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Lake Chad Basin

Expected Council Action

In September, the Security Council will receive a briefing on the Secretary-General’s report on the Lake Chad Basin. The Council requested the report, which is expected to be distributed to members by 30 August, in resolution 2349 adopted in March following its visiting mission to the Lake Chad Basin region.

Key Recent Developments

Recent months have seen an intensification of attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram, especially in north-eastern Nigeria, with repeated strikes around Maiduguri and nearby internally displaced persons (IDP) sites. On 7 June, Boko Haram launched a series of raids in Maiduguri in which 14 people were killed. This was the group’s largest attack in the capital city of Borno state in a year and a half. Seventeen people were killed, including five female suicide bombers, in an attack on Kofa village outside Maiduguri on 18 June. On 25 and 26 June, four suicide bombers killed a further 16 people in Maiduguri. Following deadly suicide attacks against two IDP camps outside the city on 24 July, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, issued a statement condemning the strikes and noting “the recent accelerating trend of attacks on civilians in north-east Nigeria”. In June and July alone, according to OCHA, 60 female suicide bombers were involved in attacks across Borno state.

On 25 July, Boko Haram ambushed an oil exploration team from the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and University of Maiduguri in Magumeri, Borno. Some 50 Nigerian soldiers, members of the civilian joint task force, and other civilians were killed, and an unknown number abducted. During August, attacks continued, including the killing of 31 fishermen on 5 and 6 August in Kukawa, Borno, and an estimated 40 people died in an attack in Madagali, Adamawa state, on 10 August. Boko Haram also intensified attacks in the far north of Cameroon, including 18 suicide bombings in June and nine in July, according to the International Crisis Group. Boko Haram continues to threaten Niger’s Diffa region and border areas of Chad.

The Lake Chad Basin region faces a dire humanitarian situation as a result of the long-running violence associated with Boko Haram. More than 2.3 million people are displaced across the region. According to OCHA’s 11 August crisis update, “food insecurity and malnutrition have reached critical levels” across the four countries of the Lake Chad Basin. Over seven million food-insecure people are classified as being at crisis and emergency levels, of whom 5.2 million are in Nigeria’s northeast, with 1.5 million in Cameroon, 340,000 in Niger, and 123,000 in Chad. As of 8 August, only 39.6 percent of the $1.5 billion in funding that OCHA says is required in 2017 to address the Lake Chad Basin crisis had been provided.

There was a notable spike in Nigerian refugees returning from Cameroon to Borno state in recent months. In May alone, 12,000 Nigerians returned, raising concerns that the refugees were being forced to return by the government of Cameroon, which the latter denies. On 2 March, Cameroon signed a tripartite agreement with Nigeria and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees.

The Security Council undertook a visiting mission to the four affected countries of the Lake Chad Basin—Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria—from 2 to 7 March. The mission was organised to focus more attention on the situation and for members to gain a better understanding of the scale of the humanitarian crisis and the root causes of the conflict. A common message pressed upon members was the need to bring under control the humanitarian emergency and the conflict’s underlying causes, such as poverty, underdevelopment, poor governance, and the shrinking of Lake Chad, a key source of water and livelihoods for the whole region. These are factors, according to government and UN officials that the Council met with, that have fostered radicalisation and, unless addressed, are likely to cause continued instability.

On 31 March, the Council adopted resolution 2349, its first on Boko Haram and the Lake Chad Basin crisis. The resolution outlines the security situation and protection needs of civilians, the humanitarian crisis, and the conflict’s root causes and development challenges. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to submit within five months a report assessing the situation, “particularly regarding the progress made and remaining challenges, and possible measures for consideration, including with respect to achieving greater coherence of efforts in the context of overlapping regional strategies”.

The humanitarian crisis was discussed during a 16 June Arria-formula meeting on the threat of famine in the conflict-affected situations of Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and north-eastern Nigeria. The Council subsequently adopted a 9 August presidential statement on the threat of famine facing these four countries that, inter alia, reiterated the Council’s calls on all parties to allow safe, timely and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance and called on donors to immediately disburse pledged funds, including those committed at the Oslo donor conference on 24 February for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. It further requested the Secretary-General to provide an oral briefing in October with specific recommendations on how to address impediments to a more effective response to the risk of famine in these four countries.

