More than 850 former Boko Haram fighters and their family members who fled Cameroon from the jihadist group have left for Nigeria from northern Cameroon. Nigerian officials say they are moving ex-militants to Nigerian disarmament centers after complaints that such centers in Cameroon were overwhelmed by the numbers of former jihadists ever since the terrorist group’s leader was announced to be killed in May Was.
Hundreds of people gathered on the streets on Saturday watching and waving over 20 buses carrying former Boko Haram militants and their families and Mora, a town on Cameroon’s northern border with Nigeria, for Banki, a city in Nigeria’s Borno state. departed from
Midjiawa Bakri, governor of Cameroon’s Far North region, said the former militants had agreed to voluntarily return to Nigeria.
Bakari said former Boko Haram militants who agreed to return to Nigeria’s Borno state are Nigerian citizens, 854 of whom include their families. He said he told Cameroonian government officials that they were either fighters or slaves to plantations controlled by the jihadist group. Bakari said the former Nigerian fighters had promised to be good citizens of Borno state.
Bakari said about 150 more former militants who are of Nigerian nationality would return to their countries in the coming weeks, but did not explain why they were not returning now.
Most of the former insurgents are women and children. Cameron said that about 320 men [including young boys among them] The jihadists are former fighters of the group. Officials said there are 80 women who are used as spies by the terrorist group in the areas it attacked. 454 others are his family members.
Qadir Hassan, 34, said he is the spokesman for former Boko Haram militants who agreed to return to Nigeria. He escaped from Boko Haram’s stronghold Sambisa forest on the Cameroon-Nigeria border in August. The former fighter said he looked forward to visiting his relatives in Kukawa, a town in Nigeria’s Borno state.
Hassan said he left Kukawa in March 2020 to join the jihadist group.
Hassan said that many Cameroonians and Nigerians he saw in the Sambisa forest wanted to leave Boko Haram, but feared fighters would kill them. He said he is calling on the multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad Basin, which is fighting the jihadist group, to help those still in Boko Haram’s captivity and want to be released. He said the former fighters pledge to contribute to the development of their communities upon their return to Nigeria.
The task force, made up of troops from Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Nigeria, said it moved surrendered Boko Haram militants to the DDR demilitarization centers in the Cameroonian cities of Meri and Meme on the border with Nigeria.
In August, Cameroon said it was in talks to return former militants to Nigeria as DDR centers were becoming overcrowded.
Nigeria’s Borno State Education Commissioner Lawan Aba Wakilbe represented the Nigerian government at the handover ceremony of the ex-militants. He said the former militants would be kept in rehabilitation centers in Banki, Nigeria.
“We are going to rehabilitate them, and we will reintegrate them into society. You see, taking this number away from Boko Haram has left them short of manpower. We are delighted and would like to use this opportunity to thank the Government of Cameroon for keeping them and handing them over to us,” he said.
Cameroon says former militants are still in demilitarization centers along its northern border with Nigeria and Chad, which includes Chadians, Cameroonians and Nigerians.
Bakari said the DDR centers in Cameroon’s northern border will continue to receive terrorists and fighters who surrender and drop their weapons.