By Sumaila Ogbaje
Abuja, Oct. 23, 2020 The Multinational Joint Taskforce (MNJTF) and Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have taken steps to prevent violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin.
The Chief of Military Public Information for MNJTF, Col. Muhammad Dole, in a statement on Friday, said a workshop to articulate an inclusive regional communication strategy in the region was already in progress.
Dole said the initiative was in recognition of the need to reinforce information and communication line of operation to counter the extremist ideology propagated by the Boko Haram and armed groups.
He added that it was also with a view to replace such extremist ideology with a constructive alternative narrative capable of discouraging extremism, restoring trust, confidence and a secured future.
The objectives of the inception workshop, according to him are, 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.
He added that it would also deter Boko Haram and ISWAP from radicalising and recruiting innocent people, particularly across Troop Contributing Countries and the Lake Chad Basin in general.
“It is also meant to design a common regional approach to information and communication activities in order to prevent violent extremism in the Lake Chad Basin.
“It is to also suggest methodologies and channels of communication appropriate with messages and Target Audiences,” he said.
Dole disclosed that 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.
He added that participants from affected communities included traditional, community, religious and women leaders as well as representatives of local authorities across the Lake Chad region.
Dole disclosed that the Force Commander MNJTF, Maj.-Gen. Ibrahim 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 region.
He said that the commander acknowledged the gaps in the existing communication strategy of the MNJTF.
According to him, Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, urged the organisers and participants of the workshop 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 through 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.
“The Executive Secretary of LCBC and Head of Mission of the MNJTF, Ambassador Mamman Nuhu, reinforced the calls for an effective communication strategy in order to win the hearts and minds of the people of the Lake Chad Basin.
“At the end of the workshop, the facilitator and technical experts are expected to study the recommendations and subject same to a validation process before implementation.
“The 4-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,” he said.