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Nigeria

Fighting against the demons created by Boko Haram

kFFatima Akilu

Fatima Akilu

Violent memories rage in their heads, as if possessed by demons. Every night Amina, a young woman, falls into a deep hole. Because two years ago she saw the way her father was beheaded by Boko Haram. She ran away, dragging the headless body and her baby on her back. But in her panic, she fell into a deep pit and lost the child. When she later found it, it was dead. “I cry and I pray. What have I done”, says the young woman.
The psychological trauma of brutal conflict in Africa is huge, but international aid organizations usually do not pay much attention. However in Nigeria that is different, thanks to a special Nigerian woman, Fatima Akilu. She founded the Neem Foundation last year and together with twenty psychologists she attempts to fight trauma caused by the war. “It’s a drop in an ocean, because there are hundreds of thousands with memories of atrocities,” she says.
They are sitting on an orange mat in an unfinished house in Maiduguri, Borno’s capital, the Nigerian state ravaged for eight years by Boko Haram. The groups terrorizes civilians and commits both huge material and mental damage.

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The child captives of Boko Haram: “Suddenly we were all alone”

Ontheemde kinderen in MaiduguriWe agreed to meet at the zoo in Maiduguri. There, the two girls aged nine and seventeen and the thirteen-year-old boy feel comfortable talking about their captivity under Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group which in eight years killed an estimated 20,000 civilians and drove millions more from their homes. The face of the nine-year-old girl gets tense and she moves evasively as she remembers the strokes of the whip. The boy holds his hand on his throat during his story about an execution. The seventeen-year-old avoids eye contact when she talks about her rape. They are the victims, but could they also be the perpetrators?
Every loud noise seems to cut into their soul. Like the helicopters of the Nigerian government army which take off from Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno. The population has doubled to two million because of people fleeing for Boko Haram. Nobody travels outside the city without military escort.
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A book on and by gays in Kenya

A fresh breeze is blowing through the gay community in Kenya since the beginning of this year. First, the famous Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina came out of the closet. And now a book is published with stories, letters and poetry by and about gay people in the country. Homosexuality is not illegal in Kenya, but there is a prison sentence of up to 14 years for sex between two men or two women.

Kevin Mwachiro is author of Invisible: stories from Kenya’s queer community.  He hopes to combat with his book ignorance about homosexuality, and especially show gay people that they are not alone. “It’s a very lonely time before you dare to come out of the closet. I certainly experienced it like that. But after all the stories I’ve heard over the past two years, I realize how smooth it actually was for me”, says the 40 -year-old gay activist and journalist.

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Boko Haram: The root cause of the conflict is ideological

Northern Nigeria. © Petterik Wiggers

©Petterik Wiggers

Terror initiated bomb blasts from the Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad sect in Nigeria otherwise known as the Boko Haram, may decline or escalate for any period of time but the indicators for overall peace may truly be farfetched. The sense of engagement beyond unleashing military combatants in the hugely affected and now paralysed North Eastern parts of the country is utterly undefined. Indications in military circles and indeed conventional military wisdom do not suggest that the Nigeria Military has the capacity to utterly and decisively defeat the terror band.

The brand of terror introduced into Nigeria by the insurgents is not an affliction that is proverbially skin deep. It is deeper beyond the skin and requires even much deeper strategic and sophisticated engagement. Sadly, all that has been seen from players at the policy level has been anything but out-of-control techniques. There’s been so much opportunism, so much of personal profit and so much shadow acting. The superficial is at the driving seat where professionalism is in dire need.

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Achebe’s “There Was a Country” risks opening old wounds

There Was a Country – A Personal History of Biafra

Chinua Achebe

Allen Lane, 318pp £20.00

The author is one of Africa’s finest novelists, the subject is one of Africa’s greatest tragedies, the accusations he makes could not be more serious, and his prognosis for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is grim indeed. The combination should make for a compelling read. Instead the result is a quirky mix of opinion and autobiography, history and polemic, uneven in quality and partisan in perspective.

It has been more than forty years since Nigeria’s civil war over the breakaway state of Biafra ended and Chinua Achebe, its best known son, has at last broken his silence on the subject: “It is for the sake of the future of Nigeria, for our children and grandchildren, that I feel it is important to tell Nigeria’s story, Biafra’s story, our story, my story.”

The story he tells has all the elements that were to become so familiar across the continent: ethnic divisions, religious rivalries and regional tensions, a problematic colonial legacy, and an elite of venal politicians and ambitious soldiers who plundered national resources. {read more…}