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.

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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 Terms

Climate 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 Haram

The 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 Security

Non-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 Basin

The 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)

 

History

A 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 conflict

The
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.

 

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