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Chad president accuses Nigeria of lack of cooperation

27 March 2015, 16:22

Paris - Chad's President Idriss Deby has accused Nigeria of downplaying the threat from Boko Haram and failing to cooperate with the regional coalition battling the jihadists, saying there had been zero contact between their armies.

"The whole world is asking why the Nigerian army, which is a big army... is not in a position to stand up to untrained kids armed with Kalashnikovs," Deby told French magazine Le Point, in an interview published this week.

Chad, Cameroon and Niger have joined forces since January to battle Boko Haram, whose insurgency has claimed more than 13 000 lives in northern Nigeria since 2009.

But Deby said he was baffled by the Nigerian government's lack of cooperation with the offensive.

Also read: Chad troops return to town after Boko Haram kill 11

"Two months after the start of this war, we have not had any direct contact with the Nigerian army units on the ground," he told the French weekly.

"We would have hoped to have at least one Nigerian unit with us. It was even a direct request to the Nigerian government, but for reasons that escape us, up to now we have been unable to work together."

Not wishing to be seen as foreign occupiers, Chadian troops have had to abandon towns they have taken from Boko Haram forces, letting the jihadists return.

"The Chadian army is fighting alone in its part of the Nigerian interior and that is a problem. We have had to retake certain towns twice," Deby told Le Point.

"We are forced to abandon them and Boko Haram returns, and we have to go back. That has a human and material cost."

- 'Too serious to ignore' -

Deby also criticised Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election on Saturday, for downplaying the Boko Haram threat and attempting doomed peace talks in October.

"I told President Goodluck not to open negotiations with terrorists ... but it was a political choice," said Deby, adding that Boko Haram were only using the talks to buy time and regroup.

"It has become something too serious for Nigerians to ignore. The blood of the dead that we have been counting every day for the past few years demands attention."

Deby said Boko Haram's actions now amounted to "genocide" and estimated the group had some 20,000 fighters.

He told Le Point he was not surprised by Boko Haram's recent swearing of allegiance to the Islamic State group, saying they had been working together for some time.

"(IS) has always trained young people from Boko Haram in the use of explosives, the use of heavy weapons and armoured vehicles. They are trained by (IS) in Libya... and are then sent to Nigeria," he said.

"I'm not surprised that (Boko Haram leader) Abubakar Shekau, who has difficulties at the moment... is trying to make people believe that he only just made contact with them."

He called for a mixed multi-national force to be established as quickly as possible, with UN and African Union backing, and said he hoped a conference of central and west African countries in early April would lead to a larger coalition.

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