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Chadian Self-Defense Groups on Alert for Boko Haram

by Bagassi Koura April 05, 2016

Chad remains on alert for Boko Haram attacks four months after a state of emergency was declared around Lake Chad. Local self-defense groups in the village of Baga Sola near Lake Chad are working alongside security forces.

Buyers and sellers converge at the weekly Saturday market in Baga-Sola. Handheld metal detectors beep amid the usual chatter.

Members of the local self-defense committee check everyone and everything coming into the market, even baskets of vegetables.

"We search everyone," says the head of the local self-defense committee, Hassan Ahmat Mahamat. "Even it is your brother, you search him."

Suicide attacks

Inside the market, you can still see the charred remnants of a October 10 triple suicide bombing. At the time, it was Boko Haram's deadliest attack on Chadian soil. The bombing killed 43 people, including the attackers, and wounded 58 more, said the prefect of the Kaya region, Dimouya Souapebé.

"We never imagined Baga Sola would one day be attacked by Boko Haram," he told VOA.

Just weeks after Baga Sola was hit, Chad declared a state of emergency in the area around Lake Chad. Attacks were intensifying there as Nigerian and regional troops routed Boko Haram from strongholds in Nigeria.

The area around Baga Sola is heavily militarized, and Chadian troops continue to deploy here.

To get into the market at Baga Sola, you must show identification papers and submit to a pat-down.

"We've been doing this for six or seven months. Day or night, we are here but we have found nothing. We are just defending our country and our village," Mahamat said.

Metal detectors

The United Nations refugee agency gave metal detectors to local authorities, who have in turn loaned them to the self-defense group in Baga Sola, villages around the Kaya region have similar set-ups.

"You can go in any village in the Kayes region, no matter how big or small, and you will find armed men there, not armed with guns our population does not have guns but armed with machetes. These groups have become very vigilant. And it is our hope that these men working alongside our security forces are bringing security back," Souapebé says

Chad is one of five nations taking part in a multi-national task force to fight Boko Haram, along with Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Benin.

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