Violence in ‘Lake Chad’ could fuel migrant crisis
Chad decrees state of emergency
DAKAR, Nov 11, (Agencies): Boko Haram violence in the drought and flood-stricken swamplands of Lake Chad, which has destroyed livelihoods, torn communities apart and forced millions to flee their homes, could worsen Europe’s migration crisis, a United Nations official has warned.
A regional offensive by Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon earlier this year drove the militant group from much of the territory it held in northern Nigeria, undermining its six-year campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate.
But the militants have since struck back with a renewed wave of deadly raids and suicide bombings, prompting Chad to declare on Monday a state of emergency in the Lake Chad region — giving authorities new powers to search and monitor residents.
More than 2.5 million people have been uprooted by conflict in the four countries since May 2013, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
The plight of African migrants struggling to reach Europe has stirred international alarm, and the vast number of people displaced could fuel migration across the Mediterranean, said Toby Lanzer, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.
Refugee “There is every chance that some of these people will seek refuge further afield,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The combination of abject poverty, environmental degradation and lack of opportunities for young people could also fuel further violence and insecurity in the region, Lanzer said on Monday.
“Given the vast numbers of youths in the Lake Chad Basin ... the ground is ripe for extremist groups to go in and recruit.”
Lanzer spoke ahead of an EU-Africa summit on migration on Wednesday in Malta, where the European Union is set to announce a 1.8 billion euro ($1.94 billion) trust fund to tackle the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement in Africa.
“Migration will become far more serious if we don’t address underlying causes of poverty, climate change and violence,” Lanzer said.
Lake Chad — which suffers from cyclical droughts and floods — was once one of the world’s largest lakes but has shrunk by 90 percent in the last 50 years.
This, coupled with rising
Deby insecurity, has destroyed people’s livelihoods including fishing and farming, reduced cross-border trade and left communities increasingly dependent on humanitarian aid, according to OCHA.
“Lives have been wrecked, the economy is in tatters and terms of trade have been severely disrupted,” Lanzer added.
Around 2.1 million of the 2.5 million displaced are living in Nigeria, while 400,000 have been forced across borders to seek refuge in or been uprooted within Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria, according to the latest OCHA figures.
Meanwhile, Chad’s government decreed a state of emergency in the flashpoint Lake Chad region which also straddles Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger and is frequently targeted by Boko Haram Islamists.
The announcement came as two female suicide bombers staged a fresh attack on a mosque in northern Cameroon, killing three people, and a day after a similar attack killed two people in Chad.
Decree Under the decree, the governor of the remote region will have the authority to ban the circulation of people and vehicles, search homes and recover arms, the government announced following an extraordinary cabinet meeting.
The government added that health, education and economic development in the area must also be a priority, as authorities struggle to stem Boko Haram’s recruitment drive.
“President ( Idriss) Deby has ordered the minister of finance to unlock a fund of three billion CFA Francs (4.5 million euros, $4.8 billion) for development in the region,” according to an official statement read on national radio.
Since the start of the year, the Chadian army has been on the front line of a regional military operation against Boko Haram, whose attacks have spread from northeast Nigeria, its traditional stronghold, to the neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
Chad’s Foreign Minister Moussa Faki Mahamat, speaking at a security forum in Dakar, called on other African nations to give his country more financial support in the fight.
Boko Haram, affiliated with the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq, has been hit hard by the offensive, losing territory, but has launched a wave of attacks and bombings in response.
The jihadists, believed to be hiding out in Nigeria’s Sambisa forest and the lake’s many islands, are held responsible for 17,000 deaths and for making 2.5 million people homeless in their six-year campaign of violence.