Infrastructure vital to the region including health centres, schools, waterworks and roads have been destroyed. The children caught in the conflict have been subjected to violence and abuse of an unimaginable magnitude, beyond this they have lost their homes, families and years of education which could have aided in the creation of a better future for the region. The hundreds of women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have gone through immense psychological and physical abuse, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual slavery. Children have been used and suicide bombers and been coerced into enrolling as combatants. Almost a third of the population across the region lacks food security leading to more than half a million children in the region to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
The root cause of this dystopia can be linked to the frequently prolonged droughts which have afflicted the Basin. The droughts mean that there is less water –a vital resource- and less arable land to go around. The effect of this on a predominantly pastoral and farming society dependent on Lake Chad for survival means fewer jobs being produced and smaller profit margins for those with pre-existing jobs, both of which lead to extreme poverty. This risk of unemployment and hunger makes people, especially the youth, vulnerable to recruitment by illegal groups such as the Boko Haram.
The Boko Haram can offer consistent “salary and calories” to those that they recruit, especially from farming and fishing villages. Boko Haram also provides access to services like education, which in the absence of functioning state sponsored schools and trained teachers makes eager parents flock to them and pushes families, mostly the children, into their influence. The alternative to joining armed groups is not positive either, most take up petty crime or disorganised violent crime. Women and girls are increasingly pushed into prostitution.
These emergencies: hunger, violence and the disorder that currently plague the Lake Chad Basin are far from a tragic coincidence. A complex interplay between many factors is what has created the conditions for such social collapse and suffering. Climate change is a crucial factor here, it has aggravated the worst catalysts of the crisis and fuels the fragility that has incited the region into conflict. To be clear: climate change alone does not create terrorists or turn ordinarily law-abiding citizens into criminals, but a warming world acts as a threat multiplier making it difficult to contain the problem and create on sustainable solutions.As GA1 attempts to solve this conflict we must recognise that the crisis will only be truly solved if we understand the effect of climate change on the social stresses that are inflaming it. The solutions presented must address the underlying causes of the crisis, be sensitive to the needs of the region and durable to the environmental challenges brought about by a warming world. Simply providing emergency relief will not help the cool the crisis as it will be nothing more than temporary relief which fails to address the untamed accelerant of the frailty that is climate change.
Climate change is the crux of the problem and the same must extend to the solution. Definition of Key TermsClimate Change”Changes in the worlds weather, in particular the fact that it is believed to be getting warmer as a result of human activity increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere” (Cambridge Dictionary)Global Warming”A gradual increase in world temperatures caused by gases such as carbon dioxide that are collecting in the air around the Earth and stopping heat escaping into space” (Cambridge Dictionary)Boko HaramThe commonly used name for the Islamic State in West Africa. It is a jihadist military organisation based exclusively in the Lake Chad Basin specially in Nigeria. (Derived from the New Yorker)Non-Traditional SecurityNon-Traditional Security (NTS) covers issues that are caused by factors other than political, diplomatic and military conflicts but pose a threat to the survival and/or development or a sovereign state or community and sometimes human kind as a whole. NTS issues food security, financial security, climate security etc. (Derived from Global India Foundation)Chad Lake BasinThe large interior basin on which Lake Chad is situated.
The basin and lake are both situated at the conjunction of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. (Britannica)/ (Refer to Figure 1)Militant Group”A group that is active, determined and willing to use force in order to propagate their belief/cause.” (Cambridge Dictionary)Jihadi “A Muslim fighting for Islam, especially a radical who believes in violence to achieve religious and political aims” (Cambridge Dictionary)Riparian “Relating to or situated on the banks of a river” (Cambridge Dictionary) HistoryA bountiful ecosystem for the system Historically, the diverse populace of Lake Chad has managed to coexist peacefully and equitably share the plentiful natural resources the Basin. However, that has been slowly changing since the 1970s, droughts have tremendously hit the region and the water level of the lake has been shrinking annually causing a disastrous impact on the regions once bountiful natural resources. The result of this has been the eruption of conflict over the distribution of these materials amongst the populace. These clashes are thought to occur on a much larger scale than known as it is believed that a wide number of them go unreported. Recession of the lake causes a decrease in the basins natural resources The region in and around Chad Lake Basin that spans over four countries is the traditional home of a large community of fishermen, farmers, herder and pastoralists who once enjoyed plentiful natural resources of the Basin. Since the 1970s, the Lake has been strongly hit by severe drought causing it to recede at an unprecedented rate.
As of now, the Lake’s water surface has shrunken to 50% as compared to its level in 1963. In this process it has mostly receded from the Nigerien and Nigerian territory and moved towards Chad and Cameroon. This combined with population growth; increasing droughts; scarcer rainfall; pumping of the Lake’s water for the water based exploitation of uranium in Niger; and ironically the national irrigation projects conducted by the riparian states with and without conjunction of others have accelerated the recession of the Lake. Between 1983 and 1994, the volume of water diverted to the above mentioned projects accounted for 50% of the Lake’s decline.Resource scarcity causes competition over land and water As a consequence of the previous events, the Lake Chad Basin -which is amongst the poorest regions in the world- is seeing an increasing decline in its previously bountiful natural resources. This has led to tensions and competition over land and water access, intensifying since the 1980s.
The deprivation of traditional sources of livelihood has caused mass scale migration which has been received with hostility by host populations. Communities also crossed borders are they followed the receding Lake, leading to inter-state conflicts. Likewise, herders migrated to ensure proper grazing grounds for their cattle, causing issues with farmers across the region. Also to be considered is the great ethnic diversity of the Lake Chad Basin which has caused the conflict to be greatly structured along ethnic lines.
