The leaders of central and west African states will be holding a summit on April 8 to try to draw up a joint strategy against the threat posed by Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants.
It will be the first meeting of its kind since Nigeria’s election a week ago which was won by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader who has vowed to rid his country of the “terror” of Boko Haram.
A regional coalition involving troops from Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon has been waging offensives against the Islamists in a bid to crush the insurgency, which has now spread across borders from Boko Haram’s stronghold in Nigeria.
The meeting in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, is being jointly organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
“In the face of the mounting and increasingly bloody attacks by the fundamentalists against Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad and the series consequences for these countries, and the real reask of destabilising western and central Africa, the two organisations have decided to take action,” the ECOWAS statement said.
However, it is not clear if Buhari will be attending as he will not be sworn in as president to succeed the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan until May 29.
Boko Haram is an Islamist terrorist movement based in north-east Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The group is led by Abubakar Shekau. Estimates of the group’s membership varies between 7,000 and 10,000.
The insurgents have killed more than 5,000 civilians between July 2009 and June 2014, including at least 2,000 in the first half of 2014, in attacks occurring mainly in north-east, north-central and central Nigeria. Corruption in the security services and human rights abuses committed by them have hampered efforts to counter the unrest.