Violence in northern Nigeria drives people away | Africa | DW | 22.06.2012
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Africa

Violence in northern Nigeria drives people away

Nigerian security forces are adopting different measures including imposing curfews to try and prevent further attacks by Boko Haram. In the city of Maiduguri, fighting has ceased, but life is at a standstill.

Maiduguri is a ghost town. Two weeks after soldiers from the army's elite unit JTF and suspected members of the islamic sect Boko Haram fought running battles, many houses remain empty. The streets are deserted safe for some fierce looking soldiers manning check points.

Nigerian men stand outside a bar near the scene of a bomb blast in Northern Nigeria (FILE).

Life in some places in Northern Nigeria has come to a standstill because of the violence.

"I never thought that I will be a refugee in my own town one day", a local community leader who wished to remain anonymous told DW. While he is putting up at a friend's house, his wife and children went back to his mother-in law. Most of the displaced are living with friends or family in other parts of town. Some people are said to have fled to countries as far away as Chad, Niger and Cameroon.

Home of one million people

The city is normally home to more than one million people but has been one of the places hardest-hit by violence. More than 1.000 people are said to have died in North Nigeria in the last years. "Life is very difficult, I am separated from my husband and my children because of the fighting. Every time there is a fight, we have to leave our house to other places", a young mother told DW.

Nigerian boys sift through the remains of the Gamboru market after multiple explosions (FILE). Photo by EPA/STR.

Public places like markets are among those targeted by extremists.

Many residents blame the Joint Task Force - an elite unit of Nigeria's military- of committing human rights violations. The army has denied killing or injuring innocent civilians, saying that it's mission is to clamp down on suspected members of Boko Haram.

The islamic movement known as Boko Haram is also still active in the area. At the end of May, suspected members attacked a church in Maiduguri. Five people, including the priest, were shot.

"Need for proper dialogue"

Even though violence is a constant problem at the moment, dialogue seems to be the only way out. The North East Chairman of Muslims Christians Peace Initiatives, Aminu Sidi, is calling for talks. "It's the responsibility of the northeners, the responsibility of society in the north and the responsibility of the government to make sure there is proper dialogue", he told DW.

But as he spoke, houses in the so-called "red-spot areas" remain closed as many residents are still too afraid to come home.

Author: Ahmed Mohammed/jp
Editor: Daniel Pelz

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