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Secours aux Sinistrés de Boko Haram

Boko Haram Victims Relief (BHVR)

BHVR was previously a Canadian non-profit corporation, however, despite our efforts, we were unsuccessful in raising significant sums of money for victims of Boko Haram. Therefore at our AGM in February 2016 the membership decided to dissolve the corporation. However, we intend to maintain this website and the informational functions of BHVR . We do however wish to offer our visitors inform about Boko Haram and encouragement to donate generously to those NGOs, international and national, that are operating effectively in the region. Our Partners page identifies many of these charities.

The Urgent Context of our Work

February 2016. After a long period of inaction, in March-April 2015 the Nigerian army assisted by hunters and vigilantes and in conjunction with their Nigerien, Chadian and Cameroonian allies achieved substantial victories. They drove Boko Haram out of Gwoza, Bama and other towns and villages, and inflicted many and substantial losses on their forces and equipment. The insurgents were forced into the northernmost Mandara mountains, further north into the bush on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border and into the environs of Lake Chad. Small groups of militants, apparently no longer in touch with Boko Haram central command, were left scattered widely in the afflicted region although some larger camps maintained their existence, at least for a time, in the Sambisa forest.

Since May 2015  it has been questionable to what extent Boko Haram remains an entity capable of initiating and coordinating military action over a significant area and on a significant scale. Several reported assaults on villages are perhaps better described as attempts of isolated and ill-fed if not starving militants to obtain, usually with considerable violence,  food, clothing and other  necessities of life.

Boko Haram does however maintain its ability to terrorize and has over the past months achieved this mainly by widespread bombings. Besides Maiduguri, capital of Borno state, and Yola, capital of Admaawa, several other towns in  the states of Borno Yobe and Adamawa have been targeted, as have beyond the northeast Jos, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory around Abuja. Boko Haram has also bombed police stations in N’djamena, the capital of Chad, together with markets and other facilities in Maroua and other towns in the Far North region of Cameroon. Many, perhaps most, of these are suicide bombings with a large proportion carried out by women, girls and children (most, we suspect, under duress and in some cases perhaps detonated remotely by militants). President Buhari’s 24th of December 2015 claim of a “technical victory” over Boko Haram rings hollow in the light of the very considerable  numbers of people killed and many more wounded by these blasts.  Since that date the killings continue as shown in the following table:

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As a result, in Borno state the fear of bombings and other terrorist acts has, despite encouragement by federal and state governments,  greatly inhibited the return of IDPs to their towns and villages of origin. In the hills above Gwoza and on the plain to the east of the Gwoza hills Boko Haram appears, if not to control territory and settlements, at least to be able to prevent the return and rebuilding of communities. It would seem that in this relatively remote area the Nigerian forces of order are either incapable or unwilling to hold land and maintain order. We suspect that in Cameroon something similar may be happening on the western side of the eastern “horn” of the northernmost Mandara mountains, a region that is similarly remote from Maroua, the capital of the Far North region.

In contrast many former Adamawa state refugees began to return home  in May-June 2015, and some even managed to plant and harvest a crop between then and the end of the year. Such is the case, for example, of Sukur and its neighbors.

Nonetheless nowhere in the region, nor in the affected parts of neighbor countries, has life returned to normal. Many mosques, churches, clinics and other public and private buildings were destroyed and are not yet rebuilt. Disastrously for the future of these regions, very few children are going to school or youths to college. So far as we know — and since the media report very little from  Boko Haram-afflicted areas and usually only the bloodiest of events — the national governments have not yet initiated the policies of reconciliation necessary to reintegrate into society those many people of both sexes and a wide range of ages who were forced by violence or hunger to “join” Boko Haram.

Despite being the country with the largest GDP in Africa, Nigeria does not appear to be making the moves necessary to finally defeat Boko Haram militarily and at the same time create a route through the continuing troubles and misery towards a reintegrated and just society in its northeastern states. Only that can offer its inhabitants hope for a life worth living, an improving standard of living, and a future of opportunity unthreatened by Islamist or any other form of extremism.

