Nigeria: Surviving Boko Haram – Reporters

Borno state, in northeastern Nigeria, has been ravaged by a deadly conflict between the military and Boko Haram jihadists for over a decade.

Last fall, authorities announced that they wanted to close the refugee camps in Borno, claiming that the uprising was almost eradicated.

In recent months, however, deadly attacks have taken place in the suburbs of the regional capital, Maiduguri. Our team met some of the two million displaced people who have fled the fighting.

Fatima, 26, was forcibly married to a Boko Haram commander. She did this to prevent her son from being turned into a child soldier by the Islamist sect. But since then her family has disowned her and called her a “Boko Haram woman”.

Falmata, 50, saw Boko Haram put a price on her head simply because she was a businesswoman.

She barely survived, but lost everything in her hometown of Bama, and does not know how she will feed her five children and three orphaned nephews. As for 70-year-old Mala, he survived a recent peasant massacre but hasn’t dared to return to the fields ever since.

The stories of these displaced people are rare in the Western media. Borno state, in northeastern Nigeria, and neighboring countries have been ravaged by the Islamic uprising for over 10 years. We are the first Western camera crew to film the tortured city of Bama since Boko Haram made it its short-lived caliphate in 2014.

Freed after seven months, Bama now resembles a “super camp,” a town with checkpoints and roadblocks. The schools, so hated by the Islamists, are no longer empty. But the countryside remains subject to extortion and attacks from the Islamists.

The Covid-19 pandemic and security situation forced our team to reinvent remote working methods, with two co-authors in France and the third in Nigeria. We filmed our report for several weeks so we could take the time to talk to all of our interviewees.

But it all took place in a highly volatile security context: Maiduguri, Borno’s regional capital, was hit by an attack just two days after the team began their journey home to France.

This rare report shows the absurdity of an endless war and a seemingly hopeless situation, just as the Nigerian government wants to close the refugee camps.

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