ICC Note: Lost in the news about Islamic terror group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria is the scale of devastation the group is inflicting upon a generation of children. More than 1,000 children have been kidnapped in the last nine months in Boko Haram's deadly campaign to institute an Islamic state in Africa. Boko Haram regularly targets Christians in attacks, but particularly tries to brainwash and abuse children, often forcing many to kill their parents so they have no family attachment on which to fall back for safety.
By Philip Obaji Jr.
Generations of young Nigerians in the northeast of their country are being shaped by the terrors of the war.
LAGOS — “I was asked to kill my parents on the day I was captured,” said 16-year-old Babagana, a former Boko Haram child slave. "I had no courage, so they killed them in front of me.”
“That is how Boko Haram operates,” he told me when I saw him in March in Borno State. “They first take out your parents so you have no one else to fall back to.”
This may be the most tragic fact about the fight raging in northeast Nigeria: It is a war waged by children against children. Minors make up nearly a quarter of Boko Haram’s soldiers. Some recruits are as young as 10 and are inducted by raids on villages. They are brutalized and forced to commit atrocities on fellow kidnap victims and even on their own families. Militants kill children who attempt to escape from captivity.
Recently village militias have been enlisting young kids to fight against Boko Haram, as well. And the plague is spreading.