The Council more recently discussed the conflict’s impact on women and girls when Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed briefed it on 10 August about her recent visit to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mohamed stressed that women and girls have been subjected to forced marriages and used as suicide bombers, while many associated with Boko Haram face stigmatisation upon returning to their communities. She also highlighted the widespread sexual exploitation of IDPs.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 8 June, the Committee on the Rights of the Child published its concluding observations on Cameroon, expressing concern at persistent discrimination, ongoing police violence (possibly amounting to torture), and prolonged pre-trial detention of children suspected of association with Boko Haram.

On 24 July, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) published its concluding observations on Niger and Nigeria. With regards to Niger, CEDAW expressed concern that no strategic policy or legislative response exists to address the “extremely precarious conditions of displaced women and girls” in Niger, which is particularly aggravated in the Lake Chad region. CEDAW noted that displaced women and girls are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence, forced marriage, human trafficking, forced prostitution, and abduction by terrorist groups. It also pointed out that there is no independent mechanism to investigate allegations of such human rights violations by state forces and terrorist groups. On Nigeria, CEDAW commended the country for its efforts in the fight against Boko Haram’s insurgency and the rescue of over 100 abducted girls, but it remained concerned by the significant number of girls who have yet to be rescued and continue to be subjected to rape, sexual slavery, forced marriage and impregnation by members of Boko Haram. CEDAW also expressed concern that the military and law enforcement officials have carried out blanket arrests and detentions of women and girls suspected of being radicalised by, or associated with, Boko Haram. Also of concern was the reported sexual exploitation taking place in camps for IDPs.

Key Issues and Options

The Secretary-General’s report is expected to provide an update about the security and humanitarian situations in the four affected countries and to review efforts to implement resolution 2349. This includes support for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF)—the regional force composed of Lake Chad Basin countries and Benin to combat Boko Haram—as well as UN and broader international efforts to respond to the humanitarian crisis, protect human rights, and tackle root causes of the crisis. How the Council can remain engaged and support the efforts of the region, the UN system, and humanitarian partners will be an important issue.

The Council could adopt a presidential statement:

  • commending the region’s progress in combating Boko Haram, while expressing concern over the continued threat posed by the group;
  • encouraging international support for the MNJTF and urging donors to fulfil pledges and provide additional funding to address the humanitarian crisis;
  • reaffirming that counter-terrorism operations must comply with international humanitarian and human rights law and reiterating that the return of refugees and IDPs should be voluntary, safe and respectful of individual dignity; and
  • stressing the need for the countries of the Lake Chad Basin to develop a regional strategy to address the root causes of the crisis, including through the Lake Chad Basin Commission or the AU.

Regarding follow-up reporting, the Council may request that this continue to be provided through the six-month reports of the UN’s regional offices for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and for Central Africa (UNOCA), or it may request the Secretary-General to provide more regular, separate reports on the Lake Chad Basin.

Council Dynamics

Resolution 2349 was the first Council resolution related to the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin region despite the destructiveness and brutality of the conflict, which began in 2009. Nigeria long resisted its consideration by the Council, contending that it was an internal conflict. As it became clear in 2014 that Nigeria’s response to the insurgency was failing and the violence drew in Nigeria’s neighbours, there was more pressure on the Council to engage with the situation. The Council has usually been informed on the situation through the reporting of UNOWAS and UNOCA.

The UK organised an initial session on the Lake Chad Basin humanitarian crisis in July 2016 and was key in organising the Council visiting mission in March, which it co-led with France and Senegal. The mission to the Lake Chad Basin seemed useful in developing a common understanding among Council members of the crisis affecting the region, and the link between the conflict and the importance of addressing its underlying causes. This contributed to agreement on resolution 2349, which stands out among Council resolutions for the extent to which it focuses on root causes and development needs.

Ahead of the Council’s expected consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on the Lake Chad Basin, the Council will hold its annual consultations with the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa. The Lake Chad Basin crisis is among the issues on the agenda.

France, particularly through its counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane deployed across the Sahel, as well as the UK and the US, provide support to the counter-insurgency efforts of the Lake Chad Basin countries.

The UK served as penholder for resolution 2349.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE LAKE CHAD BASIN

Security Council Resolution
31 March 2017 S/RES/2349 This was on the Lake Chad Basin.
Security Council Presidential Statements
9 August 2017 S/PRST/2017/14 This was on the threat of famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and north-east Nigeria.
24 July 2017 S/PRST/2017/10 This was a presidential statement on West Africa and the Sahel.
Security Council Meeting Records
10 August 2017 S/PV.8022 This was a briefing by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed following her 19-27 July joint visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Nigeria with Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security Bineta Diop, Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten. Ambassador Téte António, Permanent Observer for the African Union, also briefed.

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