It is critical to shore up areas of Africa’s Lake Chad Basin freed from the grip of Boko Haram, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General told the Security Council on Thursday, as she also called for efforts to rebuild the lives of women and girls that have suffered at the hands of the terrorist group.
Amina Mohammed said recent joint efforts by the four of the region’s affected countries – Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria – have resulted in “considerable progress” in the fight against the extremists, including the liberation of hostages as well as territorial gains.
However, she reported that the group has stepped up the use of women and girls as suicide bombings, while children were deployed in 135 such attacks in 2017: a five-fold increase over the previous year.
“It is now key to stabilize the areas that have been reclaimed, and that we seize the opportunity to really promote sustainable development,” said the UN deputy chief, speaking via videoconference from Liberia where she is participating in celebrations to mark the end of the UN peacekeeping mission in that country, known as UNMIL.
Ms. Mohamed was joined by Mohammed Bila, a representative of the Lake Chad Basin Commission based in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, and Senior Conflict Advisor at Adelphi, Chitra Nagarajan, in painting a picture of the factors behind people’s suffering in the Lake Chad Basin and driving some to terrorism one year after the Council adopted its first resolution on the activities of Boko Haram in the strife-torn region.
Boko Haram, an Islamist militant organization based in north-east Nigeria, has carried out raids, suicide bombings and kidnappings across the Lake Chad region over the past decade.
Their operations have led to displacement, insecurity, destruction of infrastructure and what Ms. Mohammed described as a “complex and dire” humanitarian situation, with nearly 11 million people requiring assistance.
The group gained international notoriety in 2014 after abducting more than 270 girls from a Government school in Chibok, Nigeria.
It is believed to be behind the kidnapping last month of 110 schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Dapchi, most of whom were safely returned this week.
Overall, Boko Haram has abducted more than 4,000 women and girls, according to the UN deputy chief, who added that those who return to their communities are often stigmatized.