Wednesday, January 28, 2015 12:00 am
According to a senior military source and other evidence gathered by Amnesty International, commanders at the military base in Baga regularly informed military headquarters in November and December 2014 of the threat of a Boko Haram attack and repeatedly requested reinforcements. Other military sources and witnesses have told Amnesty International that the military in Monguno had an advanced warning of the Boko Haram attack on 25 January.
“It is clear from this evidence that Nigeria’s military leadership woefully and repeatedly failed in their duty to protect civilians of Baga and Monguno despite repeated warnings about an impending threat posed by Boko Haram,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Africa director.
“These attacks are an urgent wake-up call for the Nigerian leadership, the African Union and the international community. It is essential to protect hundreds of thousands of civilians in north east Nigeria from Boko Haram’s continued onslaught.”
According to a senior military source, long before the attack on Baga, the Multinational Joint Task Force based in the town informed military headquarters in Abuja about sightings of Boko Haram patrols and build-ups of Boko Haram fighters. They also told headquarters ahead of the attacks, that civilians in surrounding towns and villages were fleeing the area in large numbers.
Speaking about the attack on Baga, Dogon Baga and surrounding towns and villages, one military source told Amnesty International: “This attack was expected because Boko Haram warned the inhabitants of Baga and surrounding villages almost two months ago that they would be coming to attack the troops and the civilian JTF [Joint Task Force].” Sources told Amnesty International that after the Baga attack on 3 January, Boko Haram members informed locals that their “next target is Monguno,” and that these civilians informed the local military.
One Monguno resident told Amnesty International: “There was a warning. Everyone was aware. Boko Haram came on Wednesday last week [21 January] and asked the villagers [in nearby Ngurno] to leave because they are coming to attack the barracks. The villagers told the soldiers.”
Nigerian authorities have a responsibility to take all feasible measures to protect the civilian population, including by assisting with an evacuation of those who wished to flee and transporting them to safer areas. They also have a responsibility to inform civilians of risks and dangers. According to witnesses, the local military did not make an effort to do this.
On 29 January, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council is expected to discuss the deployment of a possible regional force against Boko Haram.
“If such a force were to be deployed it is vital that it has a clear mandate to protect civilians and that all parties engaging in military deployment comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” said Netsanet Belay.