Ex-Boko Haram fighters and members returning to communities in Cameroon are of great importance security threat to civilians Ineffective reintegration increases the chances of ex-combatants returning to violence, fueled by the rise of organized crime, illicit arms trafficking and inter-communal violence. conflicts.
The first step to successful reintegration is the screening of defectors. But that process is missing in Cameroon, where the roles of Boko Haram members who surrender are unclear. By separating fighters, hostages, couriers, slaves or logisticians, those who remain radicalized and dangerous are identified. For example, in Amchidé, near the Nigerian border, community sources told ISS Today that ex-combatants sometimes threatened civilians.
The National Commission for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (CNDDR) was created in 2018, but the decree implementation does not mention those kidnapped by Boko Haram. Hostages who escape and return home are often confused with ex-combatants. Managers of the Méri disarmament, demobilization and reintegration center in northern Cameroon say the facility is home to former hostages and combatants. Therefore, in addition to legal gaps, the lack of projection makes it difficult to solve the problem.
Deficiencies in the socialization process are detrimental to those who leave violent extremist groups. Former associates may face reprisals from Boko Haram victims because there has been no trial or reconciliation to prove their innocence or guilt. For example, many cases of stigmatization of innocent ex-members were reported in Mayo Moscow.
There is also a lack of clarity regarding the prosecution of Boko Haram fighters, even the stabilization of the Lake Chad Basin region. Strategy and international standards include this. Prosecution is important for reintegration, as it helps fight impunity and allay the fears of Boko Haram’s victims. But since the Méri center opened in 2020, no resident has been pardoned, exonerated or convicted of a terrorist act before being reintegrated into the community.
This highlights another problem: the lack of legal harmonization in Cameroon. of 2014 law imposing the death penalty on anyone deemed guilty or complicit in acts of terrorism does not promote social integration. And the CNDDR decree is silent on amnesty or legal proceedings against ex-combatants.
Infrastructure, such as cantonment centres, which exist before returns are incorporated, is also lacking. Méri’s second prison became a deradicalization center, but only a place 150 residents, they include more than 2,500 people, according to the CNDDR. It also lacks training materials to facilitate the economic integration of ex-combatants. A regional cantonment center should be built in Mémé Morawhich has been designated as the seat of the Far North CNDDR region.
The lack of infrastructure means that many who leave Boko Haram prefer to integrate directly into communities. In 2021, they lived in the municipalities of Mora, Mayo Moskota, Kolofata, Mokolo, Makari, Waza, Logone-Birni and Fotokol. 584 fighters and former members. This number has since increased.
Many ex-combatants and members also live among the internally displaced people in Zamai. They may be the target of reprisals by Boko Haram victims, or they may be attacked by insurgents they consider traitors.
National guidance on the reintegration of ex-members is essential. In 2017, the governor of the Far North Region encouraged Boko Haram fighters to leave by offering an outreach program and a three-part protocol, including screening, deradicalization and reintegration. On their return home, they vowed to cut off all ties with Boko Haram the quran in the presence of community members and traditional and religious authorities. This initiative disappeared when the CNDDR was created, but its achievements and lessons should inform ongoing reintegration processes.
Community sources say more than 100 ex-combatants and members, disillusioned with their treatment at the Méri center or out of control in their communities, have returned to Boko Haram since the death of leader Abubakar Shekau in 2021. giving up
In the absence of success in reintegration, terrorism continues in the region. At the same time, armed robbery, taking hostages and roadside ambushes are on the rise. Weapons are circulating, increasing insecurity and igniting communal conflicts. Reintegration is essential to reduce the threat of violent extremism and mitigate the rise of organized crime linked to the presence of ex-Boko Haram members.
A clear process must be defined, including steps, objectives, results and indicators. inclusive, transitional the justice approach must involve local communities, traditional leaders, community-based organizations, the media, researchers and the private sector.
Anti-terrorist legislation must also be harmonized at national and regional levels. The principles of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization of the Lake Chad Basin should guide this process.
Célestin Delanga, Head of Research in the West Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad Basin Regional Office of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS)
The research for this article was funded by the Government of the Netherlands.
(This article was first published by ISS Today, syndicate partner Premium Times. We have their permission to republish it.)
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