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IRIN – Boko Haram: Down, But Not Out

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Author Note

Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, an Abuja-based policy advocacy and research organisation. This op-ed is part of a special project exploring violent extremism in Nigeria and the Sahel

The Nigerian government has declared victory over the Boko Haram insurgency. The capture at the end of December of Camp Zero in Sambisa Forest, the last stronghold of the jihadists, seemed to herald the formal beginning of the post-insurgency phase in northeastern Nigeria.

The negotiated return last month of 82 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls (an estimated 113 are still in captivity) has been presented as further evidence that the back of the seven-year-old insurgency has been broken.

The government and its development partners are already starting post-war reconstruction in the three most affected states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. Humanitarian conditions remain dire, but houses and schools are being rebuilt, seedlings distributed, and empowerment training schemes launched.

Concerns

Amid all this optimism, it is important to acknowledge lingering causes for concern.

While Camp Zero has been dismantled, the reality is that Boko Haram is an adaptable foe. It is reportedly both forming new enclaves in the Lake Chad Basin and melting back into civilian communities.

The rumours are of profitable business partnerships being formed – especially in the fish and cattle trade. Some fishermen, for example, are supplying their catch to Boko Haram middlemen who sell on their behalf.

And Boko Haram’s network is far deeper than commonly realised. The State Security Service is regularly turning up insurgents across northern Nigeria, and in one case as far away as the western state of Ekiti.

Boko Haram is known for its attacks on civilians and suicide bombings. So far in May there have been 12 suicide bombings (by nine women, three men) – a tempo that suggests the insurgency is far from over.

But since the movement split into two factions led by Abubaker Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi back in August, there has been a change of tactics. Al-Barnawi’s group had criticised Shekau for attacking soft civilian targets, tactics that won Boko Haram few voluntary recruits. Al-Barnawi’s group is much more explicitly targeting the military.

Since November, 11 military installations have been attacked, with 40 soldiers killed. In April alone, 20 soldiers died in raids on four army posts. The weaponry they have captured, and the motorbikes instead of vehicles they favour, means they are mobile and well-armed.

Al-Barnawi’s faction still loots villages for food, fuel, and medical supplies, even if it does appear to be deliberately avoiding killing civilians – as long as they don’t resist.

The government’s inability to completely block the sources of financing for the insurgents continues to pose a challenge. Boko Haram still has money to wage its war, typically raised through kidnapping, extortion, armed robbery, cattle rustling, and taxes/levies on businesses.

The strained relationship between the vigilante Civilian Joint Task Force and the military is also affecting the government’s prosecution of the conflict. Since the arrest in February of the founder of the CJTF, Bah Lawan, over his alleged links to Boko Haram, some vigilante leaders are refusing to cooperate with the army.

The CJTF, one of the most effective weapons the military has against Boko Haram, has also been reportedly weakened by factionalism and indiscipline. Regular complaints of irregular pay from the Borno State government and the lack of health insurance and even fuel for their vehicles is affecting morale.

Power of the word

Boko Haram’s ideology, that Westernisation is evil, still has resonance. Rural northeastern Nigeria is highly conservative. While the insurgency’s violence is not approved of, its broad worldview has power and can still attract sympathy.

One 45-year-old woman who was held hostage in Sambisa, and served as a teacher in the camp, was honest enough to tell me she now regretted leaving Boko Haram.

Alleged corruption and sexual exploitation by security forces and aid workers also plays into the militants’ messaging. There is a powerful narrative that girls and women in IDP camps are either being sexually abused or forced into sex-for-food arrangements. Reports of the flagrant use of alcohol and drugs by the army and the CJTF also do not sit well with traditional cultural norms.

The government has a disarmament and reintegration plan dubbed Operation Safe Corridor. More than 4,500 former combatants have surrendered, but the framework for the strategy remains opaque, and it contains real risks.

There are fears that some so-called “deradicalised” Boko Haram are not repentant at all. There are questions over their screening, certification, and whether communities are ready for their return and reintegration.

Some ex-combatants have been deeply indoctrinated. As one man told me: “You cannot believe in one part of the Koran and not in the other part of the Koran, [which includes] killing”.

Then there are the detainees accused of being Boko Haram – those who have suffered abuse at the hands of the security forces and have likely been radicalised as a result of that experience but are then released.

