Tag: Boko Haram

Hope for victims of the Nigerian conflict claiming more lives than Boko Haram

In the village of Goska, houses were destroyed, churches burnt and shops vandalised in a December attack. World Watch Monitor

The two Nigerian villages are barely five minutes’ drive apart. In one, Goska, houses were destroyed, churches burnt, shops vandalised, carcasses of animals littered the streets and most of the village remains deserted. The other, Dangoma, remains intact, untouched by the shadows of violence.
Goska and Dangoma both lie in the Jema’a area of southern Kaduna in Nigeria’s Middle Belt; however, Goska is an indigenous community that is predominantly Christian, while Dangoma is a settler community, mostly Fulani and Muslim.

A Goska resident confirmed the attack in December to a researcher for World Watch Monitor (listen below).

There seems to be a worrying pattern. The contrast between Goska and Dangoma after last December’s attack “is a metaphor for the violent conflict in southern Kaduna,” a researcher in Nigeria, who did not wish to be named, told World Watch Monitor.

Similar violent conflicts are affecting many other local communities across Kaduna State, and most are deliberate, well organised and executed, he added.

The selective nature of the conflict can be seen in the way individuals and families, towns, properties and communities are targeted: where indigenous Christians and settler Fulani Muslims live side by side, Christian homes are attacked while Fulani Muslim settlers are left alone.

Many experts now believe that this Middle Belt violence is responsible for more deaths than Boko Haram, which in 2016 experienced both internal splits and external military defeats by the Nigerian Army.

In response, the local and federal governments have launched a range of military initiatives, while a local Catholic diocese is embarking on the painstaking work of dialogue and reconciliation.

Following an attack on the convoy of the Kaduna Governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, in December, a 24-hour curfew was declared in three Local Government Areas, empowering the security forces to protect lives and property, as World Watch Monitor reported. It has since been scaled back to a 12-hour period (6pm-6am) and covers just one area, and the state government has introduced measures to forestall any future violence.

Meanwhile the federal government ordered the Nigerian Army to establish a base in southern Kaduna. The chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, gave assurances to local leaders that the army was there not to take sides but to restore peace.

As part of the peace measures, the federal government has also given approval for the building of another military barracks in southern Kaduna, in Kafanchan in the Jema’a area.

In the diocese of Kafanchan, the Catholic Church says that over 800 died between 2011 and the end of 2016. Many groups and individuals, including Peter Bawa, the Chairman of the Northern Christian Youth Assembly, have commended Governor El-Rufai for initiatives taken so far, believing that they will go a long way to curtail the menace of herdsmen who have plunged many communities in the area into mourning.

However, some of southern Kaduna’s indigenous population interviewed by World Watch Monitor felt the government was militarising the conflict. Military force is sometimes used in conflict as the first and not the last resort, often without civilian engagement.

For instance, according to Environmental Rights Action of Nigeria in its book Blanket of Silence: Images of the Odi Genocide, then-President Obasanjo responded to the 1999 civil unrest in the town of Odi in Bayelsa State by sending in “27 five-ton vehicles loaded with over 2,000 troops, four armoured personnel carriers … three 81mm mortar guns and two pieces of 105mm Howitzer Artillery guns, and they killed a total of 2,483 people”.

Goska remains mainly deserted after the attack in December. World Watch Monito

The violent activities of Boko Haram since 2009 were also followed by the deployment of the military, a civilian joint-task force, various local vigilantes, and hunters. Yet the conflict has escalated and not ended. Sending military to southern Kaduna may not provide a solution.
Other critics have faulted the government for positioning the new barracks in Kafanchan, where so much bloodshed has occurred, saying they suspect the Kafanchan base is meant to protect a “settler” chief, who is not accepted by the indigenous people.

Locals told World Watch Monitor that there is a cry for the building of genuine community engagement, and against policies that enhance social exclusion, marginalisation and injustice, and for dealing with these. It is important, say those involved, to give victims, women and children a voice, otherwise the conflict is only suspended, not ended.

