World Bulletin / News Desk
A Multinational Joint Task Force made up of Lake Chad Basin countries that have joined forces to neutralize Boko Haram is finally ready for deployment following a months-long hiatus, Cameroonian Defense Minister Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo’o told Anadolu Agency.
“Many decisions had to be taken before the force could become operational,” Mebe Ngo’o said in an exclusive interview. “It was first necessary to delimit the force’s area of intervention.”
“This was done following an agreement between Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria and Niger,” all of which contributed troops to the force, the minister added.
“Each country has granted the force a part of its territory,” he explained.
“The second important decision was the establishment of the force’s General Staff,” Mebe Ngo’o said, “in which all positions of responsibility have now been filled”.
Following recent summits devoted to discussing means of countering Boko Haram, the Lake Chad Basin Commission -- which includes Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Benin -- agreed to bring the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF)’s total troop strength up to some 10,500.
Supported by the African Union, the force is headquartered in Chadian capital Ndjamena.
Last month, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Major-General Iliyasu Abbah as commander of the MNJTF. He is assisted by a Cameroonian General, Nka Valere, who serves as deputy commander, Mebe Ngo’o explained.
Another Cameroonian general, Bouba Dobekreo, is the commander of the MNJTF’s operations in Mora, a town in Cameroon’s Far North Region near the Nigerian border, which has been targeted several times in recent months by Boko Haram.
MNJTF member countries are currently awaiting a mandate for their operations from the UN Security Council, which, taskforce officials say, “will not take long”.
“The MNJTF includes 10,500 men, including 8,500 soldiers and 2,000 gendarmes, police officers and civilians,” one member of the African Union’s Peace and Security Commission, told Anadolu Agency.
The same source, who preferred anonymity, said that Cameroonian President Paul Biya had already authorized the deployment of 2,450 troops as part of Cameroon’s contribution to the MNJTF.
According to Mebe Ngo’o, Cameroon has also set up a three-year “emergency program” along its border with violence-wracked Nigeria aimed at boosting economic projects and creating jobs in the region.
The project’s short-term goal is to provide jobs to young people living in precarious conditions so they are less vulnerable to Boko Haram recruiters who promise them money in exchange for loyalty.
Boko Haram, which has reportedly pledged allegiance to the ISIL militant group and now wants to be called the “Islamic State in West Africa Province” is known to have conducted several cross-border attacks in Niger, Chad and Cameroon in recent months.
Although the Nigerian army says it has degraded the militant group’s capacities, Boko Haram fighters have continued to stage frequent attacks in the country’s northeast that have mainly targeted civilians.Last Mod: 28 Eylül 2015, 15:22