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Nigeria: Shapes of Violence, 2

AfricaFocus Bulletin
April 27, 2016 (160427)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"It has been two years since the world's deadliest terrorist organization – Boko Haram – abducted 271 girls from their high school in the town of Chibok – a tragedy that would shine much needed international attention on conflict in northeastern Nigeria. Sadly, the Chibok girls are only one part of a much larger story of violence against women and girls in the northeast. ... the needs of all those whom the Chibok girls symbolize – thousands upon thousands who have suffered gender-based violence at Boko Haram's hands – are being unaddressed." - Refugees International

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a new report by Refugees International, documenting the failures of humanitarian assistance to address gender-based violence in northeastern Nigeria, both by Boko Haram and among those who have been displaced by the violence. Also included is an Amnesty International report on an entirely separate case of violence, in which Nigerian security forces in December last year perpetrated "mass slaughter of hundreds of men, women and children ...and the attempted cover-up of this crime," against followers of a Shiite Muslim group in Zaria in north-central Nigeria.

As these examples show, the realities of violence, whether in Nigeria, other African countries, or indeed in rich countries such as the United States as well, are often far more complicated than the stereotypes that often prevail among those observing them from a distance. Thus, violence in Nigeria is often simplistically characterized as "religious conflict" between Muslims and Christians. A new collection of empirical studies released this year by Nigeria Watch, based in Ibadan, Nigeria, provides a more complex perspective, documenting, for instance, that intra-Muslim conflict is more common that conflicts between Muslims and Christians, and that much of the conflict involving both Muslims and Christians is based on secular rather than religious motives.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, available on the web but not sent out by email, contains excerpts from one of the chapters in this new report, focused specifically on violence involving Christians and Muslims in Nigeria. The full 216-page report is available at

Other recent articles with relevant background on Boko Haram in particular include the following from the Washington Post and the New York Times.

"Here's why so many people join Boko Haram, despite its notorious violence," by Hilary Matfess, Washington Post, April 26, 2016

"Failure to Share Data Hampers War on Boko Haram in Africa," by Eric Schmitt and Dionne Searcey, New York Times, April 23, 2016

"Women Who Fled Boko Haram Tell of Devastation and, Rarely, Hope," by Helene Cooper, New York Times, April 22, 2106

"Abducted Nigerian Girls Have Not Been Abandoned, U.S. Says," by Helene Cooper, April 20, 2016

"Boko Haram still a threat months after 'technical victory,' by Bradley Klapper|AP, Washington Post, April 19, 2016

"What's Worse Than a Girl Being Kidnapped?," by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, New York Times, April 15, 2016

"Boko Haram kidnapped 276 girls two years ago. What happened to them?," by Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, April 14, 2016

"Boko Haram Turns Female Captives Into Terrorists," by Dionne Searcey, New York Times, April 7, 2016

"They were freed from Boko Haram's rape camps. But their nightmare isn't over," by Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, April 3, 2016

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Nigeria, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Nigeria's Displaced Women and Girls: Humanitarian Community at Odds, Boko Haram Survivors Forsaken

Refugees International, April 21, 2016

It has been two years since the world's deadliest terrorist organization – Boko Haram – abducted 271 girls from their high school in the town of Chibok – a tragedy that would shine much needed international attention on conflict in northeastern Nigeria. Sadly, the Chibok girls are only one part of a much larger story of violence against women and girls in the northeast. But the attention on this remote corner of the Sahel has not translated into sustained humanitarian assistance for all those that have been affected. Humanitarian stakeholders are under tremendous strain due to the enormity of the emergency, conflicts between aid agencies, limited resources, and an ineffective partner in the Nigerian state. As a result, the needs of all those whom the Chibok girls symbolize – thousands upon thousands who have suffered gender-based violence at Boko Haram's hands – are being unaddressed. Moreover, the lackluster humanitarian response is placing women and girls affected by Boko Haram at further risk of gender-based violence.