Negotiations

Hope that the freeing of the Chibok schoolgirls could be a step towards possible negotiations was dealt a blow by Shuaibu Moni, one of the (at least) five Boko Haram commanders swapped for the released school girls.

In a video released barely a week after he gained his freedom, he was threatening to bomb Abuja and denying there could be any dialogue with the government. “Only war is between us!” he declared.

While we must give kudos to the military and the Nigerian government for improving security in the northeast, it is safe to say the conflict is far from over.

There is still some way to go.

The government must immediately prioritise a hearts-and-minds approach. The focus of the war now should be on combatting the ideology of Boko Haram; there should be an emphasis on healing trauma in a society scarred by the violence.

And while the path of dialogue is a difficult journey, the idea of peace through negotiation must not be jettisoned.

christinevirginIRIN – Boko Haram: Down, But Not Out
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ABC NEWS: Nigeria Presidency Releases Names of 82 Freed Chibok Girls

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Nigeria’s presidency released the names of the 82 Chibok schoolgirls newly freed from Boko Haram extremists which parents anxiously scoured to see if their daughters were released three years after their capture.

The list was published early Monday after Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari met with the young women before announcing he was leaving for London immediately for medical checkups as fears over his health continue.

Nigerians gathered in front of newsstands Monday looking at the names of freed schoolgirls in local papers.

Some parents of the kidnapped girls are in the capital, Abuja. Others stayed at their homes in northeastern Nigeria, waiting to see if their daughters were released after the mass abduction from a Chibok boarding school in 2014. Now they will be able to verify if they should make the journey. Following the weekend release, 113 Chibok schoolgirls remain missing.

Five Boko Haram commanders were released in exchange for the 82 girls’ freedom, a Nigerian government official said Sunday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to reporters on the matter. Neither Nigeria’s government nor Boko Haram, which has links to the Islamic State group, gave details about the exchange.

Photos released by the government Sunday showed the rail-thin president addressing the Chibok schoolgirls at his official residence Sunday evening, a day after their release.

Minutes later, the 74-year-old Buhari startled Africa’s most populous nation with the news of his departure. Buhari, who has missed three straight weekly Cabinet meetings and spent a month and a half in London on medical leave earlier this year, said he’d never been as sick in his life. The exact nature of his illness remains unclear.

Though Boko Haram has abducted thousands of people during its eight-year insurgency that has spilled across Nigeria’s borders, the Chibok mass kidnapping horrified the world and brought the extremist group international attention.

Some parents did not live long enough to see their daughters released, underscoring the tragedy of the three-year saga.

Boko Haram seized a total of 276 girls in the 2014 abduction. Girls who escaped early on said some of their classmates had died from illness. Others did not want to come home because they’d been radicalized by their captors, they said.

Human rights advocates also fear some of the girls have been used by Boko Haram to carry out suicide bombings.

Last year, a first group of 21 Chibok girls was freed in October, and they have been in government care for medical attention, trauma counseling and rehabilitation.

———

Associated Press writers Bashir Adigun in Abuja and Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegalcontributed to this report.

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ABC NEWS: Boko Haram Behind Thousands of Child Deaths

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A campaign of violence led by terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria and neighboring countries is responsible for the deaths of nearly 4,000 children, according to a new United Nationsreport.

Attacks by Boko Haram on communities and clashes between the group and security forces from 2013 up to this year have led to at least 3,900 deaths among people 18 and under in addition to more than 7,000 injured.

In a disturbing trend, suicide attacks have accounted for a growing number of the casualties among minors. Investigators say they verified the use of 90 children for suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger — the majority of them being girls.

PHOTO: A woman pushes a wheelbarrow carrying a jerrycan filled with water as Nigerian soldiers patrol in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. Florian Plaucher/AFP/Getty Images
A woman pushes a wheelbarrow carrying a jerrycan filled with water as Nigerian soldiers patrol in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. more +

“With tactics including widespread recruitment and use, abductions, sexual violence, attacks on schools and the increasing use of children in so-called ‘suicide’ attacks, Boko Haram has inflicted unspeakable horror upon the children of Nigeria’s north-east and neighbouring countries,” Virginia Gamba, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said in a statement on Thursday.

The U.N. said that thousands of children in northeast Nigeria and bordering countries have been recruited by Boko Haram. Investigators gathered testimony indicating that the group kidnapped many of the children it counts among its ranks but that others join voluntarily for economic gain or over pressure applied on their families by the group.

