BY LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU
THE United Nations, UN on Friday says the plight of 219 Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted two years ago is a major conflict that is affecting the North-Eastern communities, even as fresh facts reveal how the insurgents have been forcing girls and women in their captivity to undergo suicide bombing training.
Fatma Samoura, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria said that up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery.
“Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown,” she said.
Samoura added that the abducted girls had suffered so much at the hands of their captors as they had been on forced recruitment, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs.
“Between 2,000 and 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery,” said Jean Gough, Country Representative of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.
Women and girls, who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training programme to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF.
It said that 85 per cent of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were in Nigeria. In May 2015, it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014. Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.
While describing the meticulous instruction she received from Boko Haram to become a suicide bomber, Rahila Amos, a Nigerian grandmother said her instructors would say “Hold the bomb under your armpit to keep it steady. Sever your enemy’s head from behind, to minimize struggling. If you cut from the back of the neck, they die faster.”
Ms. Amos, 47, said the fighters had come to her village in the morning, firing weapons as they spilled out of cars and rounded up women and children.
Not long after, Ms. Amos, a Christian, said she was forced to enroll in Boko Haram’s classes on the Quran, a first step on her way toward being taught the art of suicide bombing.
After months of training, Ms. Amos said she was finally able to escape her captors when they assembled for evening preaching. She stayed behind, gathering two of her young children and a grandchild so they could make a run for the Cameroonian border.
“I don’t want to take a bomb,” she said inside her refugee camp in Cameroon that stretches across a vast landscape dotted by tents and mud huts. The authorities in Cameroon and Nigeria said that many of the experiences detailed by Ms. Amos matched the accounts of other women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram, or who have been arrested before they could detonate bombs. Ms. Amos’s assertions are also strikingly similar to details recounted by other freed women and girls, including descriptions of the funeral rites performed before female bombers were sent on missions.
The accounts offer insight into how Boko Haram, despite being under military pressure from a multinational campaign to wipe it out, has been able to strike fear across an expansive battlefield that now includes Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
No longer able to control the territory it once did, Boko Haram is sending out women and young girls as newly minted terrorists who can inflict a devastating toll.
As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered. Over and above the horrific trauma of sexual violence these girls experienced during their captivity, many are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.
“You are a Boko Haram wife, don’t come near us,” one girl reported being told.
“Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital, as they rebuild their lives,’’ the UN statement said. The UN notes that children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict.
In November 2014, 300 children were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, and are still missing.
A UNICEF report, released earlier this week, states that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch House reported that 1 million children had lost access to education.
“The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education,” said Munir Safieldin, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.
The UN says more need to be done by the Nigerian government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured. Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads and safe homes are also needed, it says.