Northeast Nigeria has been the primary theater for the militant group Boko Haram's insurgency since 2009. Violence has ebbed and flowed over the years as the insurgents evolved from a homegrown uprising against the police in three states to a more sophisticated and ruthless extremist Islamist group, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015. The sheer brutality of Boko Haram, marked by mass abductions, indiscriminate killings, suicide bombings, sexual violence, and slavery, has earned it the unsavory designation as the world's deadliest terrorist group. The toll is not certain, but reportedly 20,000 have been killed as a result of the insurgency. In 2014, Boko Haram intensified its attacks, resulting in a sudden growth in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) arriving in Maiduguri, the capital city of the northeastern state of Borno.

Much criticism, both domestic and international, has been leveled at the Nigerian government for its perceived failure to deploy a more robust strategy to eliminate the scourge of Boko Haram. Muhammadu Buhari made the defeat of Boko Haram a central pillar of his successful campaign for the 2015 presidential elections. He assumed power in May 2015, and in December announced that Nigeria had technically defeated Boko Haram – a declaration found to be outlandish by many Nigeria watchers, as violence continues. Although the validity of this statement is arguable, the Nigerian Army (NA) did intensify its campaign against Boko Haram in 2015, "liberating" – in their words – areas that were under the militants' control. This campaign resulted in further displacement in Borno, including into Maiduguri.

Multiple reports document the horrors that women and girls have experienced under Boko Haram. Further, a recent report documents the difficulties that abducted women and girls have reintegrating back into their families and communities, particularly for those labeled as "Boko Haram wives." Yet there is a dearth of information on what and how humanitarian assistance is serving the very specific needs of these women and girls.

In February 2016, Refugees International (RI) conducted a mission to Nigeria to assess the needs of those displaced in Borno State, and how the humanitarian community can best serve women and girls. The RI team met with federal and state authorities, the UN, international non-governmental organizations (INGO) and communitybased organizations, human rights defenders, local volunteers, members of the donor and diplomatic communities in Abuja and Maiduguri, and IDPs and host community members in Maiduguri. The humanitarian crisis facing the aid community in the northeast is nothing short of daunting.

The Humanitarian Panorama

The humanitarian crisis facing the aid community in the northeast is nothing short of daunting. According to the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), 14.8 million people are affected in four states of the northeast. 7 The UN estimates that of this number, seven million are in need, three million of whom are estimated to be entirely inaccessible. It is worthwhile to note, however, that precise numbers are difficult to attain due to the humanitarian access constraints. This is especially the case for Borno, where nearly 70 percent of the territory was inaccessible at the time of the HNO. Consequently, most humanitarians believe that the numbers of people in need are much higher.

Overall, there are an estimated 2.2 million displaced in the northeast, according to the International Organization for Migration's most recent displacement tracking exercise. 9 This is a sharp increase from the much more modest figure of 261,000 in December 2014, as per the HNO. The vast majority of the displaced – 1.3 million – are in Maiduguri and its environs. Their arrival more than doubled the population of the city in a single year. Only approximately eight percent of the IDPs are in government-run IDP camps or settlements. The Nigerian authorities only deliver humanitarian assistance to those in camps, which are managed by the National and State Emergency Management Agencies (NEMA and SEMA, respectively). The remainder must fend for themselves, depending on the kindness of relatives and hosts among the local population – hosts that are increasingly exhausting their limited resources – as well as local faith-based institutions that have neither the resources nor the expertise to deliver humanitarian aid. A very small percentage of IDPs are being served by the small INGO community.

Access to food – both in and out of the camps – was the primary concern cited by IDPs with whom RI spoke. According to figures released in March 2016 by the UN Office for Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 2.5 million children are malnourished. Within the government-run camps, the number of displaced far outstrips the number of water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities that international standards call for in camp settings, forcing women and girls to wait for hours in lines, with many ultimately opting for open urination and defecation. One INGO working in the host communities in Maiduguri asserts that nearly every household is housing IDPs, in some cases multiple families, and host families are now selling their assets to be able to feed displaced people under their care. Livelihood opportunities are grossly limited for those living both inside and outside of camps. Finally, several displacement sites have been targeted by Boko Haram suicide bombers, leading to restrictive policies involving basic human rights such as freedom of movement, which impact both IDPs' protection and their ability to participate in income-generating activities.

