Issued on: 28/05/2021 – 15:52
Borno state in northeastern Nigeria has been ravaged by a deadly conflict between the military and the Boko Haram jihadists for more than a decade. Last fall, authorities announced that they were planning to close the Borno refugee camps, claiming the uprising was almost eradicated. In recent months, however, fatal attacks have taken place on the outskirts of the regional capital, Maiduguri. Our team met some of the two million displaced people who fled the fighting.
Fatima, 26, was forcibly married to a Boko Haram commander. She did this to prevent her son from being turned into a child soldier by the Islamist sect. But since then her family has disowned her and called her a “Boko Haram woman”. Falmata, 50, saw Boko Haram turn a price upside down just because she was a businesswoman. She barely survived but lost everything in her hometown of Bama and does not know how she will feed her eight children. The 70-year-old Mala recently survived a peasant massacre but has not dared to return to the fields since.
The stories of these displaced people are rare in the Western media. The state of Borno in northeast Nigeria and the neighboring countries have been torn apart by the Islamist uprising for more than 10 years. We are the first western camera team to film the martyr city of Bama since Boko Haram made it its short-lived caliphate in 2014. Liberated after seven months, Bama now resembles a “supercamp”, a town with checkpoints and roadblocks. The schools so hated by the Islamists are no longer empty. But the country continues to face harassment and attacks from Islamists.
The Covid-19 pandemic and the security situation forced our team to reinvent working methods at a distance. Two co-authors in France and the third in Nigeria. We filmed our report over several weeks so that we could take the time to speak to all of our respondents. But everything took place in an extremely volatile security context: Maiduguri, the regional capital of Borno, was hit by an attack just two days after the team started their journey home to France.
This rare report shows the absurdities of an endless war and a seemingly hopeless situation as the Nigerian government plans to close the refugee camps.