On the one year anniversary of the abductions of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria two international organizations released reports that tell a damning story of Boko Haram’s campaign against civilians.
In a report titled #BringBackOurChildhood UNICEF says that around 800,000 children have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency and counter-insurgency waged by Nigeria’s armed forces. The report further shows that children are being used within the ranks of Boko Haram, “as combatants, cooks, porters and look-outs.” Young women are being enslaved for the sexual pleasure of their abductor; and schools and teachers have been deliberately targted, with more than 300 schools damaged or destroyed and at least 196 teachers and 314 school children killed last year
But those are just stats. Here’s one child’s story.
The Amnesty report is based on eyewitness accounts. Here’s just one example that typifies the brutality detailed in the report.
Soon after taking control of a town, Boko Haram would assemble the population and announce new rules with restrictions of movement, particularly on women. Most households became dependent on children to collect food or on visits by Boko Haram members who offered assistance, distributing looted food.
Boko Haram enforced its rules with harsh punishments. Failure to attend daily prayers was punishable by public flogging. A woman who spent five months under Boko Haram control in Gamborou told Amnesty International how she had seen a woman given 30 lashes for selling children’s clothes and a couple executed publicly for adultery.
A 15-year-old boy from Bama, spared by Boko Haram due to his disability, told Amnesty International that he had witnessed 10 stonings. “They stone them to death on Fridays. They will gather all the children and ask them to stone. I participated in the stoning… They will dig a hole, bury all the body and stone the head. When the person dies, they will leave the stones until the body decays.”
Taken together, these reports paint a damning picture of the humanitarian catastrophe and ongoing assault on human rights that’s occurring on a daily basis in northeast Nigeria. The good news, such as it is, is that Nigeria just underwent a peaceful election in which the incumbent is leaving office. His rival, Muhammadu Buhari staked his campaign on defeating this insurgency.
Buhari takes office on May 29. The following months will likely determine whether or not Buhari can effectively deliver on those promises by defeating Boko Haram on the battlefield and addressing underlying grievances that gave rise to this insurgency.
(For more on that, listen to this podcast episode.)