Against this backdrop, at the time of RI's visit, there were only a handful of UN agencies, with very limited personnel, and less than ten international organizations operating in Maiduguri. At time of writing, the 2016 UN humanitarian appeal for Nigeria is dangerously underfunded. As of April, only $33.7 million of the $248 million proposed for the UN humanitarian response plan—just 14 percent—has been met.

Boko Haram's survivors, in the shadow of humanitarian action

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Alert, UNICEF, and several journalists have all reported on the horrors of life under Boko Haram and the very specific needs of women they have interviewed – medical, psychological, livelihood, and community reconciliation opportunities. Yet it is RI's assessment that there has been minimal effort to identify and/or address these women and girls' needs, much less target them as priority beneficiaries for any programming. The humanitarian crisis in Borno State has led to infinite protection risks for women and girls. Boko Haram has abducted countless women and girls throughout its campaign in the northeast. No one is entirely certain how many women and girls have been abducted to date, in part because the Nigerian authorities have yet to respond to civil society's desperate calls for a survey in the northeast, by which families could register the data of their missing. Whatever the figure, it is surely dwarfed by the number that have been exposed to Boko Haram's brutality during its campaign to overrun and control territory, of which gender-based violence (GBV) has been a feature. Definitive counts of those who have been subjected to Boko Haram's rule in this manner are difficult to come by, but it is reasonable to believe that it figures in the thousands. As IDP numbers swell in Maiduguri, so do the number of women and girl survivors of Boko Haram's horrifying GBV tactics. As the NA clears Boko Haram from territory, it rescues people who had been trapped, the majority of them women and girls, and takes many of them to displacement sites. In the month of March 2016 alone, troops had rescued 11,595 hostages from Boko Haram, according to NA Spokesman, Colonel Sanu Usman.

According to humanitarians with whom RI spoke, Nigerian authorities share little to no information on its process for vetting women and girls and releasing them. Some humanitarians, however, believe that it is quite simply because there is no formal process. Further, there is no process for identifying women and girls that have escaped and fled to Maiduguri without the assistance of the military. And there is no mechanism by which the military and humanitarians can coordinate to identify women and girls so they can benefit from much-needed services. RI interviewed one 14-year-old 14 who exemplified the protection risks this situation creates. She was abducted during an attack on her village of Baga and taken as a wife by a Boko Haram IDP women and children living in a host community in Maiduguri.


During RI's mission, only one humanitarian agency told the RI team that procedures were in place to identify and provide services to women and girls associated with Boko Haram, or for the women and girls that are brought to Maiduguri on a near-daily basis by the military. ...

However, life for a woman or girl in the host communities is not necessarily more secure. All of the displaced women living in host communities whom RI interviewed spoke of the risks of violence. IMC carried out a safety audit in the seven host communities where they implement programs, and the three top concerns women expressed, in order of priority, were domestic violence, rape, and denial of resources. According to the women IMC serves, domestic violence has become a serious issue due to food insecurity. Women suffer beatings when they cannot provide food or when they ask for money to buy food. On the third month of IMC programming, volunteers were recording as many as twenty rapes per week in the seven communities. Women are also reporting that they are often denied resources to purchase medicines or food. When asking a group of women in a focus group what self-care they practice to alleviate their trauma, RI learned that women and girls are reportedly purchasing and drinking bottles of cough syrup to "go to sleep and forget."

There is no meaningful integrated GBV-prevention and response programming in Maiduguri. ... To RI's knowledge, at the time of RI's visit, only one INGO – International Medical Corps (IMC) – had a holistic GBV prevention and response program that included sensitization, referrals for medical care, and psychosocial counseling, but the reach was limited to only seven host communities and three IDP camps. However, this short-term U.S. governmentfunded program is coming to a close, pending the acquisition of alternative funding sources. Several other organizations were doing psychosocial counseling for women and children, but they did not specifically fall under the rubric of GBV.


Further, medical interventions designed specifically for survivors of sexual violence across the board are limited due to an unanticipated reason: the global displacement crisis. The pressures on the global humanitarian system are reverberating in northeast Nigeria: the agency mandated with procuring Inter-Agency Reproductive Health kits, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), has been unable to secure a shipment of Kit 5, the medical kit designed to treat STIs. UNFPA's suppliers in Denmark, China, and the Netherlands informed the country office that they were unable to fulfill the purchase order due to the overwhelming global demand; their supplies are exhausted. Kits are currently under production and should be made available to UNFPA Nigeria at the end of April 2016.