PHOTO: A man, injured by an IED, sits with others outside his tent in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. Florian Plaucher/AFP/Getty Images
A man, injured by an IED, sits with others outside his tent in the town of Banki in northeastern Nigeria, April 26, 2017. more +

Boko Haram fighters then employ the children in “direct hostilities,” including in suicide bombings, planting improvised explosive devices, and engaging in attacks on civilian populations, the report says.

The Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a group of citizens backed by the Nigerian government, has also used children, some as young as 9 year old, in its campaign to counter Boko Haram.

PHOTO: A member of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) screens an old person at the entrance of the town of Damasak in North East Nigeria, April, 25 2017.Florian Plaucher/AFP/Getty Images
A member of Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) screens an old person at the entrance of the town of Damasak in North East Nigeria, April, 25 2017.more +

Last month marked three years since Boko Haram militants ambushed the small Nigerian town of Chibok in the middle of the night and abducted 276 schoolgirls before vanishing into the forest.

Nearly 200 of the girls remain missing despite a high-profile social media campaign that prompted millions of people, including celebrities and former first lady Michelle Obama, to bring attention to the cause by using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

christinevirginABC NEWS: Boko Haram Behind Thousands of Child Deaths
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BLOOMBERG: Nigerian Military Says It Freed 400 Boko Haram Hostages

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Nigerian troops freed more than 400 hostages held by Boko Haram militants in the northeastern state of Borno, a military official said.

Soldiers raided more than 10 villages near the border with Cameroon where the hostages were held and destroyed hideouts in the area maintained by the Islamist militant group, Sani Usman, a spokesman for the military, said in an e-mailed statement.

President Muhammadu Buhari has stepped up military efforts to end the eight-year insurgency of Boko Haram, which wants to impose its version of Islamic rule in Africa’s most populous country of more than 180 million people. Nigeria is roughly split between a mainly Muslim north and a largely Christian south.

christinevirginBLOOMBERG: Nigerian Military Says It Freed 400 Boko Haram Hostages
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The Spectator: Who will Protect Nigeria’s Northern Christians?

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Every week, there are more massacres, but nobody seems to mind — not even their own government

By Douglas Murray
Feburary 4, 2017

Children play around the only borehole in one of the hosting communities in Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria on December 7, 2016. According to NGOs about 70-90% of internally displaced people are housed in hosting communities in and around Mauduguri. More than 2 million people have been displaced by Boko Haram-related violence in north-east Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS        (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 2 million people have been displaced by violence in Nigeria

Another day in northern Nigeria, another Christian village reeling from an attack by the Muslim Fulani herdsmen who used to be their neighbours — and who are now cleansing them from the area. The locals daren’t collect the freshest bodies. Some who tried earlier have already been killed, spotted by the waiting militia and hacked down or shot. The Fulani are watching everything closely from the surrounding mountains. Every week, their progress across the northern states of Plateau and Kaduna continues. Every week, more massacres — another village burned, its church razed, its inhabitants slaughtered, raped or chased away. A young woman, whose husband and two children have just been killed in front of her, tells me blankly, ‘Our parents told us about these people. But we lived in relative peace and we forgot what they said.’

For the outside world, what is happening to the Christians of northern Nigeria is both beyond our imagination and beneath our interest. These tribal-led villages, each with their own ‘paramount ruler’, were converted by missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. But now these Christians — from the bishop down — sense that they have become unsympathetic figures, perhaps even an embarrassment, to the West. The international community pretends that this situation is a tit-for-tat problem, rather than a one-sided slaughter. Meanwhile, in Nigeria, the press fails to report or actively obscures the situation. Christians in the south of the country feel little solidarity with their co-religionists suffering from this Islamic revivalism and territorial conquest in the north. And worst of all, the plight of these people is of no interest to their own government. In fact, this ethnic and religious cleansing appears to be taking place with that government’s complicity or connivance.

Every village has a similar story. A few days before any attack, a military helicopter is spotted dropping arms and other supplies into the areas inhabited by the Fulani tribes. Then the attack comes. For reasons of Islamic doctrine, the militia often deliver a letter of warning. Then they come, at any time of night or day, not down the dirt tracks, but silently through the foliage. The Christian villagers, who are forbidden to carry arms (everyone is, in theory), have no way to defend themselves. With some exceptions, they also tend to believe what they were taught about turning the other cheek.

