By Abby Cordaro
Northeastern Nigeria has been torn apart by violence, humanitarian emergency, and mass displacement in recent years.
The UN has reached a trademark agreement with the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) to end the use of children in the conflict against Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria. In light of a series of attacks in early September, including the killing of civilians, kidnappings, and suicide bombings, the deal is a step towards protecting human rights, the Council on Foreign Relations reports.
In the midst of this crisis, authorities arrested at least 10 people last week after thousands of internally displaced individuals from the Dalori camps protested in the streets of Maiduguri, according to Daily Mail. Mass unrest in the region ensues as a result of the incredibly poor conditions facing the displaced. Over the course of the eight-year insurgency, at least 20,000 people have been killed and more than 2.6 million others forced to flee their homes, causing mass devastation of the region. Many displaced people fled to live with relatives and friends, but the remainder were forced into camps with extremely limited resources. These internally displaced people are now reliant on humanitarian aid and agencies for basic needs and healthcare, and the deteriorating situation is threating hundreds of thousands with the possibility of famine.
Daily Mail reports that meanwhile, Boko Haram continues to attack rural areas despite denial from the government that such attacks are occurring, and many displaced people wish to return regardless of the risks.
According to The Guardian, the agreement with the Civilian Joint Task Force was reached after a year of negotiations, and it will prohibit the enlistment of children by the group. Between October 2015 and August 2017, the task force used over 360 children as part of their 23,000 armed forces. UN data reports that the Boko Haram has been recruiting minors since 2013, using children as young as nine to perform duties such as search operations, guarding outposts, and conducting night patrols. Since the insurgency began in Nigeria in 2009, Boko Haram has recruited more than 8,000 children, with increasingly frequent use of young girls, especially as suicide bombers.
The CJTF is comprised of vigilante groups in response to Boko Haram. It primarily protects areas of communities that are not securely guarded by the military. However, the CJTF has come under scrutiny with Human Rights Watch and other organizations making accusations of rape and other human rights abuses. The Guardian reports that the action plan of this agreement contains provisions that will establish community reintegration programs, provide psychological and social support for child victims, and ensure authorities will attempt to reunite children with their families. The agreement will be implemented in conjunction with the Borno state government and Nigerian state authorities. NAIJ reports the CJTF’s legal advisor Jibrin Gunda emphasized that this agreement is a vital step in the direction of protecting human rights, saying “anyone under the age of 18 will no longer be a part of the CJTF. We are doing our best to make sure we are on the right side of human rights codes.”