Boko Haram displaced feel forgotten amid Nigeria election fever

Boko Haram is resurging in Nigeria. Above, released Dapchi school girls, who were kidnapped by the militants in Feb. 2018., during a meeting with the president. (AFP/File)
Updated 20 February 2019
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Boko Haram displaced feel forgotten amid Nigeria election fever

  • More than 27,000 people died and 1.8 million displaced since the start of Boko Haram conflict in 2009
  • Malkohi residents say they will support President Muhammadu Buhari because he helped curtail the extremists’ power

MALKOHI, Nigeria: Idriss Abdullahi was once a successful businessman and a husband to four wives, until the day he fled his home when Boko Haram insurgents advanced across northeastern Nigeria.
Five years on he lives beside dull farmland in a tented camp in Malkohi village, near the Adamawa state capital Yola, and tries to make a living selling firewood.
But the earnings are so meager he has had to divorce one of his wives.
“Even an animal lives better than me,” he told AFP in the camp he shares with 2,800 of his neighbors from the Borno state town of Gwoza, which the insurgents sacked in 2014.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since the Boko Haram conflict began in 2009 and some 1.8 million others are still displaced.
President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a pledge to end the insurgency, which at its peak saw the extremists control an area the size of Belgium.
In Abdullahi’s hometown, the wild-eyed leader of the extremists, Abubakar Shekau, declared an Islamic caliphate.
An offensive involving Nigerian troops and foreign mercenaries pushed them back. But in recent months there have been signs of resurgence.
Despite that, residents of Malkohi say they’re ready to support Buhari at Saturday’s rescheduled vote — even if they can’t return to Gwoza to do so.
“It’s not that we actually love him,” Abdullahi said of the president. “It’s that he saved our lives from Boko Haram.”
Shortly after taking office, Buhari declared Boko Haram “technically defeated,” apparently fulfilling the promise that was seen as a key to his victory.
But in February last year, the group seized 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi, in an echo of the 2014 abduction of more than 200 from Chibok that brought world attention to the conflict.
Malkohi itself hasn’t been spared; the group in 2015 bombed a government-organized camp across the road from the informal settlement where the former Gwoza residents stay.
An Islamic State-allied faction has in recent months overrun military bases, seizing equipment and weapons, and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee for their lives.
Nigeria’s election commission has been forced to set up special measures for them to vote: in Borno, some 400,000 displaced people will vote at 10 centers.
Several others have been created in Adamawa.
The main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has seized on the insecurity and claimed Buhari has failed in his core duty of keeping Nigerians safe.
But from their homes in Adamawa — Abubakar’s home state — Malkohi residents say they feel more forgotten than under attack.
“Up to now, hospitals have not been provided. Before, [aid groups] gave us drugs, but now we don’t receive any,” said Fanta Ali, a housewife at the camp.
The Malkohi camp today is made up of rows of shacks separated by dirt paths, on which barefoot children and turkeys strut.
The makeshift homes are constructed from tarpaulin donated by aid agencies who also built a water tower for the settlement.
Many Malkohi residents were prosperous in Gwoza but without money to start businesses they now rely on manual labor to get by.
“Seriously, I’m suffering,” said Abdulrahman Hassen, once a merchant and chair of a professional association who now farms for a living.
Returning to Gwoza, where Boko Haram remains strong, is still a distant prospect. Helping people go home will be on the next president’s to-do list.
The displaced say they’re made to feel like outsiders in Adamawa, and local residents call them thieves for farming the land around the camp.
Gwoza was badly damaged when it was retaken in 2015, and cellphone reception is so weak residents climb trees to get a signal, said Yunussa Takda, a youth leader in Malkohi.
Meanwhile, the town’s outlying villages are still unsafe.
“Under Buhari, we’ve seen that a lot of our villages that have been taken by Boko Haram haven’t been recovered,” he said. “Maybe if he’s given a second chance, we can go home.”
Umaru Ibrahim Bakare lost track of his pregnant wife and then three-year-old daughter in the chaos of Boko Haram’s initial attack on the town, and has been looking for them ever since.
He made an unsuccessful trip to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, aiming to find his family.
He remains hopeful after the Red Cross connected a friend with three children he’d lost when fleeing Boko Haram.
“We must vote Muhammadu Buhari to finish what he’s started and defeat the insurgency,” he said.


TIMELINE: Theresa May’s three tumultuous Downing Street years

Updated 55 min 40 sec ago
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TIMELINE: Theresa May’s three tumultuous Downing Street years

  • May bowed out after nearly three years as prime minister on Friday
  • Marked the end of a rocky spell in 10 Downing Street

LONDON: Theresa May bowed out after nearly three years as prime minister on Friday, defeated by her inability to deliver Brexit.
Here are highlights of her tumultuous time in office:

July 13, 2016 - In her first speech as prime minister, May appears in Downing Street, pledging to fight the "burning injustices" that hold people back. She promises "a country that works for everyone" but will in fact find herself spending much of her time struggling with Brexit.

(AFP)


Jan 18, 2017 - A triumphant May is portrayed on the front page of the Daily Mail next to the headline "Steel of the New Iron Lady". She has just given a defiant speech, telling Brussels: "No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain."

 


May 22, 2017 - May is forced to backtrack on an election pledge to force the elderly to pay more for care after her opinion poll lead fell by half. "Nothing has changed," she says to general incredulity.

June 4, 2017 - Responding to Britain's third militant attack in three months - the killing of seven people at London Bridge - May declared "enough is enough" and added: "Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time."

(AFP)


June 8, 2017 - Despite an apparently impregnable opinion poll lead, May loses her parliamentary majority in a general election called early. Despite repeated promises of a "strong and stable" government, her authority is in tatters.

Oct 3, 2017 - May's big speech to the Conservative Party conference was interrupted by repeated coughing fits, a prankster, and even letters of her slogan falling off the stage scenery. As a bid to reassert herslf, it had limited success.

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RELATED: British PM Theresa May resigns over Brexit failure

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Oct 3, 2018 - May startles the audience at the Conservative Party conference when she appears on stage for a speech jigging to Abba's "Dancing Queen." It was apparently a self-deprecating reference to her dancing during a recent visit to Africa, but she was nonetheless widely mocked.

(Screenshot/YouTube)

Dec 14, 2018 - A furious May is embroiled in a public row with Jean-Claude Juncker at a Brussels summit after the EU chief publicly called Britain's Brexit demands "nebulous" and "vague". Juncker joked that they had later kissed and made up, but the incident showed that relations were sub-optimal.

(Screenshot)

Dec 17, 2018 - At an EU summit in Salzburg, an unforgiving photo shows a red-jacketed May cold-shouldered by a phalanx of male leaders in dark suits.

Jan 19, 2019 - Lawmakers vote down May's Brexit divorce deal by the crushing margin of 432 to 202, the worst such defeat in modern British history. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn calls a vote of no confidence, which May however survives.

May 21, 2019 - In a last roll of the dice, May promises a "new deal" on Brexit. It is immediately rejected by large numbers of Conservative lawmakers and the opposition Labour Party.

(Screenshot)

May 24, 2019 - May announces she will quit, her voice breaking with emotion during a Downing Street address to the nation. She describes herself as "the second female prime minister, but certainly not the last."