UN chief backs Nigeria’s integration of insurgents, calls it key to peace

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a past press conference on May 12, 2021. (POOL / MAXIM SHEMETOV via CFP)
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a past press conference.  /CFP

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he fully supports moves to expand facilities to reintegrate surrendering militants in northeastern Nigeria because it was a key step to achieving peace in Africa’s most populous nation.

Nigeria has been fighting several militant groups for more than a decade, in a conflict that has killed thousands and forced millions to flee their homes.

As part of efforts to end the conflict, the government is reintegrating fighters who voluntarily surrender.

After visiting a camp that houses fighters who surrendered, Guterres spoke to a news conference saying that the integration programme would help achieve peace

“The governor has told me that you need to create new facilities to be able to have effective reintegration of these ex-terrorists, ex-combatants, and I promised that we would be fully supportive of that project,” Guterres said.

“The best thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate those who in the moment of despair became terrorists but now want to become citizens and to contribute to the well-being of their brothers and sisters.”

Guterres urged continued humanitarian support in Borno, but added that, ultimately, people in camps wanted to return to their homes “in safety and dignity.”

The Borno state government in December started closing some camps for internally displaced people, citing improved security and the surrender of Boko Haram fighters, although humanitarian groups say it is still unsafe for people to return to their homes.

Story compiled with assistance from Reuters