Men on Lake Chad in Central Africa. Responses to violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin are growing in number and in kind. (Photo: James Lane / Flickr)
For stability and recovery, the many actors working in the region must work together to meet the needs of the communities.
First published by The ISS today
Akinola Olojo, Principal Investigator, Lake Chad Basin Program, ISS Dakar.
Responses to violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin are growing in number and in kind. Development, peacebuilding and humanitarian projects have multiplied since the onset of the crisis more than a decade ago, yet violence in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria persists.
To what extent is the multiplicity of civil, military and humanitarian responses a factor in prolonging the search for durable solutions? Could results be achieved with better scaling, sequencing and harmonization of these very different approaches to addressing violent extremism and its impact?
Good relations and cooperation between the military and communities are essential to stem the violence and facilitate humanitarian assistance and development. but recent research by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in partnership with the United Nations Development Program shows that poor communication and lack of trust prevent this in the Lake Chad Basin.
Mutual mistrust between civilians and the military is complicated by the punitive measures often taken by Boko Haram against members of the community who cooperate with the security forces. The soldiers are mistrustful of those they accuse of helping Boko Haram sabotage the army’s efforts.
Communities are wary of the military for making general accusations against suspected members and collaborators of Boko Haram, resulting in arbitrary arrests and detentions, forced evictions and extrajudicial killings. Certain military strategies against Boko Haram have had unintended consequences which reinforce the mistrust of the community.
For example, governments in the Lake Chad Basin have attempted to limit the group’s access to vital supplies. Prohibitions on people, vehicles and even boats movements in some areas and at times have been devastating for the livelihoods of civilians.
In the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, in northeastern Nigeria, a 2019 to prohibit over transporting solid fertilizers has crippled thousands of households, many of which include farmers who depend on them to grow crops. the prohibition on the cultivation and marketing of red peppers in the Diffa region of Niger has been equally debilitating.
Differences in the way information is managed and communicated also makes civil-military cooperation difficult. Soldiers are reluctant to share details of their strategies against Boko Haram, and civilians do not always agree with the military interpretation of the situation on the ground. For example, the army could describe a situation as “calm” or “under control” when in fact civilians continue to be victims of looting, kidnappings and other violations.
Coordination problems between military and humanitarian actors affect both state and non-state entities. Insufficient military personnel and equipment to escort government-led humanitarian missions means that a single trip sometimes has to be broken down into several smaller tasks. This has financial, time and emergency implications. Transporting humanitarian items in several small missions increases fuel costs, takes significantly longer and delays the delivery of supplies to those in urgent need.
In some cases, non-state humanitarian actors are viewed with suspicion by the military. Applying the principle of neutrality is a well known point of friction between the army and the humanitarian system. Soldiers often have reservations about humanitarian actors helping insurgents, deliberately or not.
In 2019, the Nigerian army accused some humanitarian organizations provide food and medicine to Boko Haram. Some have been ordered to close their main offices in Borno state and have been declared persona non grata. In Niger, the services of a similar organization have been suspended due to accusations “questionable links” with a terrorist organization.
Banning or suspending the work of these organizations limits humanitarian aid to local communities, making people more vulnerable to recruitment by Boko Haram. Overall, the tensions described above all contribute to prolonging the crisis.
Dialogue between the military, communities and humanitarian organizations is essential, especially as the security situation becomes increasingly volatile. The talks are expected to be led by the Regional Stabilization Strategy Secretariat of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the Multinational Joint Force and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Representatives of local humanitarian agencies, the civil-military cooperation cell of the Lake Chad Basin Commission-Joint Multinational Working Group and the civil-military coordination cell of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs should also be involved.
These entities must avoid operating in silos and strengthen their communication, collaboration and the sharing of lessons on what works. For example, interventions often begin with a commitment to prioritize the interests of communities, but inadequate monitoring means that other issues eventually take over. And beyond traditional leaders, community groups, including women and youth, should also be involved.
Expectations are high as local, regional and global actors strive to deliver on their commitments in the Lake Chad Basin. Success will depend on how effectively they work together to meet the needs of communities. DM
This article is funded by the United Nations Development Program and the Government of the Netherlands.
More about this article: Read More
This notice was published: 2021-06-16 16:07:35