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Tears as Boko Haram victims speak at Sokoto confab

…dons debate acceptance of repentant insurgents

Adeniyi Olugbemi

Emotions ran high on Saturday in Sokoto  State when some victims of Boko Haram in the North-East narrated their ordeals.

Many of the participants at the ongoing 28th National Conference of the Muslim Sisters Association of Nigeria were left in tears after the victims shared their experiences.

Two victims, Ai’sha Muhammad Biu and Uwani Ladan, from Biu and Kwaya Kusar Local Government Areas of Borno State, respectively, were speakers at the three-day conference.

The conference titled ‘Muslim women and emerging challenges,’ organised to discuss issues and challenges faced by women in the north-eastern states of the country, drew participants from within and outside Nigeria.

The victims described the condition of women in the region as “pathetic, heart-breaking, traumatising and devastating.”

They added, “There are many women who are doubtful of their marital statuses because the whereabouts of their husbands are unknown. Our husbands and sons were slaughtered by the insurgents; our daughters and many housewives were raped in our presence and taken away by the insurgents.

“Many women have become accidental prostitutes in a bid to survive in their various internally displaced persons camps, because of the shortage of food and other essential needs.

“Our pathetic condition requires sustained prayers, because the ugly situation is beyond any human intervention,” they stated.

Presenting a paper on Muslim Women in the North East: Issues and Challenges (the way out), a lecturer at the International Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance, Bayero University, Kano, Abdullahi Lamido, noted that over 15 million Nigerians were affected by the insurgency in the region.

According to him, over $9.2bn worth of infrastructural damage were recorded in the region after the insurgency.

…dons debate acceptance of repentant insurgents

Kayode Idowu

Apublic dialogue on security in Maiduguri, Borno State, was held on Thursday to discuss the society’s readiness to embrace repentant Boko Haram members.

The Dialogue on Peace, Justice and Accountability was jointly organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development, Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative and the Borno State Ministry of Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement with input from MacArthur Foundation.

Several of the panellists argued that the society could fully heal only when justice and fairness had been instituted and that repentant members of Boko Haram should be brought to justice for their actions.

According to them, though some of the insurgents had gone through psychosocial rehabilitation and skills acquisition at the Gombe Rehabilitation Centre in preparation for their return to their native communities. It is only fair that they face justice for their crimes as a deterrent to others and to assuage the victims of their atrocities.

The Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the Christian Association of Nigeria, and some representatives of non-governmental organisations argued for the forgiveness of repentant insurgents.

They held that more dreadful occurrences had taken place in other climes in history, but that “forgiving and forgetting” had facilitated reconciliation and peace there.

Other participants, including the Head of Department of Political Science, University of Maiduguri, Prof. Ibrahim Umara, disagreed on the practicality of forgiving and forgetting.

Umara asked the participants, “How possible will it be for a person whose nine children were slaughtered right before him, and whose wife was abducted, to easily forgive and forget; or a 90-year-old in Damboa — whose nine children, the youngest of whom had four children, were slaughtered right before his eyes, and he is now living with the grandchildren, catering for them in his old age — to easily forgive and forget?

“How can kinsmen and an entire community forgive and forget an insurgent who killed his father in his mother’s presence, and after killing the father, took his mother, calling her his wife in the warped belief that she and his father were not legally married?”

The professor expressed fear that vendetta could reign among the affected communities and whatever forgiveness achieved could be fragile.

Another academic, Prof. Hauwa Biu, took a different position, saying forgiveness could gradually herald forgetting.

According to Biu, this has to be achieved for permanent reconciliation and peace.

She stressed that it would not be fair and just for anyone to dismiss forgiving and forgetting as not easily achievable.

Representatives of the organisers, Musa Shalangwa, Senior Program Officer with CDD, and Abdulrahman Hamisu of the PCNI, said the dialogue, which would also take place similarly in Yobe and Adamawa states, was organised following the gradual restoration of peace and security and the return of displaced victims to their communities.

According to them, this has given rise to issues of reintegration; acceptance of perpetrators of the insurgency; good neighbourliness in situations where people accuse their neighbours of aiding the perpetration of crimes on them; helping the affected communities to build peace; and holding the perpetrators of the crimes accountable within the larger framework of transitional justice.

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