The village of Goska was attacked on Christmas Eve. In a temporary shelter nearby, a young man describes how he ran towards his home when he heard the attack start. There he found his mother lying dead on the floor. Uniformed Fulani militia were everywhere. He fled across the fields: ‘I ran and ran until I realised my feet could not carry me any longer.’ The first bullet that hit him passed through the sole of one foot; the second through the back of the other leg with that clean felt-tip mark Kalashnikov bullets make on entry. The exit wounds are less neat —the second exploded out through his right kneecap. On the ground, he realized why he could no longer run, but also that he was still alive. ‘My day was not over,’ he says, brushing his hand across his better leg.

Across the surviving Christian villages of the north, thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. In those villages and the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps to which many have fled, you can see the same wounds from the same bullets. In the remote village of Sho, where the attacks have been going on since 2001, a girl of 12 — in her Sunday best — embarrassedly shows me the scars of the bullet which entered and exited her elbow recently while she played behind her house.

An eight-year-old girl balances on one foot to point out the bullet wound on the other, a hallmark of the snipers sitting in the hills around us. Villages have been persuaded to keep records of the attacks to show anyone who cares. One of the very few from outside who does — Britain’s own Baroness Cox — came here recently. Her vehicle was spotted by the Fulani, who came out hunting for her and only just missed their target. Because of attacks like this, almost nobody comes. Just one more reason why these atrocities do not attract the West’s attentions.

The task of chronicling the outrages continues nonetheless. Village leaders keep ring-binders of their dead. Some have photo-graph albums of what their villages have been through: old women set alight; young women raped and shot; babies hacked to death.

The Nigerian government, led by a Fulani president — Muhammadu Buhari — clearly does not wish to protect these people. Even more than under Buhari’s incompetent Christian predecessor, the army fails to perform its most basic duties. As you get into the more dangerous and remote areas, sullen young soldiers at army road blocks hustle you for cash at gunpoint.

A villager takes me to the bridge where the village leader and 13 others were recently gunned down in a Fulani ambush. Nigerian army troops watched the whole thing from their base a couple of hundred yards away — just as they did the destruction of another Christian village, the remains of which sit, burned out and silent, right opposite them. The army seems to have no interest in protecting the Christians, while the government in Abuja appears to care more about passing new laws on cattle-rustling than on protecting human lives. When challenged after a massacre, soldiers often claim that they didn’t receive any orders — or had been commanded not to intervene.

In a line that’s parroted by some NGOs, the government says that this is a land or agricultural dispute. Yet it is the Christian communities who are being systematically forced off it. If anybody wanted to find the culprits, they could find them living and farming on the land they have stolen. But such arrests never happen. The complicity between the army and the Fulani is obvious. Between Barakin-Ladi and Riyom — in sight of another army post — is a sacked Christian village which locals say now acts as a Fulani arms dump. The world’s indifference gives the Nigerian government the advantage in what looks like a quiet effort to rid northern Nigeria of its Christians.

The moment three years ago when Boko Haram abducted 300 Christian schoolgirls from the north-east and ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ briefly trended on Twitter was the closest this situation has come to catching the world’s attention. But the moment passed. Those girls are still missing and the story of Boko Haram has receded from the headlines. But similar atrocities go on all the time. At an IDP camp Deborah, 31, describes the 18 months she spent held captive by the group. When they burst into her village, the Islamists killed her husband and the rest of her family, forcibly converted her and ‘married’ her off to one of their 20-year-old fighters. He complained about her bad temper and argumentativeness, but he still raped her, producing the nine-month-old boy now suckling at her breast. A Christian pastor has urged her to love and cherish the boy as though he was her murdered husband.

The first time she escaped from Boko Haram, she was recaptured and lashed 80 times as punishment. At least she is now unafraid of death. ‘What sort of death would I be running from?’ she asks. ‘I have already died once.’ At night, she says, a military plane would sometimes appear over Boko Haram’s camp and drop off supplies. ‘Look what powerful friends we have,’ her husband would boast as he pointed to the lights in the sky above. Even if the Nigerian army does not support Boko Haram, elements of it certainly do. Whenever an actual operation against the group is planned, they are always tipped off by forces within the country’s security apparatus.

