Security forces were successful in freeing 80 children from the captivity of Boko Haram, but as they continue to work on the children’s rehabilitation, they have now realized that the children rescued do not remember their identities. As Christopher Fomunyoh, the director for the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute, continues to check in on the children since their rescue, it is clear that their time in Boko Haram captivity has done more damage than initially thought. With the captives being so young, many of them do not even hold enough information to help give aids a clue as to who they are or where their family is.
As Boko Haram has killed thousands in their attacks against Nigeria, many of these kids may no longer have families. But if they did, they would no longer be able to remember them, making their chances of reuniting with their families even smaller. All of the children that were rescued by the security forces working to free Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, were able to rescue the 80 kids from captivity, after finding them at a camp in north Cameroon back in November of 2014. All of the children were taken to an orphanage for rehabilitation after their time in captivity. Now, it seems that none of the 80 will be able to go home, unless they can start to remember who they are.
Those rescued were between the ages of five and 18, but none of them speak a language that locals around the orphanage can understand. This language barrier also makes it difficult for the aid workers to work with the children, but the fact that they can not remember anything is the biggest concern of nationals. Not only do they not remember, where they were from, who their family members are, or how to speak, but most of the freed do not even remember their names.
As western education is exactly what Boko Haram is against (as the name means Western education is forbidden), Boko Haram spent most of the time around the captives teaching them jihadist ideology. As the world has learned in the past, Boko Haram incorporates their captives into their group, by marrying the girls and women they capture to their militants and teaching the children their ways and forcing them to join them in their fights. This poses the question of whether the kids just lost their memory from being exposed to their captives for too long, or if the intention of Boko Haram was that the children would forget.
As the security forces continue to push back against Boko Haram, they plan to completely free Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. With an estimated 1.5 million having been displaced due to the attacks of Boko Haram, officials wonder how many other children will be found and how many of them will be able to remember their own identities. For the children who have not been taken captive, however, they also face a terrible fate.
As USA Today reports over 157,000 Nigerians are now refugees, most of them being women and children. Those who are not captured also no longer have families and many of them wish they could forget who they were. Boko Haram has instilled terror in the hearts of children, after killing their families and attacking their neighborhoods. All children of the area are now haunted by the thought of Boko Haram, as they work to find shelter at refugee camps, with only the memories of their family and who they once were.
For now, the children freed from the captivity of Boko Haram remain in the orphanage, with no current hope for any of them to remember their identities. Fomunyoh and rehabilitation aids continue to work with the freed to help them remember anything of their past and break the communication barrier. Until the children are able to remember some trace of their past, officials will continue to have a hard time in rehabilitating them or reuniting them with any family members that may still be alive.
By Crystal Boulware