John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Crimes Against Humanity and Nigeria’s Giwa Barracks

by John Campbell
April 1, 2014

A soldier examines a wall riddled with bullets, from an attack by Boko Haram militants, in front of a house in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)


Amnesty International, the London-based non-governmental human rights organization, has issued a report, “Nigeria: More than 1,500 Killed in North-Eastern Nigeria in Early 2014.” Of particular interest is its dissection of what happened on March 14 at Giwa Barracks, the largest military facility in Maiduguri, Borno State.

The report finds that Boko Haram staged a successful break into the detention center and that it released all of those being held. Boko Haram gave those freed the option of joining them or going home. Most chose the home option. Boko Haram then withdrew. Shortly thereafter the security forces reoccupied the facility. With the help of the Civilian Joint Task Force, a locally based vigilante group, the security forces then hunted down all of those who had escaped and murdered most of them. Amnesty estimates that over 600 people were killed.

Amnesty’s report, which is based on eye-witness accounts, also notes that many of the inmates were emaciated and without shoes. Many also had scars indicating abuse. All of the inmates were unarmed.

Earlier, I blogged that according to the media, a senator from Maiduguri stated that 95 percent of those killed in the Giwa Barracks incident were “innocent,” that they were not part of Boko Haram. He also seemed to imply that the security services took advantage the of jail break to murder practically all of the remaining inmates. Amnesty’s report seems to support this argument.

As Amnesty observes, the actions of the security forces are consistent with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

However, the Amnesty report is balanced. It also profiles the rampant human rights violations by Boko Haram.

From the perspective of the security forces, it is difficult to tell who is Boko Haram and who is not. Further, the security services appear to be poorly trained and likely are undisciplined and frightened. Nevertheless, government agencies are held to a higher standard than insurgencies. The question now is: should a conversation begin about possible outsider intervention by an African multinational force into northeast Nigeria?

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    “The question now is: should a conversation begin about possible outsider intervention by an African multinational force into northeast Nigeria?”

    1. This will never fly, the Nigerian Army (which is still very powerful) will never agree to this – and neither will many highly placed Nigerians.

    2. People will also ask “why wasn’t an African multinational force considered when the Nigerian Army massacred civilians in Asaba, Umuechem, Odi & Zaki Biam”?

    3. Who will supply the troops for this “African mulitinational force”?

    4. If the Nigerian Army is hampered by its lack of local terrain knowledge – what magic will this “African multinational force” perform?

    5. This is the modus operandi of the Nigerian Army. They are brutal. They are a colonial army, colonial armies are brutal. Most African armies are colonial armies, so they are brutal.

    6. The only solutions to Boko Haram will come from within Nigeria, not from without.

  • Posted by Patriotic African

    “The question now is: should a conversation begin about possible outsider intervention by an African multinational force into northeast Nigeria?”

    Very good question there. The North-East and other Northern residents are tired of the killings and butcherings. Good luck Jonathan doesn’t care because it’s happening in the faraway North-East, in states controlled by the opposition party APC. Infact, at the rate things are going, elections might not hold in these APC states in 2015. The UN reports that over 1 million people have been displaced by the violence.

    Perhaps Nigeria needs an external intervention. Or perhaps, northerners should pray that the attacks extend to southern states so that all Nigerians will realise that the insurgency is a ‘Nigerian’ problem, not a ‘northern’ problem.

  • Posted by Mustapha Ali

    What most of our eyes have seen and experienced since the beginning of the boko haram crisis in Borno none of the pens could write all. Most of the atrocities committed by the boko haram are undocumented. The perception of the locals and from what we see on ground, there is a great conspiracy between the central government and the boko haram insurgents. The recent interview granted by a serving military officer speaks aloud on the conspiracy theories.

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