The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called on its members to step up their security co-operation in order to tackle terrorism.
In a statement released Thursday (July 3rd) in Abuja, Nigeria, ECOWAS members expressed deep concern at
the recent deterioration of the security situation in the Malian region of Kidal, as well as the bloody and recurring attacks carried out by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.
They vowed to strengthen the co-ordination between their security forces to fight against terrorism.
This statement echoed an appeal made a few days earlier by the ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, Salamatou Suleiman, who spoke of "the need for synergy of action to eliminate crime across our shared area".
"Governance and security are central to the regional strategy, which aims to make security a regional public
good and an essential service for citizens, as well as a vital component of sustainable development," she said
on June 25th.
ECOWAS forces have been on alert since the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by Boko Haram nearly two
The incident sparked an unprecedented level of international mobilisation against the terrorist organisation.
"Boko Haram fighters are taking advantage of the porous borders of the north-east to escape the army
and take refuge in neighbouring countries," Malian counterterrorism expert Modibo Diarra noted.
"The problem is being taken very seriously by ECOWAS, which has declared open war against terrorism," he told Magharebia.
"The fifteen member nations said they were willing to establish a high-level partnership with central African
states to combat terrorism effectively," he explained.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan confirmed that the problem was not Nigerian but regional.
ECOWAS has asked the UN Security Council to consider "targeted sanctions against the armed groups or individuals who impede the peace process". The council responded by officially declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organisation.
A recent international summit in Paris aimed to adopt a "battle plan" against Boko Haram, which it described as
a "terrorist sect" and a "major threat" to the region. The president of Cameroon, Paul Biya, summed it up by saying: "We are here to declare war on Boko Haram."
The leaders agreed on a number of measures, including "co-ordination of intelligence, information-sharing,
centralised management of resources, border surveillance, military presence around Lake Chad and a capacity to intervene in the event of danger", French President Francois Hollande said.
Boko Haram "is equipped with heavy weapons, a capacity to use them thanks to training provided when Mali was under terrorist occupation, and also financing", Hollande explained.
Jidou Ould Sidi, a journalist who specialises in security matters, said: "The threat is real and the region's
governments appear to have measured its scale."
Heads of state in the region are determined to strengthen their defence and security systems, and "diligently implement the United Nations and ECOWAS strategies for the Sahel", he noted.
It will take time, he cautioned.
"The security, intelligence and legal capacities of these countries are still weak," Ould Sidi said.