Post-Boko Haram conflict: The Gwoza experience




Some of the destroyed equipment from Boko Haram

Gwoza remains one of the most affected local government areas of Boko Haram attacks, accounting for 212 and 5,713 reported attacks and deaths, respectively as at September 2017.  It is located at the southern Borno bordered with Madagali local in Adamawa state and mostly dominated by non-Kanuri speakers.

Gwoza was badly damaged when it was retaken in 2015 recorded destruction and loss of access to crop and livestock assets and production; increased prices of inputs and products; destruction/disruption of markets and transport infrastructure; loss of employment; decreased demand for goods. Four years now still people are no longer farming, businesses declined, no electricity and even cell phone reception is so weak residents climb trees to get a signal, and those areas to assess the signals are mostly the hiding areas of the Boko Haram insurgents.  And also, the town’s outlying villages are still unsafe.

Situation there is getting worst every day, especially in the aspect of livelihood support. For example, in Pulka, a community in Gwoza which is outskirt of the Gwoza town faces serious water challenge and of course is the community that is currently going through hard time because there are still pockets of attacks in the area and most of the people are in the camps.

To make it worst, there is hunger and malnutrition due insufficient food supply in the communities, though government and humanitarian aids are doing their best but much need to be done.

Another major problem in the communities is the wide spread of sexual gender based violence, especially the narrative from the camps where they live, is chronically short of food, and across satellite camps in the area groups such as some official using that opportunity to request for sex in exchange of food. Some progress has been made to curtail these abuses, and humanitarian groups have tried to adjust food distribution practices to blunt the potential for abuse, but this has only changed the dynamic of the exploitation.

There is need to address the issue of property right, significant number of people lost the ownership of their houses, plots and farmland especially those living on the outskirts of the main town. This mostly happen as a result of destruction by Boko Haram sect and also the way some communities relocated and created their own shelter while seeking protection from the deadly Boko Haram and now have no way to go back to their areas. The capacity of community leaders handling this crisis is very low and many people are getting worried and if care is not taken, this can result a serious communal and tribal crisis in future. The Borno state government and relevant agencies need to map out the possible solutions and resolve the crisis before it slips their fingers.

Civil-military relationship is much cordial, there are several allegations that military are also the perpetrator of sexual gender based violence. Recently, some community leaders raised concern on some military personnel chasing their women. Whether the allegation is true or not, there is need to address this problem. It will be good to organise a kind of civil-military dialogue with the community leaders, religious leaders, women group and youth leaders. This will bridge the wide gap between them and also improve their relationship.

It’s Important to address the human right abuses especially those centred around sexual gender based violence recognising the fact that SGBV does not begin or end with war; perpetrators of SGBV are not only Boko Haram insurgents but also some authorities that are working in different areas in the name of humanitarian and peace keeping and building.

Government, development workers and relevant authorities should critically review their approaches to distribution of food and other livelihood materials not only in Gwoza but also other places that are affected by the conflict. Moving next step like will curtail the future occurrences of such conflict because a hungry man is always an angry one.

Idris Mohammed; program officer with CDD West Africa, Abuja

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