In response to all this, the Kukah Centre, a mediating institution set up by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Hassaan Kukah, has initiated a project on Memory and Healing in Southern Kaduna. The centre is committed to promoting shared national identity and citizenship as a bedrock for healing, peace and stability in southern Kaduna, and to that end is documenting victims’ memories of the conflict. Using inter-group dialogue and community engagement, it provides a platform for victims and ordinary people to be heard.

Some activities to begin next month include a high-level consultation with the Kaduna government, supported by the independently-run National Peace Committee. The centre is also planning 10 community engagements in four Local Government Areas badly affected by the conflict: Sanga, Jama’a, Kauru and Kaura. The groups of participants will cut across socio-cultural, religious and political divides.

Additionally, victims will be enabled to recount their stories in 10 focus-group discussions and five roundtable conversations with organisations such as Southern Kaduna’s Women’s and Youth Forums, Jamaatul Nasri Islma, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria, Muslim Youth Forum of Southern Kaduna, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union and Young Professionals Forum.

The Kukah Centre is also planning to build memorials for victims of the conflict.

Achieving an end to the conflict has benefits beyond the humanitarian goal of ending the spectre of burnt-out homes and animal carcasses rotting in destroyed villages. Last year, the aid agency Mercy Corps said that if peace came to just four Middle Belt states – Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau – Nigeria would stand to gain up to US $13.7 billion annually in total economic progress.

Source: World Watch Monitor



Boko Haram causing ‘untold misery’ in northern Cameroon

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Nearly 170,000 people have fled their homes in N. Cameroon, while the area has received at least 73,000 Nigerian refugees. World watch Monitor

“Yesterday I had just one cup of millet [grain] left. There are 12 people in our house. We went to bed last night not knowing what we’ll eat today. I got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me. I went to sleep thinking that this very morning I’d have to start knocking on doors for help. But in the morning there was a knock on my door instead. It was the pastor, who told me you had come here with some food and that I had to come to church to receive it.
“I thought it would be something I could easily carry. But look here, it’s a bag of rice, a bag of millet, sugar, oil, fish and soap… Eh, when my wife sees me entering the house with soap, I tell you she will not believe it. Look at me! All this food! I am a king! I tell you, it feels as if God loves me and me alone!”

This was the gratitude Mamadou, 46, expressed to Amora*, a worker with the global charity Open Doors, during a recent relief aid distribution visit to internally displaced people (IDPs) in northern Cameroon.

Before the Boko Haram insurgency spread into the region, Mamadou, his wife and their seven children lived happily in Achigachia, a town on the border with Nigeria. The family owned a comfortable three-roomed house and Mamadou was able to buy a motorcycle.

But his bike attracted the attention of Boko Haram, and one day when he got home, three of the group’s members confronted him and demanded that he hand it over. When he refused, they made it clear they were serious.

“Give us the keys, or we will kill you,” they said.

Mamadou fled over the fence as they fired shots at him. He escaped, but fled into the hills by himself, where he was forced to remain for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the militants continued to harass his family.

“They returned three more times to look for me and to loot my house. They told my wife if I did not come back, they would take her and the children away,” he recalled.

Mamadou and his family fled, joining thousands of other IDPs in the towns of northern Cameroon, where they felt they were less likely to suffer attacks and be forced to flee again. Although a fellow Christian gave him a house to stay in, life has not been easy.

In 2014, he and his wife lost one of their daughters, Batou, after she became ill due to the stress of their displacement. She was only 12; they had no money to get her proper medical care.

They also heard that the insurgents razed their house in Achigachia.

“They burnt down everything. My children’s birth certificates, the house. All went up in flames,” Mamadou said.

Charity worker Amora said: “Christians in Cameroon’s Far North Region are going through untold pain and misery that has been caused by the Boko Haram jihadist insurgency in the country. The effects are mainly felt in three of the Far North Region’s subdivisions near the border with north-eastern Nigeria. When the IDPs fled their homes, they left with nothing. This assistance really helps the Church care for these scores of IDPs.”

The Far North of Cameroon not only borders Nigeria, where Boko Haram originated; it also contains the Mayo-Tsanaga Province, where the Association of Evangelical Churches in Cameroon (UEEC) had been carrying out pioneering work.

Boko Haram started carrying out attacks in Cameroon’s Far North in 2013, including kidnapping a French family of seven, the Moulin-Fourniers, as they returned from a holiday in Waza National Park.