North-eastern Nigerians  still need your help and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

*  *  *  *  *  *

In May 2015 we wrote: Recent and rapid events in Nigeria require revision of this section of the website.  We congratulate Nigeria on the major democratic advance represented by its recent elections, and President Muhammadu Buhari on his success.  However, although the context has changed, the need for humanitarian aid in north-east Nigeria and neighboring regions continues, and is more urgent than before.

“Boko Haram is winning. That’s the assessment of both U.S. counter-terrorism officials and many experts who cover West Africa. After several months of optimism, and military successes by Chadian and Nigerian forces that rolled back the terror group’s gains, Boko Haram has retaken the initiative. ” That at least is the view of NBC news (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/boko-haram-winning-n376786) as of June 17 2015, 11:10 am ET.

Between February and April 2015 the Nigerian military aided by their Chadian, Cameroonian and Nigerien allies won victories over the Boko Haram (BH) jihadi insurgency, recapturing all the major towns previously under BH control including Madagali in Adamawa state and,  in Borno state, Baga, Bama and, on the eve of the elections, Gwoza, where BH had proclaimed its caliphate.  Although both during and after the elections there have been a number of attacks attributed to BH, it is questionable to what extent BH remains a viable organization capable of strategic action.  Does it now consist rather of a number of fragmented remnants lashing out more or less at random?  It seems likely that in Nigeria many of its members are attempting to disappear or reintegrate their communities. Meanwhile others have taken refuge in Cameroon where they are still capable of murderous attacks on small communities.

Time will tell, but it is both more difficult and more expensive to support 192,000 refugees who are dispersing to their scattered and devastated home communities in order to rebuild their lives and communities than it is to provide the necessities of life to the same number congregated in a few refugee camps or living with kin in major urban centers.  As the UN recognizes in its new appeal, we face a new and more demanding challenge.

The next paragraphs and the following section written between January and early April 2015 are intended for new readers who may know little of Boko Haram and the horrors inflicted on the inhabitants of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Boko Haram, the bloodiest Islamist militancy in Africa and a self-proclaimed caliphate, is destroying the lives and livelihoods of northeastern Nigerians at an ever increasing pace — besides bombing others elsewhere.  The Nigerian federal state has — at least until very recently — proved ineffectual in combating the insurgency either militarily or politically.  At one time over 70% of Borno and large areas of Yobe and Adamawa states were under Boko Haram control.  The tide may have turned under the combined attacks of Nigerian, Cameroonian, Nigerien and Chadian forces but the military situation is still undecided.  Only recently the caliphate twice attacked Maiduguri, capital of Borno, and, no respecter of borders, intensified its assaults against the peoples of Cameroon’s Mandara mountains and northern plains.  Refugees have flooded into Niger, Cameroon and Boko Haram has even attacked Chadian settlements on the shores of Lake Chad.  The insurgency is now using female “suicide” bombers, including girls as young as ten, to murder innocents and disrupt the life of towns in northeastern Nigeria.

In the three most distressed Nigerian states alone, some 13 million people have been directly or indirectly affected by Boko Haram and, given the destruction of crops and thefts of livestock and foodstuffs, famine and epidemic disease appear inevitable in the next months. Once the violence is under control and refugees, many of whom are now concentrated in camps in Maiduguri, Yola, Cameroon’s Minawao and elsewhere, begin to return home, humanitarian aid is going to be even more necessary — and more difficult and expensive to distribute — as the long process of rebuilding lives and communities begins.   Your generous aid, guided by our research and knowledge of the area to produce the maximum effect, is urgently needed.

For a case study of the ongoing impact of Boko Haram on a single community, visit the Sukur website.

You may offer help or information or become a member of BHVR or make a donation at any time, but please allow us a chance to explain what we are trying to do.

