Presidential Statement on Boko Haram ahead of Abuja Regional Security Summit
Today (13 May), the Security Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement on Boko Haram, ahead of tomorrow’s Regional Security Summit in Abuja. The US, in coordination with Senegal, circulated a draft text Wednesday afternoon, seeking comments by Thursday morning. It seems that the US and Senegal had consulted with Nigeria, which expressed its support for the draft presidential statement. A revised draft was put under silence procedure yesterday evening until 10 am this morning.
The summit, to be held on Saturday (14 May), is a follow-up to the Paris Summit convened on 17 May 2014 after the kidnapping of the Chibok school girls, an incident which focused greater attention on the conflict in northeast Nigeria. This second regional security summit is expected to bring together the presidents of Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, whose countries make up the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), as well as French President Francois Hollande. In addition, according to a press release from Nigeria’s presidential office, Equatorial Guinea, the UK, the US, the EU, the Economic Community of West African States, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission will be represented.
The draft presidential statement welcomes the initiative of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to convene this summit, in order to evaluate the regional response to the threat posed by Boko Haram. It notes that it is being held with a view to adopting a comprehensive strategy to address the governance, security, development, socio-economic and humanitarian dimensions of the crisis. When Council members met with Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, in Dakar this past March, he told them that he believed it was important to hold a new meeting of regional countries to review joint efforts against Boko Haram, and that he was pleased to hear that Buhari planned to organise a high-level meeting.
While regional forces have taken back much of the territory controlled by Boko Haram, the group continues to carry out deadly asymmetric attacks. The draft presidential statement condemns all terrorist attacks, human rights abuses and international humanitarian law violations by Boko Haram across the Lake Chad Basin region. It expresses deep concern that Boko Haram continues to undermine peace and security in West and Central Africa, as well as alarm at its linkages with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Meanwhile, northeast Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad Basin region continue to face a major humanitarian crisis as a result of the conflict. The UN’s Sahel Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, said at a press conference in New York last month that humanitarian needs are equal to or greater than anything he has ever seen, including the Central African Republic, Darfur and South Sudan. The Council draft statement expresses deep alarm over the humanitarian crisis, including the more than 2.2 million Nigerians that are internally displaced, and over 450,000 internally displaced persons and refugees in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The statement highlights that 4.2 million people in the Lake Chad Basin region are facing a food security crisis, including that 184 children per day risk starvation in Nigeria’s Borno and Yobe states without immediate aid. The Council urges the international community to provide humanitarian assistance, noting that only 10 percent of the $530 million required this year to address the crisis has been received.
Other elements in the draft statement include commendation of territorial advances by regional governments, while urging MNJTF states to further enhance cooperation to consolidate gains, deny Boko Haram safe haven, allow humanitarian access, and facilitate the restoration of rule of law. It underscores the importance of a holistic approach to defeat Boko Haram, including improving governance and promoting economic growth in affected areas, as well as conducting military operations in accordance with international humanitarian law. The statement reiterates many points from the Council’s previous presidential statements on Boko Haram (S/PRST/2015/5 and S/PRST/2015/14).
Egypt had a number of proposals that required further discussion. It seems Egypt wanted to refer to the issue of “distorted narratives” for recruiting supporters and foreign terrorist fighters, which was their theme for the open debate on 11 May. It also wanted to include a paragraph on the role of victims of terrorism in countering radicalism. The draft placed under silence addresses these proposals by adding a new final paragraph that recalls key Council resolutions on terrorism, as well as the Council’s 11 May presidential statement, adopted following the counter-terrorism debate.