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Beaming searchlight on Boko Haram as UN turns 70

By Abosede Musari 
18 January 2015   |   11:00 pm
PERHAPS, the world has not felt the pangs of terrorism in recent times than it is experiencing currently. From the weekly massacre of innocent civilians by the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, to the hacking down of journalists, police personnel as well as civilians in Paris, the world has had a very bad share of…

Ban-Ki-MoonPERHAPS, the world has not felt the pangs of terrorism in recent times than it is experiencing currently. From the weekly massacre of innocent civilians by the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, to the hacking down of journalists, police personnel as well as civilians in Paris, the world has had a very bad share of terror.

  Only last weekend, a 10 year old girl was reported to have bombed a market in Maiduguri, Nigeria where about 20 people were killed. About the same time, hundreds of Nigerians were reportedly killed in Baga, near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, at the Borno state axis. 

 These incidents became too many as to elicit a reaction from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon who released a statement to show solidarity with Nigeria, and to pledge the deployment of “all available resources” to make sure Nigeria is helped out of its present predicament. Of course, the United Nations also felt the direct impact of Boko Haram in 2011 when the UN building in Nigeria was bombed and about 23 staff members of the agency were killed.

In his statement Monday, Moon condemned the Baga attack as well as the Maiduguri incidence as terrorist threats in Nigeria moves from male suicide bombers to female suicide bombers; and now to teenagers and child suicide bombers.

“The Secretary-General is appalled about reports of hundreds of civilians killed around the town of Baga, Borno State, near Nigeria’s border with Chad in the past week. The situation in Nigeria and the region remains at the top of the Secretary-General’s agenda.

 “The United Nations stands ready to assist the Nigerian Government and all affected neighbouring states in bringing an end to the violence and to alleviate the suffering of civilians with all available means and resources’, Moon had said in his Monday statement.

 And to reiterate this commitment, the United Nations Secretary General, said on Tuesday in India, that the UN is dedicated and committed to making a better world that is worthy of inheritance for the next generation. 

 Moon, said this in New Delhi at the launch the UN@70 even as the United Nations moves to tackle issues of global terrorism, with emphasis on Nigeria’s Boko Haram situation and the recent terrorist experience in Paris.

   “Tonight is all about to discuss and commit ourselves to make a better world and to discuss about the future we want; what kind of a future do you really want to inherit to your children and great-grandchildren?  This is our moral and political responsibility today”.

  Meanwhile, the Boko Haram issue also topped discussions at the daily noon briefing held on Tuesday by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General, when Deputy Spokesman, Farhan Haq who addressed journalists reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to helping Nigeria surmount the Boko Haram insurgency. 

   “Clearly, there needs to be more done to deal with the threat that’s posed by Boko Haram, and this is something that the Secretary-General has been talking about.  Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the head of the UN Office on West Africa (UNOWA) has repeatedly been visiting Nigeria, in particular to show our solidarity and to see what kind of support is needed.  

   “It’s also clear, as we’ve said in our statements over the weekend, that the sort of violence and divisions we’ve been seeing in response to terrorist attacks, because of the terrorist attacks, that the world has to address the sort of violence posed by the terrorists in ways that do not exacerbate the problems, that ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law.  That’s true, as well, in Nigeria”, he said.

  Asked if he felt the Nigerian government has exacerbated human rights in attacking Boko Haram, Haq differed by answering, “no”.  What we want to do, though, is make sure that as they tackle this completely legitimate security threat, that they do so in ways that ensure respect for human rights and for the rule of law”. 

 As regards specific actions that the UN is planning to help Nigeria or get the world to help Nigeria out of the situation, the deputy spokesman said that the agency is currently in touch with Nigerian authorities and trying to see what kind of support they believe is needed and will determine, based on that, what kind of further support can be provided. 

   “As you know, the UN has also been providing support, including psycho-social counseling for the families that have been affected by the kidnapping of the school children in Chibok, and we’re trying to see what further kinds of assistance we can provide.  You’ve seen the briefings that Mohammed ibn Chambas has given, including at the Security Council just earlier, in recent weeks, and we’ll continue to be in dialogue with the Security Council, as well about the sort of steps that are needed”, Haq said.

