As discussed in the first installement, one could define Northern Cameroun as Vital Ground to Boko Haram and Ansaru and the recurrent crisis in CAR means that Eastern Cameroun is perpetually threatened by banditry and insecurity.
From a Nigerian perspective this is a severe threat, for Cameroun it is an existential threat. The Camerounian armed forces are not prepared to deal with multiple threats of this nature and will end up overstretched and unable to defend themselves or the population.
The costs of operations against insurgents on 2 fronts will be prohibitive as will training, equipping and paying an expanded military and police, this would also give the Bakassi insurgency new life as forces are denuded to deal with problems elsewhere.
Paul Biya’s strongest selling point has been that he has kept Cameroun peaceful and stable; a rampaging Boko Haram or Seleka would put lie to that and give the opposition a valid rallying cry.
If history is any indication any popular protests would be ruthlessly crushed again straining the security forces but also giving opposition groups a motive for taking up arms themselves to either defend themselves from the foreign groups or attack government forces.
Thus an inability to resolve these issues will lead inevitably to the collapse of the Biya regime which could lead Northern Cameroun becoming a repeat of Northern Mali but on a more confused scale with far greater impact on its densely populated surroundings.
There are 4 elements that must be looked at to address this: the Political, Legal, Military and the Economic
Political: there must be political will in the surrounding countries to address this problem.
Nigeria: defence and security in 2013 cost Nigeria N668.56bn, over 1200 citizens have been reported killed since May 2013. 13,500 hectares of farmland is lying unharvested and seeds unplanted, tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced. Thus the imperative should be to generate political will at the highest level, percolated down through the chain of command defining a holistic all encompassing strategy to destroy Boko Haram and Ansaru, neutralise Islamic militancy, reemphasise the constitutional rule of law, identify the conditions whereby militancy occurs and eliminate them
Cameroun: Cameroun faces threats to its East, Southwest and North West. Unlike Nigeria it does not have the capacity to absorb multiple crises and carry on. The questionable health of President Biya, Cameroun’s limited resources and the brittleness of his regime do not allow room for manoeuvre. A French intervention would help but the French are unlikely to get involved in a crisis that does not have a reasonably quick outcome. Thus the political imperative for Cameroun is to identify the key threats and spread the cost in blood and treasure of neutralising them amongst as many countries as possible and mitigate any negative effects.
Chad: Chad is small (in population), large in territory and extremely poor with complex internal and external affairs. It has a small and highly competent and experienced military which is dominated by certain ethnic groups. Chad has a North/ south, Christian / Muslim split. There are a multiplicity of rebel groups, criminals, jihadists, foreign rebels, internally displaced persons, refugees, it suffers from malnutrition and desertification and much more. The key security imperatives are Sudanese supported rebels who in 2008 occupied most of the capital and came close to defeating the regimes forces. Libya used to present a severe threat to the North but with the fall of Ghadafi the threat has translated to transnational criminality which is not necessarily a threat to the Government. The key economic imperative is the 1070km pipeline from the Doba oil fields in Chad to the Kribi Terminal in Cameroun. The oilfields and pipeline are in the Christian south of this majority Muslim country that is dependent on stability in Cameroun and CAR for its economic well being. Thus Chad needs stability in the south and north in order to focus on the threat to the east.
Niger: Niger also has interests in the Cameroun pipeline and an interest in ensuring its Southern borders are secured so it can concentrate on the Tauregs and others to the North.
CAR: has issues. It is plagued by poor infrastructure, poor governance. Insecurity and criminality in the north from local and transnational bandits, a multiplicity of rebel groups, illegal mining, poor rule of law. By addressing the problem of criminals on its western and northern borders with the assistance of a collective it at least removes one of its problems.
Legal: in order to provide legal framework one would suggest that a Treaty between the Lake Chad states of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger (with CAR having observer status).
This treaty will create a mechanism for states to deal with transnational threats that threaten their common border area, be they economic, criminal, environmental, military or otherwise.
It should set up the structure for a joint military command for the specified area, harmonised law enforcement and jurisprudence with an intelligence sharing and joint strike capability.
