U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May signed a defense and security agreement with Nigeria and announced additional support for the African Union’s Mission in Somalia during her whistle-stop tour of African nations.
UK-Nigeria security and defense partnership
On Wednesday, August 29, May met Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja and the two signed a defense and security partnership agreement.
May’s office said the agreement would enable “a series of new initiatives to help Nigeria defeat Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa” and “stop this regional menace from spreading and posing a direct threat to the U.K.”
Under the new partnership, the U.K. will “expand its provision of equipment and training for the Nigerian military to help them protect themselves from the threat of improvised explosive devices,” better equipping them “to combat Boko Haram’s insurgency-style tactics.”
Additionally, the U.K. has offered to train full army units before they deploy, giving the units “a shared understanding and experience that will make them better able to defeat the enemy.”
The U.K. already helps to train soldiers individually, but does not yet train fighting teams together. More than 30,000 Nigerian troops have been trained with British help since 2015.
Through the new partnership the two countries will work to implement a crisis response mechanism, similar to the U.K.’s COBR system, to help the Nigerian government respond to incidents like terror attacks, the prime minister’s office said.
They will also work to reduce Boko Haram recruitment by tackling misinformation, including “working with communities to push out counter-narratives and drawing on the U.K.’s experience of countering terrorist propaganda.” The U.K. government will also spend £13 million ($17 million) on a new program to educate 100,000 children living in the conflict zone.
Boko Haram no longer controls swathes of territory in northeast Nigeria as it did at the height of its insurgency in 2014, yet the Islamist militants still pose a threat to the impoverished region.
Buhari has insisted that the Islamists are a spent force as he gears up for elections next year, but recent attacks underline the threat posed by the insurgency that has killed at least 20,000 people since 2009.
Earlier this month, three significant attacks occurred in less than a week. On August 8, at least 17 Nigerian soldiers were killed in a Boko Haram attack on a military base in Borno state in the country’s northeast. Two days earlier, seven people were killed in a suspected Boko Haram dawn raid on Munduri village near Maiduguri. And on August 3, five people were killed and the village of Gasarwa was razed in a similar raid near the garrison town of Monguno.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) August 30, 2018
Additional UK support for AMISOM
On August 30, May announced more than £7 million ($9.1 million) in new funding to support the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), and called on international donors to contribute more to the peacekeeping mission.
“Somalia is at a critical juncture and sustainable, predictable funding and support for the troops who are building stability in the region is vital to support a transition to Somali-led security, when the conditions for a handover are right,” May said.
Al-Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government of Somalia for over a decade. Despite losing towns and territory in recent years the group continues to carry out regular bombings and armed raids on government, security and civilian targets in the capital and elsewhere.
May made the call for funding on a visit to a U.K.-backed counter-IED training center in Nairobi, Kenya where British and Kenyan instructors train troops to identify and destroy home-made bombs.
The facility is to expand into a independent regional centre of excellence by November 2020. East African instructors will provide IED disposal training training to Kenyan and other AMISOM troop-contributing nations in the region.
Kenyan security officers are regularly killed by roadside bombs planted by the militants in areas that border Somalia. On August 29, five Kenyan soldiers were killed and 10 injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in a coastal area of Lamu county close and on August 8, five soldiers died in a roadside IED bombing in Lamu county claimed by al-Shabaab. In a similar attack in June, five Kenyan paramilitary police officers were killed after their vehicle struck a landmine in Liboi.
May’s office said the expansion of the Nairobi facility is part of a new U.K.-Kenya security agreement which is allowing both countries to keep pace with the changing nature of threats and to renew our cooperation on counter-terrorism, child protection, and regional security.