THE Head of the United Nations (UN) West Africa Office, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, has said Boko Haram insurgents were unable to disrupt the electoral process in Nigeria, following the regional forces’ involvement in Nigeria.
Briefing the UN Security Council via video conference in New York, United States, on Monday, he said the group’s control had been reduced to only a few areas.
However, he said its violence and brutality had intensified, including through the use of children as suicide bombers and human shields, adding that its reported allegiance to the Islamic State showed that its agenda went well beyond Nigeria.
In light of recent elections in Nigeria, which the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) reported as having been free and transparent, he said the legitimacy of the next government would be essential for the country’s long-term stability.
He expressed the hope that government would remain engaged in the fight against Boko Haram.
As for the role of the international community, he said it should play an important part in addressing the root causes of terrorism in a way that put respect for human life and dignity first.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa said it was clear that a military approach alone would not suffice to contain the threat.
Although several key towns had been recaptured, as well as Boko Haram’s headquarters, with the terrorist group holding only a few areas, he said its attacks had intensified.
A recent report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he noted, showed that Boko Haram had committed numerous human rights abuses, including abductions, looting and slaughtering of communities.
Following an attack in February, he said reports had shown that the armed group was forcibly recruiting boys and men.
Chambas said of particular concern were children, who had been targeted for abduction and forced recruitment, with reports of young people being used as suicide bombers.
In response to those and other concerns, he said the United Nations was in the process of scaling up its presence and operations in Niger, Cameroon and the Lake Chad Basin region.
The Special Representative said a hands-on approach was needed, as well as resources for implementation.
He noted that the United Nations would support regional efforts, including those led by the Lake Chad Basin Commission.
He, however, said “proceeding cautiously is essential.”
Chambas said counter-terrorist operations that were perceived by affected populations as being brutal would violate the norms represented by the United Nations.
He said a joint task force must abide by the rule of law and international standards, which was an effective strategy to ensure that communities supported the authorities fighting Boko Haram instead of fostering the insurgents.
Also in her briefing to the council, Ms Kyung-Wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the violent conflict in north-eastern Nigeria had forcibly displaced at least 1.5 million people in Nigeria and neighbouring countries.
Kyung-Wha added that as many as three million people in northern Nigeria would not be able to meet their basic food needs after July 2015, unless they received well-targeted humanitarian assistance.
In addition to insecurity, she said, lack of donor support was constraining the expansion of the humanitarian footprint.
She said the number of people fleeing attacks was growing across borders in the Lake Chad Basin region.
Kyung-Wha said the governments of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon had requested international aid to respond to immediate needs, including protection, food, water and shelter.
Food, she said, was becoming increasingly scarce and costly, with almost one quarter of children in the Diffa region between six and 23 months of age suffering from acute malnutrition and 4.6 million in North-East Nigeria faced food insecurity.
She said an overwhelming number of internally displaced persons resided in host communities in “camp-like” conditions, clustered around schools, churches and mosques.
Welcoming the regional political commitment to tackle the ongoing violence, she underscored the importance of a limited focus by the Multi-National Joint Task Force to create conducive security conditions and avoid civilian casualties.
She asked council members to ensure that operations remained distinct from civilian-led humanitarian efforts, to safeguard the neutrality of those providing aid. (Nigerian Tribune)