Military and Law Enforcement:
Area of Operations: an area should be defined as the multinational operational area, which can be reduced or increased by agreement with member states. This should include parts of Nord, Extreme Nord and Adamaoua Regions of Cameroun, parts of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Taraba and Benue States in Nigeria. Diffa Prefecture in Niger, Hadjer-Lamis, Lac, N’Djamena, Chari-Baguirmi, Kanem, Mayo-Kebbi Est and Mayo-Kebbi Ouest Regions in Chad
Command Structure: Within the context of the Lake Chad Treaty, there should be a joint command with 7 Division and Cameroun’s 3rd Joint Military Region (RMIA3). This command can then coordinate and resource military and police operations in Liaison officers should also be exchanged with adjacent military commands in Chad and Niger.
All units within 7 Division and RMIA3 and other units should become part of a Multinational Command commanded by a single HQ, with Nigerien, Chadian, Camerounian and Nigerian units under the Operational Command of this Command for a given duration.
Operations: should focus on 4 key elements
Law Enforcement and Judiciary: national intelligence and police forces should form joint police intelligence cells and joint command elements. Special tribunals should be set up in each country to a common legal code ensuring that the penalties for certain offences (terrorism, banditry, smuggling, kidnap etc) committed within the area attract the same penalties in each country.
Ground holding forces: these are fixed positions along roads and in key towns and villages in the Area of Operations sited to dominate the ground and provide each other with mutual support. Within a defined zone on the Camerounian side of the border should be joint bases with Camerounian/ Nigerian police/ army units operating together.
Mobile forces: consisting of combined vehicle and foot patrols on both sides of the border, as well as aerial patrols with helicopters, UAVs and other assets. The purpose of the mobile forces will be to dominate the ground and deny the enemy freedom of movement away from the roads and inhabited areas.
Strike force: A combined Camerounian, Nigerian, Chadian and Nigerien strike force should be generated. Special Forces and surveillance assets should be used to find insurgent and bandit camps, identify their supply routes, rest areas, and other infrastructure. The dedicated strike team will be used to destroy those targets identified with a combination of aerial bombardment and infantry assault.
Nigerian forces should be given the authorisation to conduct hot pursuits into Cameroun for specified distances, with the authorisation to conduct air strikes with either fixed or rotary wing aircraft. Of course certain control measures would be built into such an agreement such as a limit of exploitation for Nigerian forces, beyond which the Camerounians would either take over or give permission for pursuit to go on. Air strikes again would have a certified chain of authorisation with both a Nigerian and Camerounian sign off.
As part of the strike force a Nigerian Forward Operating base should be established at Garoua for troops, transport and attack aircraft. Surveillance aircraft and UAV’s should also be given overflight rights, with all products generated fed back into the Multinational HQ Intelligence coordination centre. Units from Chad and Niger would be tasked onto this command for use either offensively or as blocking forces.
The enemy is unlikely to be completely destroyed but to flee either deeper into Cameroun or into Niger or Chad, as this happens units in the country that becomes the new safe haven will take a more and more prominent role in operations
Economic: to prevent a reoccurrence of these groups it will be necessary to have a ‘Marshall Plan’ for this area. It would be unwise to do this in one country and neglect others as it will either generate envy or migration.
The key issue is access to water and arable farmland. Arable farmland is threatened by desertification, thus an intensive tree planting campaign would not only counter desertification but suck up alot of manpower. This being a long term project, it would be a useful way to impart skills and boost the local economy.
At the same time agricultural outreach schemes, marketing boards, roads, irrigation and other projects to boost economic prospects and self reliance in the area should be started. Designated fallow areas for nomads to graze their crops and meat processing factories would help limit conflict between nomads and farmers and give young Fulani men work.
Many of the economic options are already happening with the Lake Chad Development Authority or Green Wall projects, there are treaties in place between Chad and Cameroun on security, Cameroun, CAR and Chad on anti poaching, Nigeria and Cameroun on borders etc, likewise there is already a Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) formed in 1998 by Nigeria, Niger and Chad however all of these should be brought into one comprehensive treaty to include states that are currently benign.
Merely dealing with Cameroun is short sighted as transnational insurgents are no respecters of borders and if threatened will simply relocate.. In order to comprehensively deal with these issues and prevent a reoccurrence and resurgence, all states and all factors need to be dealt with