Amnesty International yesterday urged Nigeria to act on claims soldiers and members of the civilian militia have raped women and girls in remote camps for people displaced by Boko Haram, while committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The human rights watchdog said it had gathered multiple testimonies about alleged abuse by the security forces, including claims that soldiers coerced vulnerable survivors into having sex in exchange for food. But despite long-standing complaints about sexual violence and repeated promises by the Nigerian authorities that they would address concerns, "no tangible action" had been taken.
Amnesty's Nigeria Director Osai Ojigho said it was time for President Muhammadu Buhari "to demonstrate his frequently-expressed commitment to protect the human rights of displaced people in northeast Nigeria," as reported by Agence France-Presse (AFP). "The only way to end these horrific violations is by ending the climate of impunity in the region and ensuring that no-one can get away with rape or murder."
Women and girls, many of whom have been separated from their families, are vulnerable to sexual abuse and say rape is widespread in and out of the camps, according to aid agencies. Some non-profit organizations run family planning clinics, providing contraception, and say there are high numbers of sexually transmitted infections, abortions and unwanted pregnancies. "Scores" of women told Amnesty that soldiers and civilian militia members coerced them into becoming "girlfriends," which meant being available for sex. In return they got food.
Nigeria has waged a nine-year war against Boko Haram, and its now more powerful offshoot West Africa. The country has fought alongside Cameroon, Chad and Niger and been supported by the United States, Great Britain and France. The conflict has killed more than 30,000 people and spawned one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. For years, rights groups, aid organizations and journalists have documented military abuses with little resulting action from the armed forces.