from Africa in Transition , Africa Program , and Nigeria on the Brink

Mass Defection of Boko Haram Fighters in Cameroon

Writings describing Boko Haram are seen on the wall along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, on August 31, 2016.
Writings describing Boko Haram are seen on the wall along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, on August 31, 2016. Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

August 12, 2020

Writings describing Boko Haram are seen on the wall along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, on August 31, 2016.
Writings describing Boko Haram are seen on the wall along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, on August 31, 2016. Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters
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Nigerian Major General Ibrahim Manu Yusuf, commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF) fighting the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin, announced August 7 that 109 Boko Haram fighters and their prisoners had defected on the Nigerian-Cameroonian border. Yusuf said the defection was encouraged by a campaign through which Boko Haram fighters who defect would be pardoned. This specific group of defectors have been taken to the Cameroonian Center for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration. The facility reportedly was built to accommodate 100 but already has 250 residents.

According to Voice of America (VOA), the defectors consisted of forty-five Nigerian and three Cameroonian fighters, forty-five Nigerian children, and sixteen women, characterized as "sex slaves." It is not clear whether the women and children had been kidnapped.

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Boko Haram

Nigeria

Cameroon

Islamic State

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

One defector said he had joined Boko Haram in return for a promised motorcycle. He said that in the two years he had been part of the movement he had been unable to see his two wives, perhaps implying that his participation was coerced.

There are many questions to be answered. Were the defectors coerced into joining Boko Haram? Were the women and children coerced? Or did the defectors include family units? What were the motivations behind joining Boko Haram and then defecting? Finally, what will happen to them now, in an over-crowded rehabilitation facility?

Voice of America has expanded its on-the-ground coverage in Borno; it is to be anticipated that there will be more objective reporting on Boko Haram and the MJTF.   

More on:

Boko Haram

Nigeria

Cameroon

Islamic State

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

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