RI is also concerned that traditional humanitarian psychosocial support programming may not be of the caliber that the context warrants. The trauma endured by the Boko Haram-affected populations cannot be underestimated. Community based organizations told RI that apart from the suffering resulting from abduction, sexual violence, the loss of partners and children, the violence of war, and loss of all assets, Nigerian women in the northeast are also facing a profound gender identity crisis. It is not the woman's traditional role to "bury one's husband" or to be the head of a household, and the rapidly shifting role is compounding the trauma they have endured and imperiling their resilience capabilities.

According to service providers and some IDP women who chose to speak about their mental health, women feel helpless, fear men, feel they have lost all self-worth, and are hopeless when facing the uncertainty of the future. When asking a group of women in a focus group what self-care they practice to alleviate their trauma, RI learned that women and girls are reportedly purchasing and drinking bottles of cough syrup to "go to sleep and forget." Upon further investigation, RI learned that this is not a pre-existing coping mechanism amongst women and girls. In fact, demand for cough syrup in camps has increased such that supplies have become scarcer, driving the price up from 60 Naira per bottle to 150-200 Naira. Meanwhile, multiple international and local aid workers expressed concern that some current UN and INGO psychosocial support interventions may not be staffed adequately, contrary to what their own literature might otherwise indicate. Aid workers highlighted that several women's safe spaces – tents – erected by one UN agency are often empty. IDP women from several sites confirmed to RI that they are unaware of trauma support programming and that the tents are going unused.

The fact that GBV programming does not figure among core humanitarian programming is a failure to global commitments to both prioritize women and girls, and place GBV prevention and response programming in its much-deserved category of a "lifesaving" activity. On the contrary, one senior UNFPA staff member told RI that a request to access UN Central Emergency Response Funds (CERF) to hold a GBV referrals pathway workshop was denied on the basis that "CERF funds can only be used for life-saving activities."


Nigeria: Military Cover-Up of Mass Slaughter at Zaria Exposed

Amnesty International Press Release

22 April 2016 - Direct URL:

Mass slaughter of hundreds of men, women and children by soldiers in Zaria and the attempted cover-up of this crime demonstrates an utter contempt for human life and accountability, said Amnesty International as it publishes evidence gathered on the ground revealing how the Nigerian military burned people alive, razed buildings and dumped victims' bodies in mass graves.

The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burned alive Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International

The report, Unearthing the truth: Unlawful killings and mass coverup in Zaria, contains shocking eyewitness testimony of large-scale unlawful killings by the Nigerian military and exposes a crude attempt by the authorities to destroy and conceal evidence.

"The true horror of what happened over those two days in Zaria is only now coming to light. Bodies were left littered in the streets and piled outside the mortuary. Some of the injured were burned alive," said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.

"Our research, based on witness testimonies and analysis of satellite images, has located one possible mass grave. It is time now for the military to come clean and admit where it secretly buried hundreds of bodies."

More than 350 people are believed to have been unlawfully killed by the military between 12 and 14 December, following a confrontation between members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) and soldiers in Zaria, Kaduna state.

IMN supporters - some armed with batons, knives, and machetes - had refused to clear the road near their headquarters, the Hussainiyya, for a military convoy to pass. The army has claimed that IMN supporters attacked the convoy in an attempt to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff. IMN members deny this.

Following an initial confrontation the military surrounded other locations where IMN supporters had gathered, notably at the residential compound of IMN leader Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky. Some people were killed as a result of indiscriminate fire. Others appeared to have been deliberately targeted.

All available information indicates that the deaths of protesters were the consequence of excessive, and arguably, unnecessary use of force.

Children injured and killed

Zainab, a 16-year-old schoolgirl, told Amnesty International: "We were in our school uniforms. My friend Nusaiba Abdullahi was shot in her forehead. We took her to a house where they treated the injured but, before reaching the house, she already died." A 10-year-old boy who was shot in the leg told Amnesty International how his older brother was shot in the head as they tried to leave the compound. "We went out to try to shelter in a nearby house but we got shot."