The registered purpose of BHVR:

was specified as follows:

Boko Haram is a Salafi-jihadi militant Islamist insurgency that since 2009 has extended its power over northeastern Nigeria to the point that it presently controls almost all Borno and large parts of Yobe and Adamawa states, an area equivalent to two thirds of the United Kingdom, affecting the lives of approximately 13 million people, besides others elsewhere in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and, increasingly, Cameroon.  Unlike for natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake or Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, there has been no international outpouring of humanitarian aid for the victims, who are now facing, besides the immediate threat of Boko Haram murders, kidnapping and theft, the loss of the 2014-15 harvest and consequent famine.  It is the purpose of Boko Haram Victims Relief to begin to counter this situation by raising funds nationally and internationally and therewith to provide relief to victims, direct and indirect, of the Boko Haram, Ansaru and other insurgencies in Central Africa, including but not necessarily limited to those affecting Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.  Relief will take the form of cash grants or provision of goods and/or services to victimized individuals and groups and to on-the-ground not-for-profit organizations.

BHVR’s special contributions

1. Information professionally gathered and collated for potential donors

According to the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency, as of January 2015 three million victims of Boko Haram face serious humanitarian crisis.*  With the recent exception of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, no major international charities have mounted special campaigns or solicited funds earmarked for those harmed by the insurgency.  While aid is being provided by their kin and a variety of international, national and local agencies, including the Nigerian Red Cross/Red Crescent and Médecins sans Frontières, the amount is very limited.  The total sum requested by the Red Cross for the NE Nigerian emergency amounts to approximately $US20 to fund a year’s support for each of 150,000 planned beneficiaries.  Less than 30% of the funds requested had been received by 1 February 2015 — and there are believed to be 1,500,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in the area.

Current security conditions make it very difficult though not quite impossible to obtain information about or to assist those surviving in areas under Boko Haram control.  Meanwhile would-be donors and their financial institutions are discouraged by Nigeria’s unfortunately deserved reputation for corruption and 419-type scams.  News coverage has been sparse and it remains very difficult to see broader patterns in the data available.  Many potential donors are ignorant of  ways of life in north-east Nigeria and the constraints of the environment, nor are they aware of the numbers of killings, kidnappings and village burnings.

*http://www.thenigerianvoice.com/news/165646/1/boko-haram-victims-and-the… (3 January 2015)

A persistent problem for all non-profits and charities dispensing relief is the identification of persons, groups and organizations capable of reliably receiving and managing assistance.  The four directors who have carried out research within the now BH-afflicted area are well placed to assess and evaluate the varied and often erratic sources of information emanating from it.  Elsewhere we suggest some basic reading.  Moreover, besides our own, often intimate, knowledge of the regions involved, we have contacted numerous professional colleagues and others familiar with the area whom we access to provide us with knowledge of events and of the victims (individuals, groups, communities, non-profit organizations) to whom it is possible to send relief and who can be trusted to put it to good use.

2. Delivery of humanitarian aid to local communities

It should be recognized that BH victims are mostly villagers or the inhabitants of small towns and that most make their living by small-scale, barely more than subsistence, farming, feeding themselves and cultivating cash crops or practising part-time trades to earn necessary cash. Few such private citizens can afford bank accounts.  It is therefore often necessary to send money to NGOs or people one knows personally or whose probity and need are guaranteed at one remove by someone one knows and trusts.  We have ourselves sent money via Western Union to Sukur and Higi refugees in Yola and to the Kinjir Foundation, founded by a former minister in the Adamawa state government personally known to us who has set up a refugee camp in Yola.  Those receiving funds redistribute them to others, usually along kin, community or ethnic lines.

It is our aim to provide potential donors first with access to recent information about events in the Boko-Haram-afflicted areas, and second with a carefully considered list of potential recipients of aid. If donors wish to send aid to a particular group we will attempt to locate suitable recipients.  We will also raise money directly and distribute it through our identified networks.  While there are many worthy causes, it appears to us particularly important to assist victims to return to their homes as soon as possible in order to rebuild their lives and communities.  Schooling, which parents have to pay for, is another high priority since a lost year is hard to recoup.  Our Partners page describes our progress in identifying NGOs at scales from the international to the local capable of making the best use of your donations.

Please note that BHVR neither solicits assistance from nor offers aid to governmental or religious organizations.  We are happy however to offer them professional advice.  Victims or their representatives are invited to contact us through our email: bokharvicrel@gmail.com.

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