Ghanaian President John Mahama on Friday said West African leaders would next week seek authority from the African Union to create a multi-national force to fight Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamist insurgents.
Any such force will represent the most robust international response yet to the militants who have killed thousands over the last year in their campaign for an Islamic caliphate.
The jihadists had also launched cross border attacks into Niger and Cameroon.
Boko Haram is seen as the most serious security threat to Nigeria, but Mr. Mahama said the group and militants in Somalia, Kenya, Mali and elsewhere posed a wider risk.
“Terrorism is like a cancer and it will keep growing if we do not deal with.
“It threatens everybody in the sub region, when it comes to terrorism, nobody is too far or too near.
“It will take months before an AU force could be set up and key issues such as who would command it, the location of its headquarters and its financing remain undecided.
“Once set up, however, the AU could ultimately seek a UN Security Council mandate to take over the force as happened in Sudan’s Darfur region,” he said.
Mr. Mahama was speaking as Chairman of West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which has been accused of not doing enough to combat Boko Haram.
“Nigeria is taking military action and Cameroon is fighting Boko Haram.
“But I think we are increasingly getting to the point where probably a regional or a multinational force is coming into consideration’’, he said.
The comments came two days after a former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, urged Nigeria and the West African bloc to do more to contain Boko Haram before seeking international attention.
“What is important is that we ourselves should organize and try and contain Boko Haram, the international community can only assist. It can come but the responsibility is ours,” Mr. Annan said.