An active terrorist group is not a new phenomenon for many countries in West Africa but what is new is the increasing threat in the Sub-region. It has become one of the biggest threats to peace and security within the West Africa region. In north eastern Nigeria alone, over 17,000 people have been killed and 1,538,982 displaced as at April 2015. In Mali, terrorist onslaught has displaced 102,000 with 136,000 seeking refuge in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. Currently, most countries within the ECOWAS block are drained of security infrastructure. In response, affected countries have resorted to the use of national Army who are often ill-equiped and ill-trained in asymmetric warfare or human rights observation in operation. For instance, Mali’s national government forces were almost overwhelmed in field battle against insurgents in 2012 until the establishment of an Africa-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).
Particularly in Nigeria where the insurgency has reached advanced levels; spreading into neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, the observance of human rights abuses by the parties involved has become necessary. Often time, these abuses are neither reported nor heard of. Fortunately, there are codes of conduct, rules of engagement, strategies and laws that government security forces are often expected to observe in battle field, again, little or no monitoring and enforcement has given room for impunity.
More so, the people who are most affected by these excesses of government forces and insurgents, have not been able to register abuses or seek redress owing to ignorance of extant laws and policies within Nigeria and the region. While resort to human rights abuses may be the product of frustration owing to lack of requisite skills and equipment, many government troops have not been trained on human rights issues. In Nigeria, the National Human Rights Commission alone has indicted the military on two occasions (the Baga Killing in 2012 and the Apo killing in 2014). This is couple with various international reports from Amnesty International, the United States Department of States, among other reports.
Although the ECOWAS and various member states have attempted policies and laws to approach the threat of insurgency within the region and to ensure state obligations in observance of human rights, the level of state implementation of the ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy for instance is largely unknown owing to lack of public information. Again, there is a seemly nonexistence of data around these issues of casualties, perpetrators and location. While these abuses abounds, there are slim engagements between the civil society and security forces on the one hand and on the other hand, monitoring, advocacy, training and enforcement of relevant national and regional policies and laws of the ECOWAS by Member and Observer States.
The objective of the project is increase civil society’s credibility by building a sustainable multi-country, civil society network in West Africa of “best practices sharing” and peer learning. The project is poised towards bridging these gaps. These gaps namely data gathering and documentation, monitoring of the level of implementation of the ECOWAS CTS, training CSOs and the Media to monitor and report compliance with ECOWAS CTS and advocacy to push for further implementation of the CTS. In many ways, this project would help to enlighten the larger world through a global reporting platform on incidences, casualties, perpetrators and responses. In turn, the information that will come with the platform is expected to provoke discussions that will enhance regional commitment to the CTS at levels..