posted on Thu 22 May 2014 1:49 PM
Listing Boko Haram in the Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee

This afternoon, the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee may add Boko Haram to its sanctions list, following a request by Nigeria for the group to be listed. In its 19 May letter to the Committee chair, Ambassador Gary Quinlan (Australia), Nigeria noted that its request is “necessitated by the recent upsurge” in Boko Haram’s activities. The chair immediately circulated the request to Committee members together with a draft entry list and draft narrative summary of reasons for the listing prepared by the Analytical Support and Monitoring Team, which supports the Committee. The proposal was then placed under an “expedited no objection procedure” until 3 pm today. If the Committee agrees to the listing, it is also likely to issue a press statement that was circulated to members on 20 May and also put the statement under a no objection procedure until 3 pm today. The Committee will hold previously scheduled meeting with the Monitoring Group this afternoon, and may discuss the proposal, though it is not currently part of the formal agenda.

These recent developments follow the Paris summit meeting on Boko Haram, which took place on 17 May and brought together Nigeria and its neighbours Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger, along with France, the UK, the US and the EU. The summit conclusions focus on enhancing regional cooperation for intelligence sharing and improving border management with support from international partners. At the summit, Nigeria agreed to impose UN sanctions on Boko Haram. On 21 May the Council president circulated a 19 May letter from France and Nigeria, referring members specifically to the summit decision that “the participants commit to accelerating the implementation of international sanctions against Boko Haram, Ansaru and their main leaders, within the United Nations framework as a priority.” The letter additionally attached the conclusions adopted at the summit.

If the request is agreed to, Boko Haram will be subject to an arms embargo and asset freeze. While it is recognised that the group is based in a part of Nigeria that largely operates on a cash economy and may not rely heavily on traditional bank accounts, members hope that listing Boko Haram will deter those that supply its arms and funds. Those who continue to do so would become eligible for listing. (No listing of Ansaru is contemplated at this time.)

In its draft narrative summary explaining the designation of Boko Haram to the Al-Qaida sanctions list, the Analytical and Monitoring Group notes not only the group’s use of terrorist tactics, but also its relationship with Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) through training and material support. The summary highlights the knowledge that Boko Haram has gained from AQIM in making improvised explosive devices, and that members of Boko Haram fought alongside Al-Qaida affiliated groups in Mali. Criteria for listing an organisation or individual in the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee includes an association with Al-Qaida, or affiliated groups.

At press time no Committee member had raised objections. There are concerns though that because the proposal is being made under an expedited no objection procedure, as opposed to the usual 10 days to consider such requests, that some members, in particular Russia, could seek more time to consider the proposal, as it has been known to block proposals on technical grounds.

One consideration for listing Boko Haram in the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee was that it would allow for a speedy listing. Creating a new sanctions committee specific to the group would take more time. The Analytical and Monitoring Group has been reporting on Boko Haram for several years, an indication of its concern about the group and links with Al-Qaida. The Sanctions Committee, which has also shown concern about the rise of Al-Qaida linked groups in West Africa, organised an informal meeting on the issue last year.

An argument could be made, however, about the usefulness of Boko Haram sanctions being established through its own committee since the conflict has distinct socio-economic features. Listing Boko Haram in the 1267/1989 Sanctions Committee could be seen as minimising some of the long-standing grievances in the north vis-à-vis the government of Nigeria, which have fueled the fighting. Some members may wish for a fuller discussion of this possibility, but the option of listing Boko Haram in the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee is likely to be more acceptable to Nigeria as it avoids creating a sanctions committee that could lead to the situation in Nigeria becoming a Council agenda item.

In a separate development, it seems that this year’s Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict is likely to introduce Nigeria as a situation of concern due to systematic attacks on schools and the killing and maiming of children by Boko Haram. In addition, Boko Haram is expected to be listed in the annexes of the report for both killing and maiming children, as well as for attacks on schools and/or hospitals, which would put it on the reporting cycle of the Working Group for Children and Armed Conflict.

On 9 May, the Council issued a press statement condemning a 5 May Boko Haram attack on a marketplace in Gamboru Ngala, and as well as the 14 April abduction of 276 girls and a second kidnapping of 8 girls on 5 May (SC/11387). While it was not the first Council statement condemning a Boko Haram attack — a 14 April press statement had condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated on 13-14 April (SC/11352), however, no statement was released after 50 boys from a state college in northeastern Nigeria were burned or slaughtered on 25 February — it was the first time that the Council expressed its willingness to address the issue more broadly, threatening future measures against the group. It seems that Nigeria became less resistant to having the Council get more involved in the Boko Haram issue following the abduction of the school girls and the domestic and international outrage that the incident sparked.

On 8 May the UN announced that a high-level representative of the Secretary-General would go to Nigeria following a phone call between Ban Ki-moon and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria. Special Representative to West Africa and head of the UN Office in West Africa Said Djinnit, who the Secretary-General sent as his high-level representative, spent four days in Nigeria. At a press conference on 15 May in Abuja, Djinnit announced a UN support package to help the girls’ families and counseling for the girls following their release. He also said the package would include assistance to address longer-term structural challenges in northern Nigeria.