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ECCAS pledges to fight Boko Haram

Mark Caldwell (AP, dpa, AFP)
February 17, 2015

Leaders of Central African states have been meeting in Cameroon to discuss countering the Boko Haram insurgency. The militants have threatened to send suicide bombers into countries allied against them.

ECCAS Treffen Kamerun Hilfsprogramm Boko Haram
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Fabrice Ngon

"We have to eradicate Boko Haram," Cameroon's President Paul Biya told the meeting he was hosting in Yaonude.

His audience included the heads of state of Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic. They were meeting under the auspices of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), normally a body for the promotion of regional economic cooperation. Four other ECCAS states - Angola, Burundi, DR Congo, Sao Tome and Principe sent delegates.

But Nigeria - place of origin of the deadly five year Boko Haram insurgency and from where it has stretched its tentacles across into neighboring countries - was not present at the meeting. Nigeria is not an ECCAS member.

A DW correspondent in Yaounde said ECCAS has agreed to raise half of the $100 million (88 million euros) it says it needs to fight Boko Haram.

Chadian President Idriss Deby - who currently holds the ECCAS chair - called on nations in the group "who have not yet been struck" by the insurgency "to show their solidarity."

But it was still uncertain where the other half of the $100 million would come from.

"We also call on the international community to provide its support - in equipment, diplomacy, finance, logistics and humanitarian aid to the efforts made by ECCAS," Deby saidPlea for support

Attack in Gombe, NIgeria 02.02.2015
A car bomb explosion in Gombe, Nigeria. The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2009Image: Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde

ECCAS Secretary General and Chadian diplomat Ahmad Alam-Mi underlined the importance of such assistance. Boko Haram have the "sophisticated military weapons and human resources of a conventional army, but they use asymmetric methods that make the battle complex and very expensive," he said.

Even the conflict-ravaged Central Africa Republic (CAR) announced that it would be contributing troops to a joint task force to combat Boko Haram. Burundi also pledged to send soldiers.

Impact of insurgency on the region

Toussaint Kongo-Doudo, the CAR's minister for foreign affairs, explained why the Islamists needed to be stopped. "If Boko Haram captures Cameroon, it would be a total disaster for the Central African Republic," CAR shares its western border with Cameroon.

On Tuesday (17.02.2015) the Cameroonian military said its base in Waza had been attacked by suspected Boko Haram militants leaving at least five soldiers dead.

Colonel Joseph Nouma told the AP news agency that two machine guns and an armored vehicle had been seized from the insurgents, but hundreds of the militants had escaped back to Nigeria after burning homes and looting. Nouma told German news agency dpa the Cameroonian army had killed at least 100 insurgents.

African Union Summit - Ban Ki-moon 31.01.2015
Ban Ki-moon says Boko Haram cannot be defeated by military means aloneImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Kolli

Meanwhile Boko Haram threatened Niger and Chad on Monday, warning that suicide bombers would be targeting countries that were fighting the group.

A multinational force to fight Boko Haram is expected to be formally launched in the coming weeks. Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria have already formed a military alliance to combat the militants. But operational plans for the force of 8,700 troops have yet to be submitted to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union or to the United Nations Security Council.

In a statement read in Yaounde on his behalf, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that a purely military solution would not be enough to deal with Boko Haram. The fight called for a "multidimensional approach that would meet the "challenges of stabilization," he said, in a reference to the region's economic and social difficulties.

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