Thank you for the opportunity to brief the Council on the situation in the Lake Chad Basin region.
Attacks by Boko Haram continue, mainly in north-eastern Nigeria and southern Niger, and to a lesser extent in northern Cameroon and the Lac region of Chad. Terrorists persist in targeting innocent civilians, including through suicide attacks, often using young children. Despite commendable regional efforts, the group continues to threaten regional stability, as illustrated by the 3 June attack on a military base in Bosso town, south-eastern Niger.
Lake Chad Basin countries face a serious humanitarian crisis. Significant numbers of refugees and internally displaced people add pressure on host communities that are already food insecure. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, will brief you on the humanitarian challenges.
The United Nations has received reports of increased incidents of sexual and gender-based violence among the displaced. In Nigeria, the Protection Working Group, comprising the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission, reports of rape and sexual abuse in almost half of the 26 sites covered. In Cameroon, allegations of human rights abuses committed by security forces persist, especially against youth belonging to Muslim communities in the North. Vigilante groups, going after suspected suicide bombers, have injured innocent civilians.
To protect human rights, concerned States must ensure accountability for serious violations by national forces and that the use of force is in full compliance with international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. States must adopt measures to protect civilians and respect due process when dealing with persons arrested for Boko Haram-related charges. Children used by Boko Haram should be treated as victims and dealt with in accordance with international standards for juvenile justice. We welcome the establishment of a Human Rights Desk by the Nigerian Army to investigate allegations of human rights violations committed by its forces. We encourage other affected countries to institute similar mechanisms.
The Boko Haram crisis has devastated the region’s economy. Economic growth dropped sharply with the decline of oil prices and other commodities. Decreasing resources affects the states’ ability to deliver basic social services and to pay the salaries of security forces and civil servants.
Insecurity has disrupted trade routes between Chad and Nigeria, interrupting the supply of basic goods and producing price hikes. Youth unemployment is at a worrisome high, providing recruitment ground for Boko Haram. We urge that military operations be complemented with development interventions, including to address the effects of climate change.
We commend the Lake Chad Basin countries’ efforts to combat Boko Haram. The regional offensive involving Chadian, Cameroonian, Nigerian and Nigerien troops operating under the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), has recaptured 80 per cent of areas once under Boko Haram control, freed thousands of captives and prevented terrorist attacks.
I returned yesterday after visiting a number of Central and West African countries. As part of my tour, I met with President Idriss Déby Itno in N’Djaména and visited the MNJTF headquarters. MNJTF’s main challenge remains a severe lack of funding. The 1 February African Union’s Donor Conference aimed to mobilise $750 million. Only $250 million was pledged, and even less disbursed. The success of MNJTF operations also depends on timely and actionable intelligence as well as specialised counter-terrorism skills and equipment, given the evolving tactics of Boko Haram.
So far, the Lake Chad Basin countries have borne the financial responsibility of combatting Boko Haram despite their own economic crisis. As President Déby Itno explained to me with frustration they have been forced to divert national spending away from basic services to security. Lake Chad Basin leaders have expressed their growing impatience over delays by international partners to support the MNJTF financially.
I commend the United Kingdom for the financial support already provided to the MNJTF and welcome the European Union’s intention to commit funds for the operationalization of the force. I urge the international community to support the MNJTF through the mobilization of required political, logistical and financial support.
The United Nations supports national and regional efforts to combat terrorism, and to ensure that the perpetrators of terrorism are brought to justice. However, counter-terrorist operations must abide by the rule of law and international human rights norms. MNJTF commanders have reassured me that every effort was being made to protect human rights, including by the deployment of dedicated personnel to monitor human rights issues.
Further to the Council’s request to extend the Integrated Assistance on Countering Terrorism (I-ACT) initiative to the G5 Sahel region, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Integrated Task Force (CTITF) is working closely with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) to develop the G5 Sahel I-ACT. In this regard, CTITF, accompanied by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will meet G5 representatives from 30 August to 1 September in Nouakchott to produce the outline of a Capacity Building Framework for counter-terrorism and prevention of violent extremism, including concrete regional projects.
The Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee will also visit the Lake Chad Basin countries in October, accompanied by the SRSGs for Central Africa and for West Africa and the Sahel, CTED, CTITF and the Special Representative of the African Union for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation. In Central Africa, the UN Centre for Counter-Terrorism supports the efforts of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in implementing the Central Africa Counter Terrorism strategy. We will meet with partners in the fall to discuss specific projects.
A military approach, while essential, will not bring end to the Boko Haram threat. Affected countries must tackle not only the humanitarian consequences but also the root causes that contributed to the emergence of the group, including the social, economic and political grievances of marginalised communities. The SRSGs for Central Africa and for West Africa and the Sahel continue to encourage regional interlocutors to address the Boko Haram crisis holistically and beyond an exclusively security lens. Lake Chad Basin countries need our support so that military operations are followed by stabilization measures and restoration of state authority.
The Second Regional Security Summit for the Lake Chad Basin held on 14 May in Abuja, reaffirmed the need to address the root causes. Among a number of noteworthy recommendations, the Summit encouraged affected countries to utilize the services of community and religious leaders to discourage impressionable youth from being radicalized and to lead de-radicalization programmes. The Summit took note of the negative consequences of climate change, affecting livelihoods of those dependent on Lake Chad, in particular youth. The Summit urged the concerned countries and partners support the restoration of Lake Chad as part of a strategy to combat Boko Haram.
The UN stands ready to support the Lake Chad Basin countries in addressing both the consequences and root causes of Boko Haram. We encourage the leaders of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to hold their long-planned joint Ministerial Summit to adopt a common regional strategy to address the crisis. Your support would help underscore the urgency of the matter.