Handling surrendering Boko Haram terrorists in Borno
The recent surrender in droves by erstwhile fighters of Boko Haram terrorist group alongside their family members in different parts of Borno has continued to generate opinions and different views among Nigerians.
As at Wednesday, Sept. 22, no fewer than 10,000 repentant terrorists have so far surrendered to troops of the Joint Task Force (North East) Operation Hadin Kai, since they started coming out of their enclaves and camps about three months ago, the Theatre Commander, Maj.-Gen. Christopher Musa, announced.
These terrorists and their families are being received in different locations by the troops and profiled before taking them to the holding cells where further actions are taken in line with international governing surrender in wars.
The insurgency war, which is currently limited to the North East with Borno as the epicentre, started in 2009 in the state when a group of extremists declared war against the state and western education by killing, maiming and wanton destruction both public and private property.
In the last 12 years, hundreds of thousands of lives of the citizens have been lost with millions rendered homeless while many wealthy farmers, transporters and other business owners have been rendered poor.
According to Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, in these years, they were able to cultivate maybe around three per cent of the arable land and as a result, people became dependent on food aid amid donor fatigue and potential food insecurity.
There is need to understand the principles and practice of surrender during war
According to Wikipedia, surrender, in military terms, is the relinquishment of control over territory, combatants, fortifications, ships or armament to another power.
A sovereign state may surrender following defeat in a war, usually by signing a peace treaty or capitulation agreement.
Battlefields surrender, either by individuals or when ordered by officers, normally results in those surrendering becoming prisoners of war.
When the parties agree to terms, the surrender may be conditional; which means that the surrendering party agrees to submit only after the victor makes certain promises.
The leaders of the surrendering group negotiate privileges or compensation for the time, expense and loss of life saved by the victor through the stopping of resistance.
Alternatively, in surrender at discretion, which is unconditional surrender, the victor makes no promises of treatment, and unilaterally defines the treatment of the vanquished party.
However, over time, generally accepted laws and customs of war have been developed for such a situation, most of which are laid out in The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions.
Normally, a belligerent will agree to surrender unconditionally only if completely incapable of continuing hostilities. Traditionally, a surrender ceremony was accompanied by the honors of war.
The Third Geneva Convention states that prisoners of war should not be mistreated or abused; it requires that surrendered persons should be secured and safeguarded while being evacuated from the battlefield.
There is also false surrender which is usually used to draw the enemy out of cover to attack them off guard, but they may be used in larger operations such as during a siege.
Accounts of false surrender can be found relatively frequently throughout history. One of the more infamous examples was the alleged false surrender of British troops at Kilmichael, during the Irish War of Independence.
But analysts have been asking: Why are the terrorists surrendering?
There are several factors that have prompted the recent mass defection of fighters and commanders from the camp of the terrorists such as intensity of military fire power, cut in supplies to their camps, inability to cater for their health needs and those of their family members as well as discontent within the ranks of the terrorists.
One of the recently surrendered terrorists in one of the holding facilities in Borno, told journalists that he and other surrendered colleagues realised that their commanders lied to them on why they were recruited to fight the state.
He added that they also realised that they could not continue to live in the bush and continue to run from the military onslaught.
They noted that they would have surrendered a long time ago but for fear of being captured and killed by the military.
He explained that surrendering is the best thing to do, claiming that he had spent about six years fighting the war but he later realised that they were not fighting any just cause.
“We were afraid that we would be killed if we come out but it is not so because we were received without attacking us and we are also being treated humanely since we came out.
“I want to urge my former colleagues who are still in the bush to come out and surrender because they will be accepted,’’ he said.
The Theatre Commander, Maj.-Gen. Musa, said that sustained onslaught against the terrorists and the window of opportunity provided for them were the main factors that had forced the terrorists to come out and surrender.
Musa, however, advised those that are still in bush to understand that they can never win a war against the state, urging them to disarm and come out and join the nation to develop a greater Nigeria for the future of the younger generation.
“Bandits should not allow anybody to deceive them into taking arms against the nation. They will never win and they can never win.
“So, it is important for them to understand that anybody who disarms will be treated fairly according to international laws,’’ he said.
Similarly, the Acting General Officer Commanding 7 Division Nigerian Army, Brig.-Gen. Abdulwahab Eyitayo, said that one of the reasons the terrorists are surrendering in droves is the overwhelming fire power from the troops.
Eyitayo said that the terrorists are also coming out because of the safety of their families, saying that every man’s endeavour is motivated by his family’s wellbeing.
“The intensified military operations have blocked their logistics’ routes and supplies, bombardments all over, that is why they started surrendering and diseases have overpowered many of them and it is better because in the end, the troops will clear all of them and their sympathisers combined.
He warned that a time would come that the window of surrender would no longer be available, urging the sympathisers of the terrorists to encourage them to come out.
Similarly, critics claim that surrendered terrorists are being pampered, even when it is believed that they had wrecked so much havoc on Nigerians.
The Theatre Commander urged Nigerians to discard the insinuation that the surrendered Boko Haram terrorists are being pampered, stating that the action of the military in receiving the surrendered terrorists was in line with international laws and best practices.
Musa explained that even during combat, when an enemy surrendered, the capturing forces were by law, not allow shooting that individual.
According to him, people should not misunderstand humane treatment to be pampering because if the surrendered terrorist is sick, he is to be treated, if he is hungry, he should be given food as well as provide him shelter just like any other person and that is exactly what the military officers are doing.
“We are just keeping them as humans to ensure that they are fit enough to go through proper procedure and they will definitely go through these procedures.
“Let me assure the public that there is no any aspect of pampering, we are sorting them out so that those that didn’t play any part will be handled separately while those ones that took part actively, the combatants, will be treated separately,’’ he said.
Musa explained that some of those that surrendered were being sorted out, adding there are some that were conscripted forcefully, some grew up in the system without knowing what was going on, while some were held as ordinary slaves and used as farmers.
He assured Nigerians that all the surrendered terrorists would be properly profiled, adding that the law would take its full course.
“Some of the victims are military men, I can tell you that I have lost wonderful officers and soldiers and so, for us to even accept them has been very difficult but professionally we are meant to do that.
“Once we have those windows and they are working we are meant to ensure that we arrest them bring them in and then the nation will take its proper cause through constitution and that is what is going to happen,’’ he said.
On how to manage the repentant terrorists, Musa noted that the terrorists were being secured separately based on their positions and involvement in the fight, assuring that they were not going to be released carelessly.
He explained that the profiling of the surrendered terrorists was being carried out by the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Department of State Services (DSS) and other security agencies.
He also said that the personnel of the National Identity Management Agency (NIMC) were on ground to take their profiles, including their thumbs and pictures for adequate monitoring even if they were eventually released into the society.