  Aside from Nigeria, Haq also stated United Nations commitment in dealing with terrorism in other parts of the world such as in the Middle East. “In many countries, of course, the problems of dealing with terrorism is not a problem that requires peacekeepers, but it requires effective cooperation among national governments and their law enforcement agencies in terms of dealing with the threat posed by terrorists.  We’ve tried to provide help through our own counter-terrorism work, including the work of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate, which, as you know, tries to foster that kind of cooperation across borders.  And of course, we’ll see what further support is needed, but if the Member States require anything further from us, they can always make their own position clear”, he said.

While standing committed to dealing with insurgency in Nigeria, the UN is also standing in solidarity with France even as it commended the world for staging the rally led by 40 world leaders and their officers in Paris. According to Haq, Staffan de Mistura represented the United Nations at the march and joined in expressing the Organization’s revulsion for terrorism.  

  “The Secretary-General is strongly committed to the essential work of countering extremism, fighting anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, and upholding the rights to freedom of speech and expression. The Secretary-General calls for heightened efforts to promote tolerance and understanding”, Haq reiterated.

   Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Mohamed Ibn Chambers had earlier last Friday, raised the world’s awareness to the gross situation in Nigeria as the Boko Haram insurgency spills into neighbouring countries. The situation in Baga, has already seen the government of Niger Republic reportedly showing indications of withdrawing its troops from aiding Nigerian troops to reclaim Baga from the terrorists.

   According to Chambers, who was giving his half year report to the UN security council, the worsening terrorist attacks, coupled with political tensions are likely to derail elections in a region where five countries are billed to hold presidential and general elections; Nigeria inclusive.

  “Recent developments demonstrate the fragile political situation in many West African nations in the lead-up to presidential and legislative elections in 2015-2016’, Chambers said.

   In Nigeria, Chambers noted that the general elections ‘would soon take place amid the violent insurgency waged by Boko Haram in the north-east and sectarian conflicts in the north, central and north-west.  The security situation in the north-east remained dire despite national and regional efforts, with civilians in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States repeatedly attacked in the past six months’, he said.  

   According to him, counter-insurgency methods had failed to adequately protect civilians as more than 300,000 Nigerians had already fled to north-western Cameroon and south-western Niger.

  His office was working with members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission — Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria — to address regional aspects of the crisis, he said.  

    As a UN principal official working at helping Nigeria, Chambers said that later in January, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force would hold the first of a series of workshops for law enforcement officials on human rights, the rule of law and the prevention of terrorism.

   He identified violent piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as one of the persistent challenges facing the West Africa region aside from insurgency. He therefore, advised on the need for more efforts to resolve maritime border disputes despite progress in developing maritime security infrastructure.

   Other issues addressed by Moon at the celebration of UN 70th anniversary include those pertaining to nuclear weapons.  At the Indian Council for World Affairs, where he delivered a keynote address, Moon discussed India’s role as a driver for peace in the region and the world, as a champion of human rights, and as a leader on clean sustainable development.  

   He told his audience that South Asia faces the grave danger of nuclear weapons. Each addition to the arsenals raises the risks of a nuclear nightmare. He called on India to renew its leadership on nuclear disarmament. 

   Forming part of activities marking the UN anniversary was an earlier meeting with Sushma Swaraj, the Foreign Minister of India. They had a broad discussion on climate change, peacekeeping, Security Council reform and gender issues.  The Secretary-General also met with Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi, and they discussed the importance of ending child slavery worldwide. 

    Statements issued by the UN information centre read that the Secretary-General and Kailash Satyarthi launched UN@70, along with other Goodwill Ambassadors. “Among other things, in those remarks, the Secretary-General said that he is proud to stand for the equality of all people”.

   Over the weekend, the Secretary-General was in Ahmedabad, where he spoke at the Vibrant Gujarat conference and met a number of leaders on the margins of that event.   He met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thanked India for its significant contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations, as well as to United Nations conflict prevention and humanitarian efforts.  They also discussed the need for action on climate change, the post-2015 development agenda, and regional issues.  Noting concerns regarding sexual violence and discrimination, the Secretary-General invited the Prime Minister to join UN Women’s “HeforShe” campaign.

  Moon also held a bilateral meeting with [United States] Secretary of State, John Kerry, who was also attending the Vibrant Gujarat Summit.  They discussed international peace and security issues, including UN efforts to address the crisis in Libya, the urgency of returning to negotiations to achieve a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the need for progress on nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula.

    The Secretary-General called for heightened efforts to promote tolerance and understanding.  In the past week alone, the world has seen horrific bombings and brutality, often with a sectarian dimension. Moon advocated that the world must address this violence and division in ways that do not exacerbate the problems and that ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law.