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Africa

Cameroon: Sex slaves for Boko Haram

Boko Haram may have abducted children and young women in Cameroon for sex exploitation and suicide bombing. Internally displaced persons were also vulnerable to human trafficking by militant groups.

Yazan Imra, 18, was abducted from the Nigeria-Cameroon border town of Gambarou and taken to one of the terrorists' hideouts. For two years, Imra was sexually abused and is now a mother of a 16 month-old baby. She doesn't know the father of her child.

Since the insurgency began in the early 2000, thousands of young girls and boys have been abducted by Boko Haram militants. Many have been forcefully recruited as suicide bombers, domestic workers and many as sex slaves. "Boys serve as domestic workers and also trained on the use of guns and explosives," Imra told DW. "Girls we were sexually exploited and we also worked as cooks for the fighters," she added.

In the meeting of police chiefs in Cameroon's capital Yaounde last Friday (08.04.2016), it was revealed that thousands of women, children and men were trafficked from Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Equatorial Guinea. The head of Interpol office for central African states, Lawrence Oben Enow, confirmed that the victims were later turned into combatants, sex slaves and spies for the Islamist group.

"Women and children are either sold to rebels in the Central African Republic and Boko Haram terrorists in northern Cameroon or forced to join them," Enow said.

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), said in December 2015 that Boko Haram related violence across the Lake Chad Basin has led to the increased number of refugees in the region. At least 75,000 worst affected Nigerians are still hosted in Cameroon's Far North region and 82,000 internally displaced people affected by the spillover of the conflict to Cameroon since 2013. The UN's children education fund UNICEF says more than 1 million children in northeastern Nigeria and its neighboring countries cannot attend school due to insurgency.

Former abductees ostracized

Cameroonian soldiers (picture-alliance/dpa/T.Graham)

Cameroon soldiers are allegedly holding former Boko Haram recruits in military camps and treating them as terrorists

The UN provides food, shelter and medical assistance to former abductees and refugees. However, many of those who escaped or freed from Boko Haram bases face stigma. "Sometimes we've got problems because they treat us like terrorists," Elias Yega told DW.

Hamidou Mohamat, 21, was kidnapped alongside his three brothers from the Nigerian town of Kumshe and recruited as a fighter. Mohamat escaped and handed himself to the Cameroonian military, and since then he has been held in Minawao military camp. Analysts however, say that those like Mohamat who escape captivity should not be held at a military base but rather be rehabilitated in recognized centers.

Cameroon's senior military official, Alain Mvogo, said that those who hand themselves in are held there for investigation purposes. He added that those traumatized refugees and victims were given special attention and counseling. "The global objective is to free all those who have been held in bondage by Boko Haram and bring back peace to their communities," Mvogo said.

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