- …and any end in sight following the Death of Shekau?
Since 2009, Borno state in northeast Nigeria has been the scene of bloody clashes and insurgency. It could be recalled that around February 2021, Boko Haram hoisted their flag in parts of Marte local government in Borno State, according to military sources. In the town of Dikwa, residents and displaced people live confined within a secure area. However, access to essential services is very difficult.
Six years ago, the entire population of Dikwa fled the fighting in the city to seek refuge in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. The city was then taken over by government forces with the support of the Chadian army. Since then, a security perimeter has been delimited on the outskirts of the city.
Borno; Civilians struggle every day to survive
More than 100,000 people are now crowding downtown Dikwa, Borno and several overcrowded camps around the city. 75% of the displaced people who live there are farmers or herders. Since they can’t cultivate their land or raise their livestock, they are deprived of the means of subsistence and depend almost entirely on humanitarian aid for their survival.
Since 2009, hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed or have been forced to move.
Resources are scarce, including access to clean water and sanitation. Food prices have skyrocketed and malnutrition is increasingly prevalent. People sell the soap they received from humanitarian organizations because they have no other way to make money.
The threat of cholera hangs in the air.
The only health structures reduced to nothing
Falmata was in the human tide that fled Dikwa, Borno in 2014 and 2015. While she managed to find a safe place for her children, her husband was not killed during the violence.
“When we returned, the hospital had been looted and vandalized and the dispensary set on fire. All the caregivers had fled. For a while, there was no access to care at all.
In this context of violence and extreme precariousness, the lack of access to healthcare has severely affected the population.
“Later, humanitarian organizations reopened health structures. Today, there are again doctors and caregivers to take care of the basic needs. But in the event of a serious problem, if the dispensary cannot do anything, there is no solution in Dikwa at present. The sick must be transferred to Maiduguri. Under military escort, otherwise, it’s risky. “
Washing of your hands is important, but you still need to have soap and water
Falmata is a traditional birth attendant in Dikwa, Borno. If she would like the barrier gestures to be applied, she also agrees that this is not the priority: “some follow the rules, others do not. Some deny that the virus is a real threat. Others say there are more pressing problems: insecurity, the inability to return home, inflation, lack of food… The virus is not the only thing we have to worry about, says Falmata.
She exchanges a glance with the other women seated in a semi-circle near her, who nodded, before continuing: “Wash your hands often, okay, but you still have to have water and soap. In the old days, I remember that there were water pipes here in Dikwa and a large generator installed at the expense of the government. We could all have clean drinking water in our neighborhoods. Then there were the attacks in which the water treatment and access facilities were largely destroyed. “
Digging 350 meters to find drinking water
In a 2019 survey, 75% of households living in camps and 40% in the rest of Dikwa said they did not have enough water for their basic needs. A year later, the situation has not changed.
The pressure on the water, already scarce, is immense. Large numbers of displaced people from rural areas continue to flock to the town of Dikwa, where the security perimeter cannot be extended.
Inside the fortress that Dikwa has become, more and more drilling is being done. We have to dig deeper and deeper to supply water to a growing population. For the ICRC’s last well drilling, it was necessary to dig to a depth of 350 meters to find a viable water table and clean groundwater.
The destruction of medical structures and water supply equipment in and around Dikwa is attributable in large part to non-compliance with international humanitarian law and civilians, their property, and the civilian infrastructure in their service.
This trend is not new, nor is it limited to northeastern Nigeria. Over the past decade, wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere suggest that attacks on vital infrastructure are now a deliberate tactic and no longer just collateral damage.
If the walls riddled with bullet holes remind us of the terrorism and violence, it is the destruction of essential infrastructure (hospitals, schools, pumping stations, power stations) that slows down the resumption of normal life the most.
The Death of Shekau, does it portend an end to Terrorism in the Northeast?
Already declared dead five times between 2009 and 2016, Abubakar Shekau was reportedly killed on May 19 in his stronghold in the Sambisa forest, in northeastern Nigeria. This time, however, the information seems credible.
On this evening of May 19, a column of fighters from the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP), carried by about fifty pick-ups, swept into the area in which Abubakar Shekau was entrenched with his men. After long hours of fighting, and while most of his men have been killed or incapacitated, the head of the Islamist sect Boko Haram, cornered, is forced to negotiate.
Discussions lasted several hours, according to information from HumAngle, another Nigerian site. The attackers order Shekau to abdicate and to pledge allegiance to ISWAP. According to a source within ISWAP, quoted by HumAngle, Shekau refuses and activates the explosives belt he was wearing hidden under his clothes. Shekau is said to have died of his injuries. The number of ISWAP fighters swept away by the blast remains, for the moment, undetermined.
Announced dead six times
“Shekau died last night in the village of Nainawa, he was buried overnight, but his grave was not marked to prevent the Nigerian army or rival jihadists from being able to exhume him,” he told newsmen, the next day, a source within the Nigerian intelligence services. The Economist, in a recent article, is significantly more cautious. The British newspaper for its part evokes the “probable death” of Shekau.
Did Abubakar Shekau pass away that day? According to an audiotape made available to AFP by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau killed himself in a fight against ISWAP.
A voice resembling that of ISWAP leader, Abu Musab Al-Barnawi, speaking in the Kanuri language said, “Shekau preferred to be humiliated in the hereafter to getting humiliated on Earth. He killed himself instantly by detonating an explosive.”
Former ISWAP fighter, before being sidelined by Islamic State commanders for his methods deemed too violent, Shekau had created the “Jamaat Ahl Al-Sunnah Lil Dawa Wal Jihad” (JAS), the other name of Boko Haram, in August 2016. Since then attacks on civilians were an integral part of Shekau and his group’s strategy in the region. Examples are the massacre of nearly 80 farmers by Boko Haram men near Maiduguri in December 2020, massive kidnappings of young Nigerians one of his recent hallmarks is the kidnapping of 344 boys later handed over to their parents in the Kankara region.
Reactions trickling in from across Northern Nigeria are of citizens expressing hope that the death of Shekau will finally bring peace to the northern region in particular, and the country at large.
However, Dr. Ahmad Gumi told newsmen, that the death of Shekau does not mean that Boko Haram has been defeated, but it’s a show of progress in the fight against terrorism.
Gumi is a popular Islamic cleric in Nigeria and a person believer to have a vast knowledge of security matters as well.