All this combined with the inability of political institutions and structures to resolve competing claims over natural resources have greatly caused conflict escalation.Creation of the Lake Chad Basin Commission to manage the lake Lake Chad’s co-riparian states created the Lake Chad Basin Commission(LCBC) as early as 1964 to encourage cooperation between members when it came to water management. It was only in the 1980s(when the lake recession became obvious) that they started taking efforts in the direction of replenishing the lake and restoring its ecosystem. Despite these efforts, “constant arguments” over access to land and water continue to erupt within communities, often leading to violence. The situation has been further worsened by the proliferation of weapons in the region which has created additional risks and amplified suffering. Inter-ethnic competition and conflict create security issues in the basin region.
Since 2005, the southern pool of the basin which also happens to be its most populated area has been rife with interethnic competition and conflict which has been creating security issues. The present threat of the Boko Haram which has been growing since 2014 has increased the security risks. Based on surveys and interviews conducted in Nigeria in 2018, Freedom Onuoha, a Nigerian specialist on Boko Haram has drawn links between the lack of education, poverty and the vulnerability of communities into joining radical group like the Boko Haram. This induces that environmental changes which continue to deprive communities of their livelihoods could incentivise them to join radicalised groups. However not all specialists agree with Onuoha’s premise: Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos, a French specialist on Nigeria attributes people joining extremist groups in the years 2009-2012 to the misallocation of the military budget by the Nigerian government and the unconstitutional methods used by the Nigerian who arbitrarily slaughtered and raped people in the North. Montclos also believes that it is premature to currently draw conclusions about the link between poverty and radicalisation. Even if we were to consider the lack of unanimity amongst scholars about the reason for popular engagement in Boko Haram’s insurgency actions, it remains clear that the presence of the Boko Haram remains a huge threat to the stability of the region.
Failure to increase cooperation over water management As the displayed no signs of decelerating recession the co-riparian states began to take actions in the 1980s with the support of a number of governmental and non-governmental international institutions such as WWF, UNEP, GIZ, FAO and World Bank. However, the attempt to increase cooperation over water management failed because of the lack of political will of the co-riparian’s and the weak institutional mechanisms of the LCBC. As a result, the inter-state disputes over water and territorial disputes occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. These include a conflict between Nigeria and Cameroon about territorial claims over the Bakassi Peninsula which was later settled by the International Court of Justice and a conflict between Chad and Nigeria over the islands that surfaced as a result of the recession of Lake Chad. Further damage was done by the riparian states by erecting improper damns and poorly designed reservoirs in pursuit of the own national interests. This caused the basin’s natural resources to become increasingly scarce having a severe impact on those that depended on it.
However, since the 2000s the support of international agencies and organisations as well as an increased awareness of the lakes degradation which has succeeded in reinstating cooperation amongst the co-riparian states. Ineffectiveness of inter-state initiatives to address the issue of depletion The LCBC is currently conducting a project to transfer the waters of the Congo Basin to Lake Chad Basin in order to refill the water basins so to speak. However, this measure is not viable in the long run. Some international institutions like the Department For International Development (DFID) currently support the LCBC in conducting a number of support and poverty-reduction projects for the communities in the region. However, this aspect does not appear as a precedence in the “Lake Vision for 2025 and the Region’s Principle Objectives”. This is made even more worrying in light of the predictions by NASA according to which the Lake could disappear in 20 years if it continues to recede at this pace. The current initiatives conducted by the LCBC are not sufficient to solve the conflict at a local as shown by the resurgence of violence at the Lake’s Southern Pool. Projects taken up to the save the Basin must be two-fold: they must slow down and potentially resolve the consequences of climate change on the Lake and contain measures to address the social root causes of the controversy which makes the population more likely to engage in conflict.
It must also be considered that conflicts sparked by resource scarcity are often rooted in structural issues such as high level of poverty, political instability and lack of awareness of communities about using the area’s resources in a sustainable manner. The failure to previously recognise these concerns has led to the unnecessary escalation of the conflict and hence must be addressed in the resolution.Absence of inclusiveness and lack of capacity building measures A major issue is the LCBC not being inclusive to members of the community while working on its previously mentioned restoration projects for Lake Chad. Including communities in water-management processes empower them to maintain the lake’s ecosystem post restoration. Doing so would also include capacity building measures which they currently lack hence failing to address the widespread need for work in the region which has in turn led to deepened poverty and increased involvement of communities in criminal activities in order to sustain their livelihood.Boko Haram, a major drawback for traditional conflict resolution methods The insurgency actions of the Boko Haram in the region make it increasingly difficult to implement any water management or restorative projects in the region.
It is also fostering political and sociological instability in the Lake Chad Basin. The presence of the Boko Haram gives the conflict a dual nature that entails both traditional and non-traditional security threats, making it difficult to solve one aspect of the conflict without giving due consideration to the other. Institutional solutions to reduce conflictThe co-riparian’s of Lake chad must work towards increased coordination between them in order to reduce conflict potential of scarcity. This might be best achieved through better management institutions or by granting greater powers to existing ones like the LCBC.Reducing fragility and increasing resilience The importance of improving institutional inclusiveness (governments including communities under them) in water management and other restoration related processes has been highlighted by many scholars. This in turn would lead to an improvement in state capacity creating employment opportunities which are much needed in the region and strengthen state power and the government’s ability to secure public trust. Considering that a large basis of this conflict is formed on the lack of employment this measure is exceptionally important.