Uprooted by War, Threatened by Boko Haram and Desperate to Go Home

Uprooted by War, Threatened by Boko Haram and Desperate to Go Home by Dionne Searcey, New York Times

… The military and the government have proclaimed that the countryside outside Maiduguri, the busy Borno State capital where Boko Haram was born, is mostly safe now. They’ve said it’s time for most of the nearly two million displaced people - many of them farmers and fishermen fighting to stave off hunger - to go home.

But the soldiers were guiding the throngs of people into a future that was no more certain, and potentially just as dangerous, as the past they had fled…

President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly declared the war with Boko Haram over. The military has chased the insurgents from hiding places in the forest. But the radical Islamist terrorist group is still waging deadly attacks across the countryside. And in some camps for displaced people, new arrivals fleeing the militants are moving in even as others are moving back home.

Caught in the middle are people like Idi Hassan and his wife, who were in the convoy with six of their young children in his truck bed. The Hassans had been living for two years in the squalid camp in Maiduguri, relying on food handouts and eager to get back to their farm north of here, where they hoped to make a living…

Yet insurgents still roam the northeast and frequently crisscross roads like the one that was taking Mr. Hassan and his family home. Just weeks ago, Boko Haram ambushed soldiers along this very highway, killing seven of them…

Since the violence started here in 2009, nearly two million people in northeastern Nigeria have fled their homes in fear of Boko Haram, which has carried out a murderous spree against civilians and members of the military.

Many people fled rural areas to Maiduguri, which has doubled in size as displaced Nigerians have crowded into relatives’ homes or settled into crumbling buildings, bus stations, schoolyards and the thousands of ramshackle thatched huts that dot the edges of the city.

The Borno State government announced plans to close the camps in Maiduguri by the end of May, but said it would keep evaluating the situation. Now, one million uprooted people are making their way back home, according to the United Nations.

Outside the city, military commanders say, all but small pockets of the countryside are now safe…

Read on.

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