Boko Haram: 4,000 Child Soldiers Regain Freedom

Mohammed Bello Doka

In a heartening development, 4,204 children who were recruited by the notorious Islamist group Boko Haram in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States have been freed from detention. The emotional handover took place on Wednesday in Maiduguri, Borno State, where these brave youngsters were released from military custody and entrusted into the care of the state governments.

This significant milestone was achieved through the implementation of the Handover Protocol, a groundbreaking agreement signed in 2022 between the Federal government and the United Nations. The protocol ensures that children associated with armed conflict are swiftly removed from military facilities and reintegrated into society.

Samuel Sesay, the Child Protection Manager of UNICEF's Maiduguri Field Office, presided over the momentous occasion, which marked the culmination of a two-day task force meeting focused on the successful execution of the protocol. He explained that this step-by-step procedure guarantees the prompt release of children who either escape from the clutches of armed groups or are freed by insurgent forces, ensuring they spend minimal time in military facilities.

During the ceremony, the children were handed over to officials from the Ministries of Women Affairs in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States. Zuwaira Gambo, the Borno State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, applauded the dedicated efforts of all involved in establishing and implementing the protocol. She stressed the importance of executing the framework effectively, as it presents unique challenges such as integrating children associated with armed conflict back into society and providing economic opportunities for adolescents.

All stakeholders present at the event were urged to comprehensively address child protection concerns while upholding the guiding principles of child rights. These principles include prioritizing the best interests of the children, promoting non-discrimination, ensuring active participation of the children themselves, and safeguarding their right to life and development.

Commissioner Gambo concluded by emphasizing the need for timely action, urging everyone to ensure that any child alleged to have been associated with armed groups is handed over to the Ministry for Women Affairs within seven days and provided with a comprehensive welfare package. Only through collective dedication can these children be given the chance to heal, thrive, and build a brighter future free from the horrors of armed conflict.

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