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March 18, 2014

Lake Chad Countries Agree on Military Task Force Amid Insecurity

by Moki Edwin Kindzeka

The countries around Lake Chad in central Africa say they will create a joint task force to combat arms trafficking, terrorism and cross-border attacks as tensions escalate in the region. 

The conflict in the Central African Republic and the insurgency in northern Nigeria are having a regional impact, pushing refugees, weapons, and violence into neighboring countries.

In response, defense and military chiefs from the six-member Lake Chad Basin Commission met in Cameroon Tuesday and gave a green light to a multinational military task force empowered to act against militant threats.

Cameroon Defense Minister Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o said this meeting was sort of a “shock therapy” for Lake Chad Basin member states to address how best to tackle growing threats and the growing security challenges.

Cameroon has been hit particularly hard by the chaos in the C.A.R. and the Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria.  Refugees from both countries have streamed into Cameroon, while officials have denied allegations that militants are using Cameroonian territory as a refuge or a base for operations.
 
Nigerian-born Sanusi Imran Abdullah is the executive secretary for the Lake Chad Basin Commission.  He said the new task force would be headquartered in the town of Baga in Nigeria's Borno state - the home state of Boko Haram.

"Baga is the institution or the place that is fully prepared to accommodate the headquarters.  As you know there are buildings there, there are infrastructures there and there is no need to build a new place," he said.

Borno is one of three Nigerian states where the government declared a state of emergency last May and has deployed thousands of troops in an effort to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.

Despite the operations, large-scale attacks on towns and cities continue. 

Chad, Cameroon, Libya, Niger, Nigeria and the C.A.R agreed that the initial mandate of the new task force will be to patrol the Lake Chad region, conduct military operations against arms dealers and suspected terrorists and to facilitate free movement.

Operations are to begin soon but no firm date has been announced.