On 7 December 2019, in the transit centre in Goudoumaria, Niger, during an official ceremony more than 100 hundred individuals formerly affiliated to Boko Haram sealed an historical passage toward peace and stability in the Region of Diffa and the Lake Chad Basin in Niger.
Under the project “Kallo Lenio, Klla Founna: Together, towards the future!” the European Union supports activities for victims, former affiliates and so-called repentis of Boko Haram. By offering psychological support and social and professional training, the project provides new perspectives and working skills to the beneficiaries and help for their reintegration.
Photo: Ya koura
Ya koura is one of the victims that received help thanks to this project. Kidnapped at the age of 12, she was held captive by Boko Haram for two years until she managed to escape. Forced to marry one of the fighters, during the time in captivity, Ya koura was obsessed by one single thought: escaping and getting back to her loved ones, although she had no idea where they were. One morning, she mustered all her courage: “I left when everyone else was still asleep and I ran. Thorns were cutting into my legs and feet, but the only thing that mattered was to get to a place where I could finally say: I am safe now!”, remembers Ya koura.
Once she finally found her relatives, she could not re-join them. The head of the family was worried that her kidnappers might try to find her. So Ya koura was taken to the reception centre in Goudoumaria, which was specially designed for people who have chosen to leave Boko Haram voluntarily. Thanks to the activities organised by Search for Common Ground and funded by EU, Ya koura is getting better. “These activities and the psychologist have helped me to express myself and live among other people. The things that help me most are singing and dancing….’’, explains Ya Koura. She also likes joining other women who are supporting their husbands in the wrestling matches organised with former members of Boko Haram. “It’s a joyful moment that brings us together”, assures Ya koura.
To become able to support herself and her family she has chosen to train as a tailor. “Nowadays, I’m happy [...] I want to return to my community and make a contribution.”
Moustapha, 23, has the same aim. He was one of many young former prisoners suspected of being members of Boko Haram. He has now been released, and he is back in education, thanks to vocational training.
Moustapha grew up in a village and used to grow peppers and onions to sell at the market. After work, he started meeting up with an informal group of young people, called a fada. One evening the police arrested him and two others. Three month before his arrest, the young man had become a father. “My twins had just been baptised when I was arrested. I missed them so much. Thankfully, my father would visit me every week to give me news of them.”
Moustapha spent more than a year in the juvenile detention centre in Niamey before he was finally a free man. He remembers the moment when he finally came back home. “I was so happy. When I got to the village, everyone was there to welcome me home! They know me well; they never believed the accusations. They know that I’m not a member of Boko Haram.”
Now, Moustapha has chosen to train to become a welder. “Prison cost me my job. So this is vital for my family, too. I will be able to look after them and provide for them. I chose this activity out of all those on offer because there are no welders where I live. This training course means that I’ll be able to contribute to the development of my village,” explains Moustapha.
Photo: Transit centre in Goudoumaria, Niger
Together, towards the future:
The project “Kallo Lenio, Klla Founna: Together, towards the future!” was launched in 2018 under the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace with a total budget of EUR 2,700 000. During 24 months, the project, through its local partner Search for Common Ground, has implemented more than 600 actions offering personal and professional training, psychological support, participatory theatre sections, mobile cinemas, media and radio projects in the Region of Diffa and Lake Chad Basin in Niger.
The beneficiaries of the actions are 1100 individuals suspected of being member of Boko Haram, repentis, as well as civilian victims. It is expected that this project will carve a path for the training and reinsertion of these people to their communities and help stabilization and development of the region.
Find more about Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace