UN Chief Guterres: Boko Haram clearly losing ground in Nigeria

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

By Cecilia Ologunagba

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the terrorist group known as Boko Haram is now clearly losing ground in Nigeria.

Guterres said this on Wednesday while addressing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact, which brings together UN agencies, State members, and other partners in New York.

He said he was convinced that progress against the spread of terrorism in Africa is possible based on his visit to Borno State in northern Nigeria in May.

He noted that the terrorism threat to Africa is increasing but his visit to Borno, a stronghold of the extremist group Boko Haram, convinced him that terrorism can be defeated in Nigeria.

Guterres had visited a camp housing some ex-fighters of Boko Haram who surrendered and another housing internally displaced persons in the Borno state capital, Maiduguri when he visited Nigeria in early May.

Borno state Governor Babagana Zulum said at least 40,000 Boko Haram fighters and their families have surrendered since last year.

Speaking on his impression and lessons he learned during the visit to the camp of the ex-Boko Haram fighters and their victims, Guterres said, “I was so impressed by the meeting I had with former fighters in one of the centers, and with the meetings, I had with their victims. Boko Haram that was born in Borno State is now clearly losing ground.

“It is losing ground because the people have assumed largely, themselves, the capacity to undermine the work and the terrorist actions of Boko Haram.”

The UN chief, however, warned that while the number of deaths from terrorism has declined, the overall threat is far from over particularly in Africa as they exploit power vacuums.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 48 percent of deaths attributed to terrorist groups globally in 2021.

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“Groups like Al-Qaida, Da’esh, and their affiliates are continuing to grow in the Sahel and make inroads into Central and Southern Africa.

“They are exploiting power vacuums, longstanding inter-ethnic strife, internal weaknesses, and state fragilities,” he said.

In conflict-affected countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, and Somalia, terrorism has intensified cycles of violence, fuelling further instability, undermining peace efforts, and setting back development goals.

Meanwhile, in largely peaceful countries, such as Mozambique and Tanzania, terrorists are now seeking to exploit and manipulate societal grievances and mistrust in governments.

The secretary-general stressed that the international community cannot effectively address terrorism without tackling the conditions conducive to its spread, such as weak institutions, inequalities, poverty, hunger, and injustice.

The UN’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy takes an integrated and holistic approach to the issue, which calls for investing in health, education, protection, gender equality, and justice systems accessible to all.

“It means creating truly democratic systems and processes, so every person can have a voice in the future of their communities and countries – and trust that their voices will be heard and reflected.

“It means placing human rights and rule of law as the foundation of our work,” he said.

Guterres said the UN Counter-Terrorism Compact would continue to support countries in their counter-terror efforts, including through technical assistance, capacity-building, and in helping to build institutions that focus on people and are grounded in human rights and the rule of law.

The Compact is the largest coordination framework across the UN’s three pillars of work: peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights and humanitarian affairs.

It was developed following the establishment of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) in June 2017 and is considered the Secretary-General’s first major institutional reform after taking office that January.

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