By Ndahi Marama, MAIDUGURI
Borno State Government, in collaboration with UNICEF, on Wednesday, sought the support of traditional rulers and the public in its move to reconcile and reintegrate 6,000 members of former non-state combatants and their associates, who have laid down their arms and surrendered to troops.
This is even as the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji (Dr) Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Amin Elkanemi who had reportedly opposed reintegration of repentant terrorists in the past, has declared traditional rulers’ support to ensure that all repentant Boko Haram members embraced by people in communities.
The official launching of a Public Information Campaign in support of Reconciliation and Reintegration of the surrendered terrorists took place at the Palace of the Shehu in Maiduguri.
Recall that these surrendered terrorists, mostly women and children, are currently camped in designated areas in Maiduguri, a situation that generated a lot of concern and fear.
Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Culture, Alhaji Babakura Jato while launching the campaign said, “the 12-year atrocities posed by insurgents have made Borno State and the North-East region backward economically.
“Hence, it is the right time to engage all stakeholders to contribute towards embracing repentant insurgents back to society, as most of the victims were women and children who were forcefully recruited and joined the terrorists.”
In her goodwill message, the UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Maiduguri, Ms Phuong Nguyen, said developing partners such as UNICEF, EU, UN Migration among others would do its best to support Borno Government under the leadership of Governor Babagana Zulum and other traditional as well as religious leaders in the region towards process of reintegration for children who were formerly linked to armed groups and recruited by non-state security providers.
Her words: “Your Royal Highness, these are our children, neighbours, brothers and sisters who were caught on one side of the conflict.
“Many of them remained in territories formerly controlled by non-state armed groups and exploited as labourers, cooks, armour carriers, spies and farm hands.
“Others were forcefully married and tortured.
“There is no doubt that over the years, these boys and girls have experienced harrowing times and subjected to multiple violations of their human rights.
“Without doubt, the spate of children surrendering to the military has rightfully elicited mixed reactions from various quarters.
“What is clear, your highness, is that the exploitation of these boys and girls by armed groups must stop. We must work together to expand safe zones where children can relive their humanity and peace can flourish.
“With your staunch support Your Highness, we are confident that the influence as our royal father as well as other traditional rulers and religious leaders present here will help facilitate the healing of communities and acceptance of these children.
“Therefore, we are counting on your support and influence in mosques and communities on the importance of forgiveness and dialogue,” Nguyen stated.
Responding, the Shehu of Borno, said: “All traditional rulers across the state have agreed to work together with Government and other development partners towards reconciliation and reintegration of repentant Boko Haram terrorists back into the society.”