Since 2012, more than a dozen African countries have suffered several attacks and loss of innocent lives due to the violence of Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram. Several attacks have been carried out in Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. This shows that terrorism is strong and spreading consistently across Africa and only a united African effort can effectively curb this growing threat. It is only by standing together in intelligence sharing, operational cooperation and moral support that Africa can defeat this plague of terrorism.
While there have been initiatives to create an African coalition against terrorism, most of those efforts have been limited, underfunded and lacking implementation. One of the most concrete steps taken in the African fight against terrorism is the reorganization of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) by the Lake Chad Basin countries which are Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad and (non-member) the Republic of Benin. The mandate of the coalition is to stamp out the Boko Haram extremist group which has waged a bloody insurgency in Nigeria and carried out several attacks on its Lake Chad neighbors. But the MNJTF is quite limited in its scope of operations.
The Multinational Joint Security Force was created by the Lake Chad Basin Commission in March 1994; and the widening of its mandate to the fight against Boko Haram in April 2012. In October 2014, the force was renamed the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram (MNJTF). In 2015, the focus of the force was on setting up a formidable force and defining how it would operate. It took to the field in 2016, despite some setbacks, it recorded several victories against Boko Haram but that hasn’t been the case in recent time. During this period, they were able to record these successes due to good communication skills. This encouraged the local population to collaborate with security forces in their attempts to recapture the areas that remain under Boko Haram control.
The MNJTF remains plagued by daunting challenges.
The relationship between the four major countries in this fight has remained tense over the years. It is reported that they have difficulties in command and coordination. There is a persistence of uncoordinated actions by states, and claims of victory against Boko Haram by individual countries during joint operations.
Despite weakening Boko Haram on many fronts, it still remains a threat as the group has changed it’s pattern of attacks by demonstrating resilience on the ground. With all these happening, many analysts are not sure of the strength of MNJTF with the ever-changing tactics by Boko Haram.
MNJTF is also faced with financial challenges, which has hindered its effectiveness. Since it was set up, it has not been able to meet the about $700 million needed to cover its budget. The contribution from most of its key partners which include Nigeria, the United Kingdom, the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) and the European Union is not even enough to cover its budget. Countries like Nigeria and Chad that pledged to contribute to the force have not been able to redeem their pledges as they were hit by the economic downturn caused by the fall in global oil price.
If the member states and strategic partners are able to boost the MNJTF’s operational capacity to stabilize and reclaim territory captured by Boko Haram, this will, in turn, create an environment in which the much-needed humanitarian aid can be provided.
Hopefully, the challenges facing MNJTF would be discussed at the seventh edition of the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa taking place in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia on the 21st and 22nd of April 2018. African leaders, security experts, and African security enthusiasts are set to discuss the theme “Ownership of Africa’s Peace and Security Provision: Financing and Reforming the African Union.”