(AFP) – The West African bloc announced plans Saturday to increase cooperation with Central African states in the battle against “terrorism”, amid fears of Boko Haram’s insurgency spreading across the region.
Nigeria has repeatedly said it needs more help from its central African neighbours — including Chad, Cameroon and Niger — to end the brutal five-year insurgency being waged by the Islamists.
In the final communique of an extraordinary security summit, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it would “establish a high level partnership with Central African States to effectively combat terrorism.”
Nigeria insists that Boko Haram fighters escape military pursuit by fleeing across the porous borders of its northeastern neighbours and some analysts believe senior Boko Haram commanders are in fact based in Cameroon.
Nigeria‘s presidency has accused Cameroon of not doing enough to help defeat Boko Haram.
The call at the West Africa summit follows a joint declaration of war against Islamist insurgents by Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger at a meeting in Paris.
On Mali, ECOWAS urged the United Nations to strengthen its peacekeeping force deployed in the country, which is known as MINUSMA.
It also asked the UN Security Council to consider imposing “targeted sanctions against the armed groups or individuals who impede the peace process” in Mali.
The Security Council had earlier this week urged Mali to implement fully a ceasefire between the government and armed rebel groups following fresh fighting in the northern desert town of Kidal.
Mali was plunged into chaos in January 2012, when the Tuareg separatists launched a string of attacks in the north, which the army was ill-equipped to defend.
A coup in Bamako led to chaos, and militants linked to Al-Qaeda overpowered the Tuareg to seize control of Mali’s northern desert.
A French-led military operation launched in January 2013 ousted the extremists, but sporadic attacks have continued and the Tuareg demand for autonomy has not been resolved.