Shot and burned alive

On 13 December, two buildings within Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky's compound, one of which was being used as a makeshift medical facility and mortuary, were attacked by soldiers. Alyyu, a 22-year-old student, told Amnesty International that he was shot in the chest outside the compound and was taken inside for treatment: "There were lots of injured people in several rooms. There were dead bodies in a room and also in the courtyard. Around 12-1pm soldiers outside called on people to come out, but people were too scared to go out. We knew they would kill us. Soldiers threw grenades inside the compound. I saw one soldier on the wall of the courtyard shooting inside."

One mother described a phone conversation with one of her 19-yearold sons before he was killed alongside his twin brother and their step brother and sister in the compound. "They are shooting those injured one by one," he told her.

As soldiers set fire to the makeshift medical facility in the compound that afternoon, Yusuf managed to escape despite serious gunshot wounds: "Those who were badly injured and could not escape were burned alive," he told Amnesty International. "I managed to get away from the fire by crawling on my knees until I reached a nearby house where I was able to hide until the following day. I don't know how many of the wounded were burned to death. Tens and tens of them."

Footage believed to have been shot on mobile phone by IMN supporters after the incident shows bodies with gunshot wounds as well as charred bodies strewn around the compound.


After the incident the military sealed off the areas around alZakzaky' s compound, the Hussainiyya and other locations. Bodies were taken away, sites were razed to the ground, the rubble removed, bloodstains washed off, and bullets and spent cartridge removed from the streets.

Witnesses saw piles of bodies outside the morgue of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria. A senior medical source told Amnesty International that the military sealed off the area around the morgue for two days. During that time he saw army vehicles "coming and going".

A witness described to Amnesty International what he saw outside the hospital mortuary on the evening of 14 December: "It was dark and from far I could only see a big mound but when I got closer I saw it was a huge pile of corpses on top of each other. I have never seen so many dead bodies. I got very scared and run away. It was a terrible sight and I can't get it out of my mind."

Another witness told the organisation how he had seen diggers excavating holes at the site of the suspected mass grave: "There were five or six large trucks and several smaller military vehicles and they spent hours digging and unloading the trucks' cargo into the hole they dug and then covered it again with the earth they had dug out. They were there from about 1 or 2 am until about 5 am. I don't know what they buried. It looked like bodies, but I could not get near."

Amnesty International identified and visited the location of a possible mass grave near Mando. Satellite images of the site taken on 2 November and 24 December 2015 show disturbed earth spanning an area of approximately 1000 square metres. Satellite pictures also show the complete destruction of buildings and mosques.

"It is clear that the military not only used unlawful and excessive force against men, women and children, unlawfully killing hundreds, but then made considerable efforts to try to cover-up these crimes," said Netsanet Belay.

"Four months after the massacre the families of the missing are still awaiting news of their loved ones. A full independent forensic investigation is long overdue. The bodies must be exhumed, the incident must be impartially and independently investigated and those responsible must be held to account."

On Monday 25 April, the military are expected to give evidence to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry established by the Kaduna State Government in January 2016. On 11 April, a Kaduna State government official told the Judicial Commission of Inquiry that the bodies of 347 members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were collected from the hospital mortuary and an army depot in Zaria and buried secretly in a mass grave near Mando (outside the town of Kaduna) on the night of 14-15 December. The IMN claim a further 350 people who went missing during the incidents in Zaria remain unaccounted for.

During field research carried out in Kaduna state and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in February 2016, Amnesty International delegates interviewed 92 people, including victims and their relatives, eyewitnesses, lawyers and medical personnel. Attempts were made to interview members of the military.

IMN leader Al-Zakzaky and his wife Zeinat Al-Zakzaky were arrested and held incommunicado. They were only allowed access to their lawyer for the first time on 1 April 2015, three and a half months after their arrest. Amnesty International has not had access to those who remain in detention but has received information from medical sources that some of the detainees were not allowed access to necessary medical care for several weeks after their arrest.

Amnesty International is calling for those IMN supporters charged in connection with this incident to be tried promptly and fairly and for those still held in detention without charge to be either immediately charged or released.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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