Nigeria—A surge of surrenders by Boko haram Jihadists in Northwestern Nigeria has turned the spotlight onto how the government deals with fights who claim to have repented and are now controversially –looking to be reintegrated into society scared by 12 years of war.
A case study in Muna Garge, a camp for some 40,000 people displaced by the conflict on the Northeastern edge of Maiduguri in Borno state has established that the victims of the war demand for justice and accountability. They hope the defections could signal a new, more optimistic phase in the long-running war.
“Any person that leaves Boko Haram and repents, we’ll be happy to have them back in the society,” said Grandmother Falta Modu. “We’ll live with them, to have peace.”
Baa Wakil, formerly a wealthy farmer in a rural area 90 kilometers from Maiduguri, was more cautious. “We can live together in the camp, but not when we return in the village,” he spoke. “These are people that killed our parents, relatives and looted our property.”
Muna is like all the other displacement camps in the region-overcrowded, underserviced and grim. Squeezed onto a small patch of private land are former farmers, traders, and professionals, forced to flee the years of Boko Haram attacks, and now dependent on the authorities and their humanitarian partners.
The toll of the conflict has been enormous. All told it has driven more than two million civilians from their homes and killed at least 35,000 people- 350,000 if you include the victims of the wider humanitarian crisis – and this year threatens 4.4 million people with severe hunger.
Khadija Gambo, who came to Muna 5 years ago, said she could accept seeing the ex-surgents return. “If the government can forgive them and let them live freely, we have no right to deny them, we to live with them.” She reasoned.