The violence worsened after President Paul Biya vowed in May 2014 to “declare war” on the group. In response, the jihadists launched an offensive against army positions and several other locations, causing great damage to local populations, especially the churches. In 2015, the group embarked on suicide attacks – half of which were performed by children – that claimed the lives of many civilians and injured scores more.

According to the UNHCR, the Boko Haram insurgency has caused nearly 170,000 people in the Far North Region to flee their homes, while the area has received at least 73,000 Nigerian refugees escaping the jihadists’ attacks at home. A great number of the displaced are Christians.

The insurgency has taken a heavy toll on local churches. In November 2013, a French Catholic priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, was kidnapped from the town of Nguetchewe and held hostage for seven weeks. Sacred objects, plus equipment belonging to the mission station, were desecrated and vandalised. In March 2014, four nuns were abducted from the Catholic parish of Tchere, in the Diamare region.

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Pastor Jean Marcel Kesvere of the Lutheran Brethren Church of Cameroon. World watch Monitor

According to data compiled by World Watch Monitor, 68 Christians, including a pastor, have been killed since 2013. Pastor Jean Marcel Kesvere of the Lutheran Brethren Church of Cameroon was kidnapped on 25 July 2013. His family found out later he’d been killed. In total, some 40 churches have been sacked, burnt down and left unusable, while two health centres and a school have closed.
“All villages, especially those with a strong Christian presence, on the Cameroon-Nigeria border, which runs from Lake Chad to the Adamaoua plateaus, are affected,” said Rev. Samuel Heteck, President of the Protestant Churches’ Council in Northern Cameroon. “This is a blow to the churches that find themselves emptied of their members. It is difficult to put into words the disaster caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.”

Nearly half of the churches affected are in the Mayo-Tsanaga Province (see below).

The food distributions by various charities have not been enough to reach every displaced family. Some of the IDPs in the subdivision have rented homes in their host communities, or built huts. Some are involved in farming (for themselves and for others) and others do basic trading. But, for many, making a living is very hard and they are facing desperate circumstances.

Mamadou says he is deeply appreciate of the aid and its timing.

“My wife has just given birth to a boy,” he told Amora. “Had it been a girl, I would have given her your name! I really thank you. May God bless you! You can’t even imagine what this means. We know that our difficulties are far from over, but we know where there is life there is hope. God will see us through one day at a time.”

Boko Haram destruction in northern Cameroon

Mokolo, Mayo-Tsanaga Province : 23 churches and health centres affected :

Tourou Zone: 5 churches ransacked or closed

Moskota Zone: 18 churches and mission stations burnt down or closed

Mora, Mayo-Sava Province: 14 churches or Christian ministries destroyed

Malika Zone: 3 churches ransacked and burnt down

Kolofata Zone: 10 churches and 1 health centre affected

Kousséri, Logone and Chari Province: 5 churches ransacked or burnt down

*Name changed for security reasons

Source: World Watch Monitor



Nigeria schoolgirl missing from Chibok ‘found with baby’

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Boko Haram uses the schoolgirls it holds in propaganda videos

One of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted in Nigeria has been found with a 10-month-old baby son, the military says.

The girl was discovered in Pulka in northern Borno state, spokesman Sani Usman said.

The announcement came nearly a month after another 21 Chibok girls were freed after negotiations with Boko Haram Islamist militants.

More than 270 schoolgirls were seized from the north-eastern town in April 2014, sparking international outrage.

Mr Usman said the latest girl to be found was discovered by soldiers screening escapees from Boko Haram’s base in the Sambisa forest.

Boko Haram has been fighting a long insurgency in its quest for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria. The conflict is estimated to have killed more than 30,000 people.

Boko Haram has kidnapped thousands of other people during its seven-year insurgency in northern Nigeria and many people have been made homeless.

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The freeing of 21 girls in October came after talks mediated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Swiss government.

Until then, there had only been one confirmed release of a student kidnapped from Chibok – a 19-year-old woman found by an army-backed vigilante group.
More than 50 managed to escape on the day they were captured.

Officials have promised to find the remaining 200 still being held.

