West Africa must tackle Boko Haram as a region to stop barbaric onslaught

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

There is an air of hope in actions being taken by the African Union, international partners and governments through ongoing ratification of international protocols by African countries aimed at addressing the challenges derailing Africa’s economic growth.

Africa’s development for decades has been marred by political instability fueled by tribal wars, corruption, and dictatorial leadership, subjecting millions of the people to barbaric abuse, killings, rapes, and all forms of heinous human right violations. For some countries, the horrible history still continues to haunt their people who up to this moment are unable to shake off the trauma.

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People displaced by Boko Haram onslaught

However, the trends are changing with added new challenges of greater nature, and though 20th century Africa is experiencing a shift in its social and economic drive as a result of increasing literacy level, more opportunities for women and girls, increasing willingness of political leaders to conform to internationally accepted protocols , and pragmatic approaches being taken in implementing policies for successful economic growth, continued activities of terrorists in the continent is derailing these drives and putting the hopes of millions of people living in affected regions in dilemma.

West Africa has a share of Africa’s major economic challenges that span from political instability, unemployment, high level of illiteracy, poor infrastructural facilities and corruption, but barbaric activities by Boko Haram in Nigeria are the gravest enigma to the region’s security stability.

The killing of two men and injury of 16 people as a result of an explosion by four female bombers in Borno State, Nigeria, on Wednesday 15 March 2017 is an indication that embattled Nigeria needs the intervention of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help contain this menace.

ECOWAS has played a tremendous role in Africa to restore peace in countries in conflict in West Africa. It serves as a peacekeeping force in the region, with member states sending joint military forces to intervene in the bloc’s member countries at times of political instability and unrest.

In recent years ECOWAS has intervened in Liberia’s and Sierra Leone’s civil wars in 2003, Ivory Coast in 2003, Guinea-Bissau in 2012, Mali in 2013, and recently in The Gambia in 2017.

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Boko Haram has fuelled “an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the north-east of Nigeria

Nigeria, the biggest economy in the region, always takes the forefront in ensuring the mandate of ECOWAS is met. Unfortunately, activities by Boko Haram in the country are destabilizing villages and towns as well as affecting neighboring countries.

Unaccounted numbers of innocent people are being killed, millions displaced and women and teenage girls kidnapped and raped amidst other grave untold sufferings in the unpredictable atmosphere in Nigeria as well as threatening the security of  Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin.

At the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its 567th meeting held on 14 January 2015, the AU ‘notes with concern the continued threat posed by the Boko Haram terrorist group and stresses the imperative of sustained military operations by the MNJTF to completely eliminate this group. Council decides to renew the mandate of the MNJTF for another period of twelve ‘.

Boko Haram activities should be challenged in a manner similar to the one applied in the fight against Ebola in the Mano River Union countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.

Embattled Nigeria is strenuously trying to contain the scourge while responding to the region’s other issues, as can be cited with its readiness to provide military support to ensure political stability in The Gambia in 2017.  Porous borders, weak security, high level of corruption and differing tribal lines in most West African countries are the window for exploitation by people with intent to cause terrorist activities.

Terrorist activities in Nigeria is a scourge to the region’s socio-economic stability as they hinder development projects aimed at bettering the lives people, most especially women and children, who are most affected by Boko Haram.

The African Union, through ECOWAS, therefore, must take affirmative action and tackle the menace and protect any spill of these hideous activities from entering into weaker nations in the region.

The fight against Boko Haram should not be viewed as a Nigerian fight but a fight for West Africa, a fight that needs a holistic approach to protect the lives of people in affected regions and to ensure sustainable peace.

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Categories: Opinion, Security

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