The Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) organised an inception workshop to articulate an inclusive regional communication strategy to prevent violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin.
The MNJTF operates within the authorized AU Peace and Security Council mandate to eliminate Boko Haram in order to create a safe and secure environment and facilitate the stabilization in the areas affected by the activities of Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, by using all the necessary means within its capacity.
According to a statement by MNJTF Spokesperson, Colonel Mohammed Dole, “this laudable and proactive initiative was in recognition of the need to reinforce information and communication line of operation to counter (prevent) and replace the extremist ideology propagated by the Boko Haram and armed groups with a Constructive Alternative Narrative capable of discouraging extremism, restoring trust, confidence and a secured future.
Specifically, the objectives of the inception workshop were:
a. To consult technical experts and representatives from the affected areas on MNJTF’s military Influence Operations that are meant to discourage sympathy and support for terrorists and deter Boko Haram and ISWAP from radicalizing and recruiting innocent people, particularly across Troop Contributing Countries and the Lake Chad Basin in general.
b. To design a common regional approach to information and communication activities in order to prevent violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin.
c. To suggest methodologies and channels of communication appropriate with messages and Target Audiences.
To achieve the set objectives, a team of experienced technical experts, comprising seasoned academics, reputable international and local media practitioners and the military deliberated during the interactive session with key stakeholders and personalities from communities affected by the Boko Haram conflict. Participants from affected communities included traditional, community, religious and women leaders. Others were representatives of local authorities across the Lake Chad region.
In his welcome remarks, Force Commander MNJTF, Major General Ibrahim Manu Yusuf highlighted the need for a comprehensive regional non-kinetic strategy to complement the largely kinetic approach of the MNJTF to combat the security challenges in the Lake Chad Basin.
General Yusuf acknowledged the existence of gaps in the existing communication strategy of the MNJTF, which he observed made the workshop imperative.
In his goodwill message, the Executive Governor of Borno state, Professor Babagana Zulum Umara expressed support for the workshop and charged both organisers and participants to create adequate awareness among populace with a view to replacing the destructive ideology and harmful narrative of the violent extremist group
At the opening ceremony of the inception workshop, several strategic and development partners commended the initiative and indicated interest in supporting the implementation of the recommendations of the workshop.
Consequently, interested partners such as the UNDP trough the Resident Representative in Chad, Mrs. Lisa Singh, acknowledged the fact that military operation is not the only practical solution to ending the crisis.
Therefore, the need has arisen for a review of strategies to also deliberately target the ideologies and psychology of the Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgents, as well as populations in the region.
Declaring the 5-day workshop opened, the Executive Secretary of LCBC and Head of Mission of the MNJTF Ambassador Mamman Nuhu reinforced the calls for an effective strategic communication strategy in order to win the hearts and minds of the people of the Lake Chad Basin.
At the end of workshop, the facilitator and technical experts are expected to study the recommendations and subject same to a validation process before implementation.
The 5-day workshop attracted representatives of the Government of Chad, European Union, African Union and Ambassadors of MNJTF Troop Contributing Countries; Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Other participants included representatives from Centre for Coordination and Liaison and Civil Society Organizations.