Nigerians have their own view as to what is really going on: a suspicion fuelled again as I leave one IDP camp at sunset and news comes in that another camp to the east has just been bombed by the Nigerian military, killing and maiming scores of people.

The army later apologises for this ‘error’.But the bigger picture is not about error. If the international community meant anything by its promises such as the UN’s ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, then what is happening could not go on. But the international community is uninterested. Governments like ours are uninterested. The world’s media is uninterested.

At morning service in the city of Jos, the congregation sing and pray using the 19th-century hymnals and prayer books by which their faith was delivered. When we reach the plea to ‘Deliver us from the hands of our enemies’, the closely packed room hums with the literalness of the words. The Christians of Nigeria are alone. Even if we do not care about this, we ought to know.

Original story at:
http://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/02/who-will-protect-nigerias-northern-christians/

 

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WorldWatch Monitor: Christians in Nigeria’s Jigawa State cry out as authorities begin church demolition

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Bulldozers reduced to rubble two churches, including the Lord Chosen Church, in Dutse, the capital of Jigawa State, on 11 January.

Jan.23, 2017

Anxiety is high among Christian communities in Nigeria’s northern state of Jigawa after authorities began demolishing church buildings in Dutse, the state capital. On 11 January, bulldozers, escorted by security forces, reduced to rubble the Redeem Christian Church of God and the Lord Chosen Church.

They arrived at the Redeem Church at about 10am, according to Rev. Yakubu Musa, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for Jigawa.

The Executive Secretary of Urban Development and some key police officers were at the scene. The police blocked all the entrances to prevent church members from entering the premises. Those who tried to take pictures were chased away by police officers.

The bulldozers first removed the fence. They then demolished a small building inside the premises, before destroying the main church building.

At around 12 noon, they went to the second church, which was also completely demolished.

“It was a terrible experience, with so many Christians who witnessed the demolition crying,” said Rev. Musa. “I felt so bitter because we were in a situation where you have been cheated and you cannot talk.”

The authorities said they carried out the demolition because the church buildings had been built illegally. According to the Executive Secretary of Urban Development Board, Alhaji Garba Isa, the churches were built without obtaining permission as required by law. He also said notices were sent to them three times to discontinue the development of their buildings.

But Rev. Musa rejected the claims. He said there was no notice of demolition issued to the pastors of the two churches, or the leadership of CAN.

“They just came in unexpectedly and they demolished everything. Nobody was allowed to remove any valuables in the church buildings and other nearby properties,” he said.

Both churches had applied for official registration documents, he said, but the government had refused to grant them.

The Lord Chosen Church had been standing for 17 years and the Redeem Christian Church of God eight years. Moreover, all the churches in Dutse have papers proving ownership, which directly emanate from the original indigenous owners, who were given customary rights to use their land freely.

“I was very angry because there were two mosques in that same place, but none of these mosques were demolished,” said Rev. Musa. “There is also another building belonging to a Muslim person, which was marked for demolition, but they only concentrated on the church buildings because we are not many and we don’t have anyone in the government to speak for us.”

Widespread discrimination

Situated in northern Nigeria, Jigawa is among the 12 states which adopted Sharia in the 2000s. This has prompted growing intolerance, which has resulted in widespread discrimination against Christians in the majority-Muslim states.

Christians living in Sharia states say they are treated as second-class citizens and denied basic rights, such as access to education or certain jobs. Access to land and building permission are very restricted or denied. Land, school or health services belonging to churches are often confiscated by state authorities without any compensation.

“We feel we are equally citizens of this country and we have the rights to be allowed to practise our religion. But this demolition was done out of injustice and discrimination,” said Rev. Musa.

He said that for the last 10 years the governor of Jigawa had closed his door to Christians and rejected the chance to meet with the CAN leadership, despite numerous attempts.

“The authorities didn’t give us any attention. They didn’t invite us for meetings but on the other hand, the imam was always there,” he said.

“From all our 36 churches in Dutse, none of them has got building permission because they are not responding to our applications, though we have several copies of our applications seeking permission to build churches.

“They don’t permit it because they do not expect churches to be established there.”

Six more churches have been earmarked for demolition: The Deeper Life Bible Church; the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Ministry; the Methodist Church; the Presbyterian Church; the Redeem Church II and the Baptist Church.

