May 28, 2024

MNJTF Progressing Towards Lake Chad Basin Stabilization: 10 Months Under Maj Gen Ibrahim Sallau Ali’s

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MNJTF Progressing Towards Lake Chad Basin Stabilization: 10 Months Under Maj Gen Ibrahim Sallau Ali’s

In the heart of Africa, the Lake Chad Basin serves as lifeblood for tens of millions, a unique ecological sanctuary, and a linchpin in regional stability. This expansive area, touching Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, is more than a geographical feature; it’s the cradle of biodiversity, agriculture, and cultures that have thrived for centuries. Amidst its abundant resources, however, the region has faced its share of turmoil, exacerbated by the shadow of Boko Haram and other insurgent groups. Yet, hope glimmers on the horizon, significantly attributed to the efforts and successes of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) over the past ten months.

The importance of the Lake Chad Basin cannot be overstated. It underpins the livelihoods of over 30 million people, offering water, fish, livestock grazing, and irrigation for agriculture. But beyond its economic significance, Lake Chad is a vital ecological habitat, home to diverse species and acting as a buffer against desertification. This multifaceted utility of the Lake Chad Basin underscores the imperative of preserving its stability and prosperity. However, the specter of insecurity, primarily due to the insurgent activities of Boko Haram and its offshoots, has cast a long shadow over the region.

The resulting humanitarian crisis, with millions displaced and at risk of starvation, has necessitated a robust response. Enter the MNJTF, a coalition of forces from Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Benin Republic, established with the purpose of counteracting the threat posed by these insurgent groups.

In the last ten months, the MNJTF under the command of Major General Ibrahim Sallau Ali has made commendable strides in restoring peace and security to the Lake Chad Basin. Its multifaceted approach, combining kinetic and non-kinetic efforts, has proven effective. Notable successes include the dislodgement of insurgents from its strongholds, rescue of hostages, and reductions in the frequency and severity of attacks in the region.

These military victories have been complemented by efforts to secure returnees and facilitate humanitarian assistance, reflecting a comprehensive strategy towards lasting peace. Moreover, the MNJTF has played a major role in facilitating the return of displaced persons and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas by other state actors. Infrastructure, once devastated by years of conflict, is being rehabilitated, and community resilience initiatives are being introduced, aiming at not just recovery but a sustainable improvement in quality of life. These efforts signify a beacon of hope for the basin’s future, symbolizing a turn towards stability and prosperity.

The MNJTF has achieved considerable success in kinetic operations aimed at eliminating remnants of Boko Haram and other terrorist factions in the Lake Chad Basin. Between July 2023 and April 2024, a significant victory was achieved with 299 terrorists being neutralized, 273 surrendering and 337 arrested for further investigation across different sectors. The operations also led to the recovery of various arms and ammunition, including 20 AK-47 rifles, 4 machine guns, 5 hand grenades, and 35 magazines, among various personal items.

Additionally, the troops recovered 1,416 rounds of ammunition of different calibers. These operations, carried out within their national territories by the sectors, have significantly degraded the terrorists’ ability to launch large-scale attacks on the Lake, forcing them instead to resort to hit-and-run tactics against isolated civilian targets.

Likewise, the MNJTF has conducted Operation NASHRUL SALAM, a non-kinetic approach to break the cycle of terror. This psychological operation was tailored to foster surrender and disrupt unity among the terrorist factions. Operation NASHRUL SALAM disseminated messages across the Lake Chad region in 5 languages: Kanuri, Hausa, Arabic, French, and English, to ensure widespread comprehension. These tailored messages were air-dropped over specific islands known to harbour terrorists, targeting them directly in their hideouts. The operation’s impact was profound, culminating in a significant number of terrorists surrendering. This wave of capitulation not only weakened the terrorists’ resolve but also led to the recovery of a variety of arms and ammunition, which were surrendered to the troops.

The success of Operation NASHRUL SALAM underscores the effectiveness of psychological operations in counter-terrorism efforts, showcasing the power of communication in undermining terror networks and encouraging peace.

Operation NASHRUL SALAM is not the sole non-kinetic initiative aimed at enhancing stability in the Lake Chad region. Supported by its partner, the European Union, the MNJTF has executed Quick Impact Projects throughout the four sectors of the MNJTF. In particular, after successful kinetic operations, over 3,200 residents of the Bagatelerom community in Chad have returned to their ancestral homes, with MNJTF personnel assisting their resettlement in partnership with relevant agencies. Additionally, the revival of fishing activities, previously hindered by security concerns in the region, marks a significant turnaround. Moreover, within the year, farmers in the Baga community have received agricultural tools and benefited from the installation of more than ten irrigation boreholes to bolster food security in the area.

These efforts underscore our modest yet impactful contributions toward enhancing the socio-economic conditions within the Lake Chad Basin Region. Over the last ten months, we have carried out 95 Quick Impact Projects in 31 communities around Lake Chad, spanning water and sanitation, health, and education sectors.

None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the support provided by the Lake Chad Basin Commission. The Commission took a lead role in convening a meeting of the Council of Chiefs of Defence Staff and Ministers of Defence from the Troop Contributing Countries in N’Djamena, Chad, from 11 to 15 March 2024. This council acknowledged the need to initiate Operation LAKE SANITY 2 to thwart any terrorist attempts to regroup and to capitalize on the progress already achieved. This strategic deliberation paved the way for the launch of Operation LAKE SANITY 2 on 23 April 2024. Since the operation’s commencement, the troops have exhibited a high level of dedication to achieving the mission’s objectives, showcasing their commitment to maintaining peace and security in the region.

Operation LAKE SANITY 2 is poised to significantly compliment various national operations and solidify the multinational joint efforts of the MNJTF. The troops have demonstrated unparalleled dedication to achieving their mission, a sentiment warmly echoed by the local communities, who have greeted the forces with open arms and cheers—a clear sign of their support. This local backing aligns with the Force Commander’s repeated calls for community engagement across different sectors within the MNJTF Area of operations, highlighting the operation’s importance and the critical role of local support in its success.

This collaborative success story of MNJTF under Maj Gen IS Ali serves as a testament to what can be accomplished when nations unite against a common threat. As we look forward, it’s imperative that the successes of the MNJTF are built upon. Continued international support, coupled with sustained commitment from the member states, is indispensable. The Lake Chad Basin, with its profound importance to ecological balance, economic sustenance, and cultural heritage, deserves no less. The strides made by the MNJTF in restoring stability are but the first steps on the long road to comprehensive recovery and development. The future of the Lake Chad Basin hinges on the continuation of these concerted efforts to ensure that this vital region can fully realize its potential as a cradle of prosperity and peace.

Lieutenant Colonel Abubakar Abdullahi is the Chief Public Information Officer, Headquarters Multinational Joint Task Force, Ndjamena, Chad Republic.

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