Note: The first part of the series can be found here. If you haven’t read it yet, go through it first before continuing here.
Some of these second generation insurgents have already saw combat against the Nigerian Army (and other Lake Chad militaries), others have been inducted into intel scouting units, seeing use as innocents scouts infiltrating towns, military camps, villages etc to spy for the nsurgent groups, using the dismissive attitude people usually reserve for kids wandering around as their greatest assets.
These kids are for the most part being groomed to rise within the insurgency and assume positions of command in the various groups. They are regarded as the future of the insurgency. They make the most committed fighters, the most loyal adherents, and running this insurgency is what has been designated as their templated future.
So one asks, what happens to these kids? What happens to the thousands of women who harbour some sort of loyalty to the men they were living with or married to within the insurgency? Today, the Nigerian government has rescued hundreds of women and kids from the insurgents as it recaptures one town after the other. A fair proportion of these women are wives of Boko Haram fighters who let them loose to be rescued by the Nigerian Army to allow them move around freely within the combat zone. These women harbour attachments to the insurgents and in a lot of cases, their cause. Others were captured or force-married into the insurgency and suffer from psychological disorders that make them loyal to their ‘husbands’ within the insurgency. What happens to these women? Will their kids be taken away from them? What if no Muslim Nigerian family wants to adopt progeny of Boko Haram fighters? We saw during the moral debate over what should be done to the pregnancies of women freed from Boko Haram that many people across Northern Nigeria justified forcefully aborting all such pregnancies even over the objections of the mothers to prevent some sort of Boko Haram gene from being born into this world. Thus there is no doubt that it will be extremely hard to find parents within the Nigerian Muslim community that will knowingly adopt the progeny of Boko Haram. So will the Nigerian government give the kids to Christian families instead? I can imagine the religious crises that will follow such a decision if made public.
While we wonder what happens to these women and the kids they are in some cases bringing up with the ideology of the insurgents, there are other moral questions that need to be tackled by the Nigerian government. For example, do the rules of engagement permit the Nigerian Army to shoot 14, 15 year old kids bearing arms or serving as spies for the insurgency? If a teen or suicide bomber is captured and is one of these second generation Boko Haram, will that child be prosecuted? Given psychological help and released into society? This brings up even more questions.
Another question the Nigerian government must look at is what if psychological treatment for these kids don’t take? what next? Guantanamo-style administrative detention? Then there is how will the Nigerian State approach those of the second generation Boko Haram that may grow up and succeed the first generation Boko Haram that are killed or captured, putting into consideration that these kids were born into the life of insurgency and had no moral compass/guide to teach them or show them better? As enemy combatants to shot on sight? As victims? There needs to be a serious discussion of these women and kids both within the public space, and within government circles, a discussion that is right now lacking.
Despite the fog that sometimes cloud the moral compass of those who are considering these and many more questions arising from this conflict, one thing is clear though: there cannot be a permanent solution to the Boko Haram Conflict without solving the situation of Boko Haram’s children.