I Was Told To Kill My Parents The Day I Was Captured - Boko Haram Child Slave


 “I was asked to kill my parents on the day I was captured,” said 16-year-old Babagana, a former Boko Haram child slave. “I had no courage, so they killed them in front of me.”
“That is how Boko Haram operates
,” he told me when I saw him in March in Borno State. “They first take out your parents so you have no one else to fall back to.”This may be the most tragic fact about the fight raging in northeast Nigeria: It is a war waged by children against children. Minors make up nearly a quarter of Boko Haram’s soldiers. Some recruits are as young as 10 and are inducted by raids on villages. They are brutalized and forced to commit atrocities on fellow kidnap victims and even on their own families. Militants kill children who attempt to escape from captivity. Recently village militias have been enlisting young kids to fight against Boko Haram, as well. And the plague is spreading.
This week, the Nigerian army rescued almost 300 girls and women taken captive by Boko Haram, and even though they were not the Chibok schoolgirls who were kidnapped more than a year ago now, there was a great sense of pride and relief that the Nigerian Army was able to do this.
But many stories have not had such happy endings.
Last month the Chadian Army announced that it had rescued 43 children held by Boko Haram in Damask, Borno State. All had been soldiers in the Boko Haram ranks, but they were not from Nigeria. The news of the rescue had at first given hope to local people. In March, militants abducted over 400 women and children from the same town in Borno, and I spoke with Bukkar Hassan, who had two sisters among the 400 kidnapped. He was set to travel to Damask, thinking the girls could be among the rescued kids only to be told that the lucky children were all of Chadian origin. Hassan began to weep. For kids living in a state of constant fear, violence becomes a way of life and the psychological trauma is incalculable.
Fearing abduction, streams of children, often with parents in tow, leave their homes every night and walk for hours from surrounding villages to reach the relative safety of major towns, only to trek their way home again by daybreak.
We’re seeing a high level of suffering,” says Musa Kubo, a senior government official in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State. “Thousands of people in the northeast, mostly children, are just struggling to survive.” Since the insurgency began in 2009, thousands of children have been abducted to work as child soldiers and porters, or to serve as “wives” of rebels and bear their children, like those hundreds of girls taken from Chibok school just a year ago. The numbers have soared, with nearly a thousand children abducted in the past 18 months alone.

There are dramatic rates of acute malnutrition among the displaced children in Nigeria: 35 percent in some areas. The Nigerian military, with help from troops from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has claimed major gains against the Islamists in recent weeks, recapturing many towns held by the insurgents, and the newly elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is a military man committed to eradicating the insurgency. But the impact of the fighting and violence has caused the humanitarian situation in the area to deteriorate rapidly over the past year. And the contrast between the embattled northeast and the prosperous southern regions of the country grows more extreme all the time. The bustling commercial capital of Lagos, located in the south, exemplifies Nigeria’s transformation from a country plagued by economic decay to prosperity. With an average GDP growth of more than 6 percent over the past 10 years, Nigeria can come across as a compelling story of hope for other African nations.

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