Churches in Jigawa have witnessed significant growth and most have reached their capacities, while some are overcrowded.

For now the authorities have not set any plan for compensation or any other alternative. The two (demolished) churches will now hold their Sunday services and other weekly programmes in the open air.

In January 2015, a plan to demolish a church in neighbouring Katsina State sparked tensions in the town of Matazu.

The authorities issued a three-day notice of demolition to the church, which was over 99 years old and situated in the ECWA Church Headquarters Mission Compound, which also has a school and staff quarters.

The authorities said they were preparing to construct a road that would pass through the church compound. They also said the development of the site was carried out illegally.

But ECWA argued that the proposed road would only succeed in dividing the compound into two and that the compound leads to nowhere.

The President of Tarayyar Masihiyawan Nijeria, an advocacy group for Christians of Hausa and Kanuri origins, vowed to resist the action.

“It is pure religious persecution; the compound is owned by us and has been there for over 99 years,” said Gen. Ishaku Ahmed Dikko (Rtd). “The decision is a continuation of the marginalisation and persecution of Christians in the north.”

In the end, the government abandoned the plan to build the road and allowed the church to remain, following media coverage of the controversy.
Original story at:
https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/01/4874256/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Christians+in+Nigeria+s+Jigawa+State+cry+out+as+authorities+begin+church+demolition&utm_campaign=Christians+in+Nigeria+s+Jigawa+State+cry+out+as+authorities+begin+church+demolition

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The Guardian: Boko Haram’s legacy of fear and ruin delays return of displaced Nigerians

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Aid workers in Borno state say displaced people living in camps have no plans to go back home despite government claims that insurgents have been defeated

Ben Quinn
19 January 2017

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An abandoned village between Mafa and Dikwa towns in Borno state

The homecoming of tens of thousand of Nigerians displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency has been prevented by enduring fear of the Islamists and reluctance to return to areas of the country’s north-east devastated by the campaign against the militants, according to aid workers.

The continued threat posed by Boko Haram was underlined on Monday when twin suicide bombings killed two people at a university in Maiduguri. The city is the provincial capital of Nigeria’s north-east Borno state, the epicentre of the group’s seven-year campaign to create a regional Islamic caliphate.

Nigerian military officials have trumpeted the end of the war on the jihadists, but an advance team from one major aid group said there was little sign that displaced people in two outlying areas of Borno state intended to return home.

“We had been led to expect – from talking to government officials and even some UN people – that there were going to be imminent mass returns, that the closure of the camps in the city of Maiduguri was coming, and that areas had been secured,” said Adrian Ouvry, a regional humanitarian adviser at Mercy Corps.

“Out of all the people we spoke to, not a single one said they were about to return, even though there is an urgent need to do so, to plant before the rains come in late May. There was no sense of any intent to return among the IDPs [internally displaced persons], and that surprised me.”

Last week, the head of the UN’s humanitarian arm emphasised the urgency of the crisis in a region gripped by severe hunger.

Ouvry, who visited Dikwa and Ngala, where nearly 100,000 displaced people are living in camps, said the towns seemed generally safe but that people felt trapped and unable to return home.

“It’s also causing a bottleneck because many of the IDPs who are in camps in Maiduguri can’t go back because the homes they would be going back to are destroyed, and even those they would be going back to are filled with IDPs from the surrounding areas,” he added.

Ouvry said the level of devastation in the countryside was shocking. “On either side of the main roads leading up to towns, every settlement had been burned out and cleared, in some cases by the Nigerian military because they wanted to secure the road and not have hiding places for Boko Haram ambushes.”

The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said last Thursday that the crisis in the Lake Chad basin area, which is affecting Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has grown in the past six months.

Addressing the UN security council, Stephen O’Brien said the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, which stood at 9 million in July, had now risen to 10.7 million. This included 8.5 million people in north-east Nigeria and 1.6 million in north Cameroon.

Forecasts suggested the situation could get even worse, O’Brien warned. Global donors gave more than $238m (£194m) to the Lake Chad basin appeal in the second half of 2016, triple the amount contributed in the preceding six months, yet the UN still only raised 49% of its target.

Elsewhere, the UN and the government of Central African Republic last week launched a new response plan for the 2017-19 period to meet the basic needs of 2.2 million people in the country, where the UN said the security situation has “deteriorated markedly” in recent months. In a rare departure from its usual work, the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières said last week that it had distributed food to almost 10,500 people in seven different sites in the country’s north.

