United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that he completely backed efforts to expand facilities for reintegrating surrendering Islamist insurgents in northeastern Nigeria, stating that it was a critical step toward attaining peace in Africa’s most populous country.
Nigeria has been battling Islamist terrorist Boko Haram and its spinoff Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) for more than a decade, in a battle that has claimed thousands of lives and displaced millions.
The government is reintegrating fighters who voluntarily surrender as part of its efforts to end the conflict.
Borno state Governor Babagana Zulum stated that since last year, at least 40,000 Boko Haram fighters and their families have surrendered to police, as the group reels from the death of its leader in early 2021 and rival ISWAP strives to absorb them.
Guterres, who visited a camp for surrendered fighters and another for internally displaced individuals in Maiduguri, Borno state’s capital, later told a news conference that the integration programme will aid in achieving peace.
“The governor informed me that new facilities are needed to facilitate the effective reintegration of these ex-terrorists and ex-combatants, and I assured him that we will completely assist that endeavour,” Guterres said.
“The finest thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate people who became terrorists out of despair but now wish to become citizens and contribute to their brothers and sisters’ well-being.”
The fighters’ reintegration is causing tensions, particularly in Maiduguri, where weary citizens have borne the brunt of Boko Haram’s brutal attacks for more than a decade.
Guterres asked for continuing humanitarian assistance in Borno, but stressed that those in camps eventually desired to return home “in safety and dignity.”
The Borno state administration began closing several internally displaced persons camps in December, citing improved security and the surrender of Boko Haram members, however humanitarian organisations maintain that it is still perilous for people to return to their homes.