25.8 C
Saturday, April 4, 2020

Baga remains a ghost town one year after Boko Haram massacre

One year after a massive attack ranked among the worst in Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency, the residents of Baga in northeast Nigeria say their home is a ghost town. 

The jihadists razed the fishing hub on the shores of Lake Chad in a four-day assault beginning January 3 last year, forcing thousands from their homes and killing hundreds of others.

Unlike other Boko Haram attacks, which often go virtually unnoticed outside Nigeria, the Baga massacre made headlines around the world after it was reported 2,000 people lost their lives in the raid and Amnesty International released satellite images showing the ravaged town.

With its charred houses and shuttered businesses, it is hard to believe Baga used to be a lively trading centre of 200,000 people, where merchants would travel to sell cattle, leather goods and trade fresh produce.

“Baga is still deserted, we are all living in camps and homes of friends and relatives in Maiduguri because we are scared of returning home,” Muhammad Alhaji Bukar, a displaced Baga resident, told AFP.

The Nigerian military reclaimed Baga in March and troops patrol its dusty streets today. 

But the town’s enduring emptiness — under 1,000 people are living there now — highlights how difficult it is to get people back home and restore peace to the battered northeast region.

In June, destitute residents of Baga and surrounding villages started trickling back to fish, encouraged by military victories winning territory back from the jihadists. 

The fisherman would sell their catch of catfish and African bonytongue in the key northeast city of Maiduguri, the spiritual home of the insurgency and the restive capital of Borno state.

In the window of calm, about 5,000 residents returned to Baga. But the peace did not last long.

In July, Boko Haram ambushed a lorry carrying people returning home, killing eight Baga residents.

In the days that followed, the militants slit the throats of several fishermen and killed farmers who had returned to harvest their melons.

– ‘We can’t return’ –

The Nigerian army and forces from neighbouring countries, have over the past year been able to flush Boko Haram out from captured towns, but is not able to stop the jihadists from regrouping in the surrounding villages and bush. 

Spurned not crushed, the militants had found cover near Baga in the little islands lined with tall grass that dot the freshwater lake. 

As Bukar Kori, head of the Baga’s traders union, put it: “We can’t return to Baga yet, it is still not safe, especially with Boko Haram lurking on nearby islands.” 

Today, an estimated 700 people are living in Baga, with the majority the town’s former residents staying in Maiduguri.

Its population has almost doubled from two million since 2009, when Boko Haram embarked on its bloody quest to establish an independent Islamic state in Nigeria.

The extremist insurgency has forced over 2.5 million people — just over the population of Paris — living in the Lake Chad Basin to flee from their homes, according to a December report issued by USAID, a United States government humanitarian agency. 

While the Nigerian government insists that Boko Haram has been “largely” defeated going into 2016, the jihadist group continues to wreak havoc by sending out suicide bombers, sometimes in droves.

Last Sunday in an attack lasting 48 hours, the militants invaded Maiduguri unleashing “dozens” of suicide bombers, killing 22 people.

The Nigerian government has acknowledged the monumental task of getting displaced people like those in Baga back home, but has not yet given a concrete plan on how to tackle the issue. 

“There is still a lot of work to be done in the area of security,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in a New Year’s statement. 

“This government will not consider the matter concluded until the terrorists have been completely routed and normalcy restored to all parts of the country.”

Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed 17,000 people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, damaging millions of dollars of infrastructure at a time when the country is facing a cash crush as a result of the plunging price of oil. 

– Aminu Abubakar, AFP

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Latest News

DR Congo say prepared to take part in covid-19 vaccine testing

Amid the controversy generated by the suggestion by two french doctors for a possible covid-19 vaccine to be tested first in Africa, the Democratic...

Kidnapped Mali opposition leader ‘doing well’ as release talks under way

Mali's opposition leader Soumaila Cisse is "doing well" a week after his kidnapping, his political movement said on Friday, as negotiations were under way...

South Africans disregard lockdown as they scramble for meat from crashed truck

Residents of Swalala, outside Hazyview in Mpumalanga, South Africa have broken lockdown rules to steal meat from a truck that was involved in an...

African Heroes of the week – Drogba, Eto’o, Ba

It was Fred Rogers that said, ‘when I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked...

Why Covid-19 supplies from Alibaba never got to Eritrea

Much publicized COVID-19 supplies donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Group never made it to Eritrea, despite Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy...

Gabon bans eating of pangolin and bats amid coronavirus pandemic

Gabon's government on Friday banned the sale and eating of bats and pangolins, which are suspected of sparking the novel coronavirus in China where...

Over 17 000 arrests made in South Africa since coronavirus lockdown

More than 17 000 people have been arrested countrywide over the last week for various crimes and contravening lockdown regulations.Of those, 2 005 were...

Lesotho PM Thabane orders probe into rivals alleged plot to oust him

Embattled Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane on Friday ordered the security forces and intelligence service to probe his party rivals, whom he accused of...

Ethiopia races to increase ventilator stockpile for coronavirus fight

In four years as a doctor in Ethiopia, Rediet Libanos has used a mechanical ventilator just once: on a patient who suffered a haemorrhagic...

Drogba and Eto’o slam French doctors ‘Covid-19 vaccine test trials on Africans’

Two African football legends have condemned comments by two French doctors who recently suggested, in a TV discussion about medical trials for a Covid-19...

More Articles Like This

- Advertisement -
%d bloggers like this: