1. In his letter dated 25 January 2017, the President of the Security Council informed the Secretary-General that the Council had decided to send a mission to the Lake Chad Basin region (Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria) from 1 to 7 March 2017. The mission was led jointly by the Permanent Representatives of France, Senegal and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The composition of the mission and its terms of reference are set out in annexes I and II to the present report.
2. On 2 and 3 March, the Security Council visited Cameroon. Upon arrival in Yaoundé, the members of the Security Council were welcomed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Relations, and the United Nations Resident/ Humanitarian Coordinator, Najat Rochdi. On the same night they attended a dinner hosted by the Minister Delegate for External Relations, members of the diplomatic community and Heads of United Nations agencies. On 3 March, Council members held meetings in Yaoundé with the United Nations country team as well as national authorities including the President and the Prime Minister, and key Cabinet members. After a press conference, they travelled to Maroua, Far North Region, where they met with the Governor of the Region and other local officials, religious leaders, military officials, a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and some internally displaced persons and refugees, including two persons formerly abducted by Boko Haram. At the outset of each meeting, the United Kingdom, as co-lead and President of the Security Council during the month of March, outlined the purpose of the visit, seeking the views of the various interlocutors on the situation and the challenges faced.
Meeting with the President
3. At his meeting with the members of the Security Council, the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, accompanied by the Ministers for External Relations, Territorial Administration, and Defence, explained that Cameroon had been confronted by the Boko Haram conflict since 2013 — a war that had spilled over from Nigeria. He highlighted the high human cost, with over 2,000 civilians and 250 military personnel killed since the beginning of the violence. He stated that the Cameroonian Army had been at the forefront of the fight against Boko Haram, resulting in a huge financial cost of CFAF 343 billion over two years (equivalent of $558 million), which amounts to almost 2 per cent of GDP. The President noted that while Boko Haram had been weakened, thanks to the positive gains made by the Multinational Joint Task Force, the group remained operational. He informed the Council that several infrastructures had been destroyed, resulting in the displacement of over 200,000 civilians, coupled by the arrival of some 86,000 refugees from Nigeria. He stated that this placed a heavy burden on the Government to build new schools and provide food and basic social services. He called for support from the donor community to improve the resilience of communities, especially women and children. While saluting the outcome of the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, he noted that there was a need to end the exclusive focus on humanitarian needs and for an active engagement on economic recovery, creating livelihoods and reconstruction. He added that there was a need to undertake demobilization, deradicalization and reintegration programmes for former Boko Haram fighters, for “an era of hope to begin”. President Biya expressed his appreciation for the work of the United Nations, noting that the Council’s visit was a sign of excellent cooperation with the Organization.
4. The co-leads of the Security Council mission briefed the President on the purpose of the mission, namely to express solidarity with and commend Cameroon on its efforts to fight against terrorism and to pay tribute to those who had sacrificed their lives. Members of the Council welcomed the signing on 2 March 2017 of the Tripartite Agreement between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Governments of Cameroon and Nigeria, and commended Cameroon for generously hosting large numbers of refugees. They also highlighted the need to address the root causes of the crisis, the environmental challenges, and human rights and the need for increased investments and development in the Far North Region, and expressed interest in learning of the Government’s efforts in that regard. The President stated that the country counted on the support of the international community on the military front, especially with regard to the provision of equipment and training of their troops. He also noted that Boko Haram attacks and the ensuing counter-insurgency operations have had an economic toll on the country, adding that those 200,000 displaced by the fighting would need to return to a life of normalcy. The President said that the Cameroonian population had financially contributed to an emergency fund in support of the fight against Boko Haram, and that the Government had set up vigilante committees that helped with intelligence-gathering. He noted that Chad, the Niger and Nigeria were also making huge efforts to fight Boko Haram. He appealed to the international community to help the region to eradicate the group, especially following their pledge of allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), thus posing a threat to global peace and security. The President expressed his sincere gratitude to the United Nations for its support to Cameroon.
5. The Minister for External Relations informed Council members that some internally displaced persons, most of them women and children, had benefited from Government assistance through the emergency fund established to support internally displaced persons and the local population. He added that, with the support of the United Nations humanitarian community, the Government had formulated the humanitarian response plan for 2017, which sought $360 million. Concerning the Tripartite Agreement, he said that Cameroon would abide by its obligation and ensure the non-refoulement of refugees.