Original Story at:
https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/jan/19/boko-haram-legacy-fear-ruin-delays-return-displaced-nigerians

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Daily Post Nigeria: Southern Kaduna: Why some Nigerians believe Buhari behind killings – Onaiyekan

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By Wale Odunsi
22 January 2017

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The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has warned that the ongoing killing in South Kaduna is a dangerous sign Nigeria is ignoring.

He said it was unfortunate that some prominent Nigerians and government officials are insiting that the crises has no religious undertone when that is clearly what is happening.

“Immediately you play into a religious matter, nobody can intervene in any serious way and that is really a pity,” told Punch

“This is why the statement attributed to the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, is generating ripples.

“He tried to say we should not give this any religious colouring but the fact is that there is now a religious colouring and that is what he must admit and tackle.

“Whether it is in Southern Kaduna or in Plateau State, all these conflicts are a continuation of the tribal wars of the last century and those tribal wars have some religious connotation.

“After all, they are called Jihad. We are in a situation now whereby, for historical reasons, any conflict in that area takes up a religious tone which is why it becomes very difficult to handle”.

On claim that over 800 lives have been lost in recent months, Onaiyekan said “The statement of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan was issued more than a month ago. This is a serious allegation.”

“It is clear (from), concrete statistics of damage done, lives lost, homes destroyed, people displaced and I am sure they have evidence of all these allegations.

“For the governor and indeed the President to still say everything is okay is dangerous because it means that it is okay that people are getting killed.

“For me, it is better, easier, and more effective if the president simply insists that no human being should be badly treated. Any Nigerian should have the right not to be killed

“I have no reason to doubt the statistics which my colleague has put together. I believe that he just did not sit back in his house and draw up those numbers. I believe in those numbers and I am very worried about them.

“He sent it to all the bishops in Nigeria and we are all in one way or the other reacting to it. What exactly can we do? There should be a meeting of people who are not just Christians or Muslims.

“We believe that if what is happening in Southern Kaduna is not stemmed, it can become very dangerous for the whole country.”

Speaking on the seeming silence of President Muhammadu Buhari, the cleric said he is the only one who can take responsibility because sincerity is in the heart.

“You know how difficult it is to get to Aso Villa, so it is possible for the President to sit there looking through all kinds of papers.

“There are a lot of issues to deal with in Nigeria: economic, climate change, diplomatic relations, Boko Haram and then somebody brings a file on Southern Kaduna and it depends on how the person who brings it presents it and it is possible that Mr. President can sit there and not know how bad the situation is.

“The President doesn’t send someone to the newsstand to buy newspapers. Somebody looks at the newspapers and brings him the items that he is supposed to pay attention to.

“There is no excuse for Mr. President to be kept in the dark about it and if I were Mr. President and I finally found out that all these things have been happening and I was not told, then all those who should have informed me would be fired immediately.

“They are destroying his work. I am saying this because it will be difficult for Mr President to know all these things and keep quiet. If he does, it means that he is happy with what is happening.

“Some are even suggesting that maybe he is behind it all, well if he does nothing, he cannot stop people from speculating that.”

Original story at:
http://dailypost.ng/2017/01/22/southern-kaduna-nigerians-believe-buhari-behind-killings-onaiyekan/

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New York Times: Malnutrition Wiping Out Children in Northern Nigeria, Aid Workers Say

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By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
JAN. 23, 2017

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Women and their children at a feeding center run by M.S. F. in Nigeria in August.

Starvation in northern Nigeria’s Borno State is so bad that a whole slice of the population — children under 5 — appears to have died, aid agencies say.

As the Nigerian army has driven the terrorist group Boko Haram out of the area, about two million people have been displaced. Many are living in more than 100 refugee camps.

Doctors Without Borders, which has been in Borno State since 2014, reported in November that it was seeing hardly any children under age 5 at its clinics, hospitals and feeding centers.

“There are almost always small children buzzing around the camps,” Dr. Joanne Liu, the agency’s president, and Dr. Natalie Roberts, an emergency operations manager, wrote then.

“We saw only older brothers and sisters. No toddlers straddling their big sisters’ hips, no babies strapped to their mothers’ backs.”

