General News of Sunday, 18 January 2015
ECOWAS Chairman, President John Mahama has proposed the setting up of a multi-national force to fight Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
To be able to achieve this, ECOWAS has requested that the next African Union (AU) meeting in Addis Ababa must include a special session on terrorism.
This will enable West African leaders to seek authority to create the multi-national force to help combat the operations of Boko Haram.
Thousands of people in North Eastern Nigeria have either lost their lives or have been abducted by Boko Haram.
Nigerian authorities have for years been unable to fight the group which has been terrorizing citizens.
ECOWAS heads of states have been meeting periodically to re-strategize to help Nigeria fight the Islamist group and protect citizens as well but not much success has been recorded.
Regarding the number of African countries willing to contribute troops to the force, President Mahama told the BBC on Saturday that “it will depend on the discussions at the AU and that will determine how many forces and how many troops are needed and which countries will participate.”
He was however quick to mention that so far, “there is already a consensus in the region from Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Nigeria and Benin so we can start from there.”
The ECOWAS chair admitted that it is more difficult for the individual countries to cope on their own with Boko Haram therefore, “a regional force will be a better alternative than leaving the countries on their own to deal with it.”
He disclosed that there had already been an effort to create a multi-national force and “countries of the Lake Chad Development Authority came together and agreed to create an international force.”
This force, he said was supposed to be based in Baga in North Eastern Nigeria but it was recently overrun recently by Boko Haram.
This, he said points to the fact that there is an urgent need to “create a better conceptual plan and an operational plan so that this is more effective.”
President Mahama was optimistic that many countries will be willing to support this venture, adding that “already, Nigeria and Cameroun have been getting assistance from France, the UK and the United States but I believe that if we were to organize this properly, then we must get an African Union mandate.”
He stressed that if ECOWAS is able to secure a mandate from the African Union, and set up a multi-national force with a proper operational plan, “I guess it will be more effective than what is happening currently.”
President Mahama however indicated that the force can only be set up in a few months because “these things take a couple of months; logistical planning must take place and even mobilizing forces so as rapidly as we might want to do it, it will take a couple of months.”
He was certain that at this point, “a military solution is the most viable option…I think the whole world is threatened if there is terrorism in any other part of the world.”