In an exclusive interview Major General Ibrahim Manu Yusuf, the Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), spoke with Radio Ndarason Internationale (RNI) recently. In the interview with RNI’s al-Amine the General spoke about the nature of the regional conflict and about where he thinks it is heading.
“Our main objective is to convince those who wish to surrender that they will be in safe hands if they decide to do so,” explains the Major General. “Often, they are told that if they surrender, they will be killed. This is simply not the case. We understand that they have gone astray and I want to assure them that opportunity exists across Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger and Chad for them to surrender safely. I want to tell them that we recognise that they are part of society and we also know that many were forced to join Boko Haram against their will.”
Major General Yusuf explains the conflict has lasted this long because it is a warfare amongst the people.
“If you look at other countries, like Sri Lanka for example’, he says, ‘it took 30 years to defeat the Tamil Tigers. Look at Syria and Afghanistan. These are incredibly complex situations in which the enemy is inside the people. We need to understand this to be able to navigate a very delicate situation and to be able to keep the population safe whilst targeting the insurgents within their ranks. That is the nature of counter-insurgency operations and that is the reason we also end up aborting some missions just because it’s necessary to protect the people.”
And coordinating operations across four different countries only adds to the challenges.
“Tactics, techniques and strategies are not necessarily the same across the different countries. There are language barriers too but we have Hausa as a common language. And we now have more English and French speakers and this is helping. I can honestly say that we are improving how we coordinate operations and we are putting up a more robust strategy to counter the Boko Haram narratives and project our own narrative more effectively”.
“Following a recent workshop with all the main stakeholders, we now have a timeline and key indicators to measure the success of what we are doing and we’re implementing it in accordance with the strategy and the dynamics on the ground.”
The Major General says that the effort not only relies on the support of armies across different countries, but also from the populations, as military might is not enough.
“This war has lasted for more than 10 years and we have lost loved ones and our properties. We sympathise with the communities. If you look back at 2015/16 and compare it with the current situation, we can see an improvement. We are getting there. Populations have been displaced and we are working hard to get them back where they should be. So I urge people to be patient, and to work with us as we cannot do this alone.”
“We fully appreciate the support that we have been enjoying from the people without which we could not have achieved all the victories we have. I want to assure them of our commitment and resolve towards the achievement of our mandate. We cannot do it without you. Let’s continue to work together and we can make this a thing of the past.
Since November 2019 Major General Yusuf has headed the MNJTF, which combines forces from the countries bordering Lake Chad, and is mandated to bring the Boko Haram conflict to an end.
This interview was given following the recent regional workshop that took place in N’Djamena aimed at preventing the spread of the narrative propagated by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin. Technical experts, academics, journalists, military and civil-military liaison officers from across Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria interacted with key stakeholders from communities affected by the ongoing violence in the region. Representatives from the UNDP and from the EU were also present. A common regional approach and communication activities were drawn up with a view to implementing a more structured and intensive approach to the conflict. It’s hoped that the issue of recruitment by Boko Haram from the population can be addressed with the ongoing support of the local communities. The strategy will be reviewed and revised on a regular basis and in accordance with the dynamics on the ground.