Koenders calls for more effective action against Boko Haram

‘The growing extremist violence of Boko Haram needs to be tackled more effectively, and it’s good to see African countries taking the initiative.’ Foreign minister Bert Koenders made this statement in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in the wake of the annual summit of the African Union (AU). ‘Boko Haram is sowing death and destruction in large parts of northeastern Nigeria,’ he said. ‘If no action is taken, this area will only expand and other countries, too, will eventually face more violence.’ The Netherlands has called for a regional military force to fight Boko Haram, and this is now being discussed by the AU. ‘By creating a regional force against Boko Haram, the AU will again demonstrate how seriously it takes its responsibility for promoting peace and security,’ said Mr Koenders.

The minister said that the African Union was becoming increasingly decisive and effective. Not only by deploying peace missions to tackle crises, as in Mali and Somalia, but also in promoting economic growth on the continent. ‘The Netherlands and Europe can support these efforts where necessary,’ he added.

‘Given their location and common interests, the European Union and the African Union are natural partners,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘Extremist violence and marginalisation in parts of Africa demand more modern and effective forms of cooperation, on economic and other issues.’

The summit in Ethiopia focused on the African Union’s long-term plans, especially for the economy, trade and security. ‘It’s good to see the AU setting joint objectives for the coming decades. I applaud its higher level of ambition,’ said the minister.

In the margins of the summit, Mr Koenders met with representatives of many African countries and international organisations, including his Ethiopian, Sudanese and Rwandan counterparts.

In his talks with the UN’s South Sudan envoy, Ellen Margrethe Løj, Mr Koenders expressed concern at the ongoing human rights violations in the conflict that has ravaged the country since December 2013. ‘The vulnerable position of women demands special attention and action,’ he said. ‘Sexual violence against women has assumed frightening forms in South Sudan. It’s high time that the warring factions made serious efforts to advance the peace talks. The recent one-year extension of our contribution to UNMISS, the UN mission, shows that the Netherlands remains committed to protecting the people of South Sudan.’