Measles, diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria — all of which are worsened when starvation weakens immune systems — were taking a huge toll on infants and toddlers, they said.

Because the world’s attention has been focused on refugees in Syria and North Africa, less light has been shone on Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis.

While more food has begun to arrive, Dr. Roberts said in a recent interview, the flow was seriously slowed for months by a struggle between the Nigerian government and aid agencies.

In December, President Muhammadu Buhari accused United Nations agencies of exaggerating his country’s crisis in their appeal to donors for $1 billion. Two weeks ago, Borno’s governor, Kashim Shettima, said some aid groups were using his state as a “cash cow” and should leave.

Doctors Without Borders — widely known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, or M.S.F. — normally provides only medical care, Dr. Roberts said. But the organization had been forced to distribute millet and palm oil, along with packets of peanut paste, because so many of the people it served were starving.

“Bureaucratic obstruction” by the government kept agencies like the World Food Program out for months, she said. “It’s an embarrassment to a big state like Nigeria to admit it has malnutrition,” Dr. Roberts added. “They don’t particularly enjoy outside interference.”

The situation grew so bad that M.S.F. had to change some of its protocols, she said. Instead of measuring the height and weight of malnourished children before admitting them to feeding centers, doctors started using just arm-circumference measurements to speed up the process.

And in remote villages where M.S.F. delivers food, staff members had to leave more than normal, she said. Usually, only a few days’ worth is given to families, because of the risk that large amounts will be stolen by any armed group nearby.

But because some roads are so dangerous that food can only move with army escorts or by helicopter, and because Boko Haram may send suicide bombers into any large gathering, M.S.F. does more unannounced “one shot” deliveries for safety’s sake, hoping the food will remain in the intended hands.

Original story at:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/23/health/malnutrition-nigeria-children.html

bobatkinsonNew York Times: Malnutrition Wiping Out Children in Northern Nigeria, Aid Workers Say
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BBC News: Freed Chibok girls reunited with their families for Christmas

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December 24, 2016

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More than 20 Nigerian “Chibok girls” who were released by the Islamist group Boko Haram in October have rejoined their families for Christmas.

It is the girls’ first return home since they were kidnapped from their school in Chibok in April 2014.

The young women were freed in October after Switzerland and the International Red Cross made a deal with Boko Haram.

Since then, the 21 girls have been held in a secret location for debriefing by the Nigerian government.

One of the girls, Asabe Goni, 22, told Reuters news agency it was a “miracle” that she was home again.

Helping her mother prepare for Christmas, she said she was excited to go to church on Christmas Day.

“I never knew that I would return (home),” she said simply. “I had given up hope of ever going home.”

Of the 276 students kidnapped, 197 are still reportedly missing, and negotiations for their release are under way.

Many of the Chibok girls were Christian, but were encouraged to convert to Islam and to marry their kidnappers during their time in captivity.

Ms Goni said some were whipped for refusing to marry, but otherwise they were well treated and fed, until food supplies recently ran short.

After the deal in October, the girls’ captors announced that any girl who wanted to be released should line up.

Ms Goni was ill and too exhausted to move as the others scrambled into formation – but she soon learned she would be among the lucky few to leave.

“I was surprised when they announced that my name was on the list,” she said.

Her joy was lessened, however, when she was forced to leave behind her cousin Margaret, with whom she had lived since childhood.

The young woman was interviewed at her family’s home in the northern city of Yola, surrounded by her father, stepmother, five siblings, and several neighbours.

“Some of the other girls left behind started crying,” Ms Goni said. “But the Boko Haram men consoled them, telling them that their turn to go home would come one day.”

Before the girls’ release, there had only been one confirmed release of a student kidnapped from Chibok.

On 24 December, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said the army had driven Boko Haram’s militants from the last camp in their Sambisa forest stronghold.

“The terrorists are on the run and no longer have a place to hide,” Mr Buhari said in a statement.

The army has been engaged for the last few weeks in a major offensive in the forest, a huge former colonial game reserve in north-eastern Borno state.

There has been speculation that some of the Chibok girls are being held in the forest, after it was named by a small number of those who escaped.

Mr Buhari said that efforts to find the remaining girls were being intensified.

Original story at:
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-38427938

 

bobatkinsonBBC News: Freed Chibok girls reunited with their families for Christmas
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