Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Rehabilitating Repentant Boko Haram Members: The Right Approach


Recently, the European Union pledged N20 billion for the rehabilitation of repentant boko haram members. Also, the Federal government embarked on training 800 repentant Boko Haram members under the supervision of the Chief of Defense Staff's office. The initiative ‘Operation Safe Corridor’,  is geared towards rehabilitating and reintegrating the repentant terrorists back into normal life in the society.
These efforts are commendable and shows the commitment of the Nigerian government to tackling the insurgency crisis in the Northeast. we think that providing these individuals who were once the instruments of evil and agents of fear with vocational skills is enough to make them change their extremist ideologies? These are not Niger-Delta militants who become good guys after receiving some thousands of naira into their accounts. The approach to tackling the boko haram menace should involve a good grasp of understanding the root causes that turned ordinary citizens who were local farmers and market men and women, young boys and girls...into instruments of terror!

The militants in the South-south took up arms to press home their grievances about not benefiting from the resources of their land...their land that "feeds" the entire nation while they are left with nothing to work with--nothing to feed from--nothing to live from. The agitation of the Niger-deltans  is different from the ideology of boko haram in the North. Theirs is based on a deep-rooted foundation that spans hundreds of centuries. Religion. That, is difficult to contain...difficult to tackle....difficult to solve.

And we know that it is not a Nigerian problem alone, it is a global one that has spread like ebola and infected and  left countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Somalia, Kenya, Iraq and Syria...victims.
Therefore given the nature of violent extremist ideology, rehabilitation alone may not solve it. It has not --anywhere!

If a terrorist declares that he has  terrorism, what criteria are being employed to verify the genuineness of his claim? Are there different teams of relevant stakeholders (that should include highly  respected moderate minded religious scholars, psychologists and properly trained law enforcement personnel among others) that will monitor and  evaluate the progress of such individuals from extreme violence to a life of peaceful purpose? Imagine what will happen if the movements of these ex-terrorists are not monitored or controlled when they are release into society? There is always a tendency that they can reconnect with recruiters of the organization they had once renounced! Don't we know that the communities and immediate families from which repentant extremists come from have a vital role to play in their reintegration process into society?

The Saudi Kingdom developed an efficient  system-of-solutions programme to tackle the insurgency within the kingdom which involved a 'deradicalization' process that aimed at fighting violent extremism from the roots. The Saudi Ministry of Interior made the fight against radical islamism as a national issue which demands national attention. They involved many moderate minded imams, primary, secondary and tertiary schools reorientation campaign programs, psychologists, the judiciary, parents, ministries, departments and agencies...massive campaign! Also, financial inducements, job employments were used to give ex-terrorists a sense of fulfilment.

Nigeria need a properly planned out scheme that includes a multi strategic approach to tackling the very root causes of violent extremism such as boko haram. Such strategies should employ what the Pakistani Ambassador to Nigeria recently referred to as 'non kinetics warfare' when speaking at the Nigerian War College in Abuja. 

De-radicalization, Rehabilitation, massive public media campaign that discredits violent radicalism of religion in conjunction with targeting the various ways extremist ideologies are propagated , provision of  amenities that will give genuinely repentant terrorist a new sense of life and purpose, an effective and efficient monitoring and evaluation team that will ensure that, only those who have truly renounced violent extremist ideology and desire to pursue life goals as any other aspiring Nigerian...only those are allowed back into society. It can be done. Boko Haram can truly become just a thing in Nigeria's history. Imagine that!