Friday, January 16, 2015 3:12 pm
*Chadian soldiers will assist both Nigeria and Cameroon
Chad’s parliament voted Friday to send armed troops to Cameroon and Nigeria to fight Boko Haram 48 hours after President Idriss Deby Itno announced his intention to join the fight against the Islamists.
Chad’s parliament in N’Djamena voted 150 to 0 to send an unspecified number of “Chadian armed troops and security forces to assist Cameroonian and Nigerian soldiers waging war against the terrorists in Cameroon and Nigeria,” a parliament statement said after the vote to join what is now a regional effort defeat Boko Haram.
And immediately after the unanimous vote, dozens of Chadian tanks headed out of the capital Friday south towards Cameroon to help fight Nigeria’s dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.
The convoy seen by an AFP journalist roared out of the city after Chad’s parliament voted to send armed forces to Cameroon and Nigeria to fight against the Islamists.
Cameroon’s President Paul Biya had announced Thursday that Chad President Idriss Deby had decided to send “a substantial contingent” of troops to help Cameroonian armed forces who have faced repeated attcks from Boko Haram.
A source close to the army said the force had begun preparing for departure on Thursday.
Boko Haram is fighting to create a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria along the border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
Cameroon has been critical of the passivity of the Nigerian authorities and the international community in the face of Boko Haram aggression.
Since Boko Haram’s insurgency began, around 135,000 people have fled the restive northeast of Nigeria country and at least 850,000 have been displaced inside the region.
So far Chad has been spared, but only a narrow strip of land separates it from the Islamists’ headquarters in the Nigerian state of Borno.
The regional force was approved at a summit in Paris, France of heads of state of the region in the aftermath of the capture of 219 Chibok schoolgirls in April by Boko Haram fighters.
Since then, the multinational force has been stalled over details.
The UN envoy to West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas had canvassed on Thursday, the urgent need for the force, in the wake of the deadly attack by Boko Haram on the fishing town of Baga, near the border with Niger.
“It is clear now that … the countries should not be left to tackle it individually. That has been the approach so far and it is not winning the fight,” Chambas told Reuters.
He said it was up to the four states bordering Lake Chad to draw up better coordinated plans. He called for a clearer command structure and rules of engagement, amid resistance from some countries to see their troops deploy outside their borders under foreign command.
“They have not been able to agree the idea of joint operations and right of hot pursuit, which is very, very crucial in fighting a movement like Boko Haram which can engage in battle in one country and then run into another,” he said.
Chambas said defence and foreign ministers due to meet in Niger on Tuesday will have to agree on tough issues such as the ground rules and leadership of the regional military response.
“The challenge is to have the political will to agree and come to an understanding,” he said.
Foreign powers stepped up their support for Nigeria following the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok last year. However, Abuja has complained U.S. authorities have not shared enough intelligence and been reluctant to sell weapons needed.
France has offered to help structure the taskforce after promises by regional leaders last May to share intelligence and work together were undermined by the lack of trust.
*Reported by AFP and Reuters