REPORT

A quest to win the hearts and minds: Assessing the Effectiveness of the Multinational Joint Task Force

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MNJTF

In January 2015, the African Union (AU) authorised the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) as a regional security arrangement of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) to deal with the threat of Boko Haram (BH) in the Lake Chad region. Its mandate includes the responsibility of ensuring a safe and secure environment in the areas affected by the BH insurgency, reducing violent attacks against civilians, facilitating stabilisation programmes in the Lake Chad region, facilitating humanitarian operations, and the provision of assistance to affected populations. To achieve its mandate, the MNJTF undertakes both kinetic and non-kinetic operations. Its mandate has been renewed annually since 2015, and in December 2022, the AU renewed its mandate for another 12 months. This report assesses the effectiveness of the MNJTF in delivering on its three mandate priorities to generate recommendations. It is important to note that the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) renewed the mandate of the MNJTF earlier than expected, and as a result, this report offers reflections on how to enhance the effectiveness of the mission going forward.

Despite long standing constraints, such as insufficient funding, gaps in operational command and control, inadequate equipment and an intelligence-sharing cell, the MNJTF has recorded appreciable successes. Its efforts and successes have counteracted BH and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists, resulting in a significant decline in attack incidents in the region. In addition, they have created a conducive environment for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their communities and the resumption of trade between the northeast of Nigeria and neighbouring markets in Cameroon and Chad. The recent acquisition of assets, growing coordination among the sectors, and shift from a defensive to an offensive posture brought about by the current Force Commander (FC) are some factors contributing to the recent successes of the MNJTF.

Nevertheless, the lack of policing capability, intelligence gaps, evolving terrorist-organised crime dynamics, and resource-capacity mismatch are some of the current impediments to the efforts of the MNJTF to end the menace posed by terror groups in the Lake Chad region.The partnership between the AU and the MNJTF is considered vital not only for the mission’s credibility but also for the critical role the AU can play in appropriately resourcing the MNJTF. While the general conclusion drawn from respondents was that the AU was doing its best to improve the situation, there was still a need for it to do more in certain important areas.

This situation calls for the prioritisation of current challenges and for appropriate deployment of available resources to address them. To enhance the capacity and effectiveness of the force in combating terrorism in the Lake Chad region, the report recommends prioritising developing police capacity across member states, strengthening the MNJTF intelligence capacity, aligning training with core priority areas to close capacity gaps, and institutionalising a due diligence framework for funds utilisation. The prospects of the MNJTF achieving its core responsibilities in the months and years ahead will depend to some extent on how the mandate renewal recognises and allocates sufficient resources to address areas of priority concerns.