Nearly 900 children, held by a pro-government militia force fighting Boko Haram, were freed on Friday from the ranks of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria.
What We Know…
- The CJTF, a local militia created in 2013, recruited 894 children, 106 of which were girls, in an effort to protect communities in the fight against the jihadist terrorist organization, Boko Haram. According to the United Nations, the militia used children as young as nine between October 2015 and August 2017.
- The release came after an action plan, signed in 2017 by CJTF president Mr. Lawan Jaffar and UNICEF Country Representative Mohamed Fall, was laid out as part of its “commitment to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children,” according to UNICEF. This release brings the total number of children freed to 1,727.
- The task force was formed after Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in 2013 for Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in northeastern Nigeria. The order was issued due to a series of attacks by Islamist militant groups. Militants from Boko Haram have been blamed for most of the violence, which has left 2,000 people dead since 2010.
- Boko Haram—whose name means “Western education is forbidden”—was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002. When the group was first formed, their actions were nonviolent. However, in 2009, they staged a revolt with the goal being to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state. The militia gained notoriety when they kidnapped over 200 school girls in April 2014., with more than 100 of them still missing five years later. The “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign was created as a response to the tragic event.
It’s not clear how many children remain in CJTF, however, the freed children will be enrolled in a program to help them transition back into civilian life. They will also receive educational support and vocational training.