Source: BBC News



Boko Haram: Nigerian officials ‘sexually abusing’ victims

Women and girls in several camps in the Nigerian town of Maiduguri are being sexually abused by officials, a rights group says.

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More than 16,000 people live in this makeshift camp outside Maiduguri

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had spoken to 43 victims who had been raped or sexually exploited by vigilante groups and security officials.

The president has ordered an investigation into the alleged abuses.

Islamist militant group Boko Haram’s insurgency has left 20,000 people dead and more than two million displaced.

Many of those forced from their homes have fled to camps around the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.

However, the HRW report says some of them have suffered abuse in those camps.

Some said they had been coerced into sex and abandoned when they became pregnant.

“It is disgraceful and outrageous that people who should protect these women and girls are attacking and abusing them,” said HRW’s Mausi Segun.

The group said irregular supplies of food, clothing, medicine and other essentials in internally displaced camps in Maiduguri had made women and girls – many of whom are widows and unaccompanied orphans – more vulnerable.

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In response to the report, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was “worried and shocked” and vowed to protect those in the camps.

He ordered the police and state governors to investigate.

Hundreds of refugees, including children, starved to death in one of the camps earlier this year, causing a “catastrophic humanitarian emergency”, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

‘Drugged and raped’

Four people told HRW they had been drugged and raped; 37 others said they had been coerced into sex through false marriage promises and material and financial assistance.

A 16-year-old girl who fled a brutal Boko Haram attack on Baga in northern Borno in January 2015 said she had been drugged and raped by a vigilante in charge of distributing aid in the camp.

“He would bring me food items like rice and spaghetti so I believed he really wanted to marry me,” the girl said.

“But he was also asking me for sex. I always told him I was too small [young]. The day he raped me, he offered me a drink in a cup. As soon as I drank it, I slept off.

“I knew something was wrong when I woke up. I was in pain and blood was coming out of my private part. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid,” she recounted.

She said she became pregnant but her attacker fled the camp when he heard she had delivered.

Source BBC News



Chibok girls: Freed students reunite with families in Nigeria

Twenty-one schoolgirls who had been kidnapped by the Islamist group Boko Haram in the Nigerian town of Chibok have been reunited with their families.

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The girls were welcomed by their relatives in a ceremony in Abuja

In an emotional ceremony in the capital Abuja, one of the girls said they had survived for 40 days without food and narrowly escaped death at least once.

It is unclear how the release was negotiated, but an official says talks are under way to free some more girls.

Of the 276 students kidnapped in April 2014, 197 are still missing.

One of the girls freed said during a Christian ceremony in Abuja: “I was… [in] the woods when the plane dropped a bomb near me but I wasn’t hurt.

“We had no food for one month and 10 days but we did not die. We thank God,” she added, speaking in the local Hausa language.

Many of the kidnapped students were Christian but had been forcibly converted to Islam during captivity.

Another girl said: “We never imagined that we would see this day but, with the help of God, we were able to come out of enslavement.”

Excited relatives were waiting to be reunited with the girls, who were released last Thursday.

One parent said: “We thank God. I never thought I was going to see my daughter again but here she is… Those who are still out there – may God bring them back to be reunited with their parents.”

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Boko Haram has shown some of those kidnapped in its propaganda videos

Nigerian authorities have denied reports that captured Boko Haram fighters were swapped for the girls. But one security official told the BBC that four commanders had been freed.

The AP news agency also reported that a “handsome ransom”, in the millions of dollars, was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of the Nigerian government.

Nigeria’s Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Thursday’s release was “the first step” for the liberation of all the remaining girls.

“Already we are on phase two and we are already in discussions,” he told journalists on Sunday.

“But of course you know these are very delicate negotiations, there are some promises we made also about the confidentiality of the entire exercise and we intend to keep them.”

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Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (right) welcomed the released girls

Some of the kidnapped girls managed to escape within hours of their kidnapping, mostly by jumping off lorries and running into nearby bushes.

In total, 219 girls were captured and taken away. But it appears that some of the girls may have died in captivity.

And reports say that, following more than two years in captivity and after being married off to Boko Haram fighters, some of the girls do not want to go home.

 

Source: BBC News