive devices and ambushes of towns and humanitarian and military targets in north-east Nigeria—from where Boko Haram emanated—Cameroon’s far north, near Lake Chad in Chad and Niger’s Diffa region.
Among recent developments, divisions within Boko Haram resulted in an announcement in August 2016 by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, to which Boko Haram previosuly declared loyalty, that it recognised Abu Musab al-Barnawi as the group’s leader instead of Abubakar Shekau. The fissure has been attributed to al-Barnawi’s criticism of Boko Haram’s indiscriminate attacks against Muslims. Despite these different pronouncements, it seems there remains a lack of clarity over the command and control structure of Boko Haram groups and fighters. In another setback for the group, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, announced on 24 December 2016 that Boko Haram had been driven out of its stronghold in the Sambisa forest, though such announcements about the group have often proven premature.
Despite such gains, OCHA describes the humanitarian crisis as having continued to worsen, with the number of displaced people tripling over the last two years. According to OCHA’s 3 February update on the crisis, 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad Basin need humanitarian assistance, including 2.3 million displaced people and 7.1 million people who are severely food insecure. Famine-like conditions have been reported in parts of Borno State, Nigeria. Though the crisis is greatest in northeast Nigeria, internally displaced people and refugees from the conflict total 262,000 in Cameroon’s far north, 127,000 in Chad and 241,000 in Niger. Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, has seen its population more than double to over two million people because of the influx of civilians fleeing violence.
While Boko Haram has committed widespread atrocities, counter-insurgency operations have also seen human rights violations. These have included executions, dire detention conditions of suspected members of Boko Haram and forced returns of displaced persons and refugees. Demonstrating the toll of such operations, a 17 January Nigerian military air strike on a displaced persons camp in Rann, Borno State, killed more than 100 civilians. The conflict has further devastated the region’s economy, closing or severely restricting critical trading routes and uprooting traditional livelihoods.
The Council mission is being organised, in part, to increase the focus on this humanitarian crisis, which has received less attention than other crises. While the conflict is not an item on the Council’s agenda, the Council held two briefings on the Lake Chad Basin crisis over the past year—on 27 July 2016 and 12 January 2017—which were characterised as sessions intended to raise awareness of the situation. As part of what appears to be efforts to increase the focus on the crisis and to prevent its further deterioration, an international donor conference was held in Oslo on 24 February for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, raising $672 million for the next three years. OCHA has appealed for $1.5 billion to meet emergency needs in the Lake Chad basin during 2017, more than double the $739 million requested last year. On 17 February, two days after a donor mission to Borno State preparing for the conference had departed, Boko Haram launched attacks in the outskirts of Maiduguri, leading to the deaths of nine suicide bombers and two civilians.
Members will evaluate the security situation, including difficulties facing the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in addition to assessing the scale of the humanitarian crisis. The MNJTF, formed by countries of the region to combat Boko Haram, has faced resource and organisational challenges.
Ahead of the mission, the Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security met on 27 February on the Lake Chad region, in light of violence inflicted on women and girls in the conflict. Also in February, representatives of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate travelled to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria with the heads of the UN’s West African and Central African regional offices to meet authorities on approaches to dealing with captured and detained persons affiliated with Boko Haram.
|Security Council Press Statement|
|20 January 2017 S/PRST/2017/2||This was a statement on West Africa and the Sahel, which condemned Boko Haram attacks, took note of progress to make the MNJTF operational and reiterated deep concern of the humanitarian situation in the Lake Chad Basin region.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|12 January 2017 S/PV.7861||This was a briefing on Lake Chad Basin crisis precipitated by the Boko Haram conflict.|
|27 July 2016 S/PV.7748||This was a briefing on the humanitarian, political and security situation in the Lake Chad Basin.|