Violent extremism persisting in Lake Chad despite efforts – UN

Despite efforts made to address violent extremism and root causes of conflicts in the Lake Chad region, the problem has persisted, blocking progress, the United Nations has said.

Salah Khaled, the Director of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) Regional Office for Central Africa, regretted that the consequences of these violent extremism largely perpetrated by the Boko Haram terrorist, are alarming with over nearly two and half million people displaced, ecosystems degraded and livelihood of communities  threatened.

He started this at High-Level Launch event of the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Network for Inclusive Rehabilitation and Reintegration, Lake Chad Basin Chapter co-hosted by Neem Foundation and the Elman Peace Centre as a leading African peacebuilding organisation with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Khaled noted that  the Lake Chad Basin region is the front line in the fight against climate change insecurity and poverty, while noting that collaboration between governments and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) is key in addressing the problems.

“Through our joint efforts we have the potential to be a laboratory  of ideas and chain of hope to address these problems.

“The UN 2030 agenda is a call  for collaborative efforts to eradicate poverty, combat climate change and promote peace”, he said.

On the reintegration of Boko Haram ex-combatants  to the society,  Khaled pointed out that it is crucial to move from the classic standard and basic training sessions to bring technical vocational training; to give people a new alternative to immunise them from the manipulations of the Violent Extremists.

Mohamed Yahya, UNDP Resident Representative in Nigeria, speaking,  informed that though some parts of Lake Chad has been liberated from Boko  Haram, the terrorist group is still active in the region and there is still more that needs to be done.

As part of efforts to address the menace, he reiterated that there is a direct relationship between marginalisation, poverty and why people join Violent Extremism. He said a collaborative effort is needed to tackle these root causes.

He said, “Boko Haram don’t control as much territories as they used to, things have improved, but we are not  where we want to be.

“In my conversations with the  military, they can only do so much in terms of fighting violent extremism, and the solution to violent extremism is some of the work that CSOs and governments have to do.”

He further noted that it was possible to carry out re-integration and rehabilitation why conflicts are ongoing.

Yahya said any re-integration and rehabilitation should engage root causes, such as the lack of opportunity,  livelihood.

“We need to do reintegration differently. We have to think theoretically to finding solutions and its the hands of  CSOs”, he stressed.

Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments, also speaking, said the presidency acknowledges the role of CSOs to build resilient and social responses to insecurity;  to provide alternatives to perpetrators and potential perpetrators of violence in the Lake Chad Basin; and strengthen protection systems.

Uwais expressed the readiness or the presidency  to work with CSOs in achieving these goals.

According to her, CSOs are key to understanding  the communities and gather early warning systems relevant to countering violent extremism.

The Executive Director of Neem Foundation, Dr. Fatima Akilu, in her welcome remark explained the essence of the event while Ilwad Elman, Chief Operating Officer, Elman Peace Centre, and Mustapha Alhassan, Programme Manager of Neem Foundation, provided more details.

The launch brought together over 30 participants selected on the basis of knowledge and experience in supporting reintegration through their work in governments, international organisations, civil society and private sector to also outline the ambitions and milestones achieved to date by the LCB Inclusive CSO Network.

They noted that the LCB Inclusive Reintegration CSO Network is a 2021 flagship initiative that builds into and onto the regional strategy for the stabilisation, recovery and resilience (RSS) of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad region. The network is specifically aligned with RSS Pillar 3: Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation, Reinsertion and Reintegration (DDRR) of Boko Haram-associated persons.

Speaking further, the organisers said the rationale and objectives of the Network are to significantly enhance and broaden the civic space in SPRR/DDRR within the LCB region by developing, amplifying and promoting sustainable, community-driven approaches to reintegration.

The ambition is to “empower regional, national and community-based CSOs to standardise SPRR/DDRR practices and activities into implementable models through regional cooperation, knowledge exchange, and mutual learning of CSOs. Identify and amplify African-led solutions to resolve localised challenges that obstruct SPRR/DRR/CBR processes.”

“Inclusive to admit a balanced diverse membership with organisations of different sizes, thematic areas of expertise, and experience. Eight founding members representing larger, established CSOs plus 32 smaller, grassroots organisations.”