The war against Boko Haram saw kids drafted by both sides. Now they need assistance and a post-conflict future.
Kellumi was abducted by Boko Haram fighters when he was 14. Among the killings he committed after being pressed into the ranks of the infamously brutal Islamist militant insurgency, there is one victim he cannot bear to think about—his own mother.
He turned himself in to Nigeria’s army two years ago. When I spoke to Kellumi in October 2018, whose name has been changed for safety reasons, he was 10 months into a deradicalization program at Operation Safe Corridor, the Nigerian government’s offering for former Boko Haram members. He was still plagued by nightmares from the three years he spent fighting. He asked a staff member at the camp, “Would God forgive me?”
Boko Haram’s exploitation of young people is infamous. Kellumi is just one of at least 8,000 children and teenagers abducted by the group since they started menacing the Lake Chad Basin. They have taken the lives of almost 4,000 more, and beyond that, they have left almost double that number with serious injuries.