Women of Gumsuri: The abducted victims of Boko Haram menace


JAMES BWALA writes on 500 women who were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents recently in Gumsuri – a community not too far from Chibok where over 200 schoolgirls went missing courtesy of Boko Haram insurgents who have held them hostage since April last year. He submits that kidnapping of people, mostly women, is on the increase in the North East, though most of the kidnap cases are either not reported or under reported.

THE insurgency in the North East has continued to take its toll on the people of the region, no thanks to Boko Haram terrorists who have killed, maimed and kidnapped the people of the region in droves.

Though under reported, about 500 women, who were kidnapped by the terrorists in Chibok, are still missing, long after over 200 schoolgirls were abducted by the same insurgents early last year.

As if the April 14 kidnap of the schoolgirls in Chibok was not enough, the insurgents still went all out and abducted about 500 women on December 14, 2014 in Gumsuri, thus making the total number of women abducted in the region to be over 700, though sources said the figure of people being abducted daily by the insurgents was more than that.

The Catholic bishop of Maiduguri diocese, Rt. Rev Oliver Doeme Dashe, for instance, declared last year that the church had missed 20 of its priests who were displaced. According to him, the diocese, which has 46 priests, is currently working with only 26 as 20. This gives an indication that the priests could either have been kidnapped or killed by the insurgents.

Residents, who escaped death by a whisker on the day the insurgents launched an attack on the Gumsuri village, said, “They gathered the people, shot over 30 people dead and took away more than 100 women and children in two open-top trucks.”

It will be recalled that the insurgents were reported to have killed 35 people and kidnapped about 500 young women and children in the village.

According to Yana Maina Chibok, who visited the remote village of Gumsuri shortly after the attack, life has not been the same since the loss of the women and killing of people there, adding that what she was in the village was more than what was reported by the media.

She added that the attackers burned down a government medical center, houses and shops in Gumsuri, adding that she was told that the insurgents overpowered a vigilante group which had protected the village and repelled several similar attacks before carting away over 500 women.

No one knows their whereabouts

Like the missing Chibok schoolgirls, no one knows the whereabouts of the Gumsuri women. While some believe that the women must have been distributed among the insurgents, some hold the belief that it is most likely that they are just kept by the insurgents for their sexual gratification.

“To say they are still in Borno is far from it,” remarked Mohammed Gana, a resident of Maiduguri. He stated that the reports doing the round in the state as regards the whereabouts of the women revealed that they had been married off by the insurgents, adding that it would be difficult to know where they were at the moment.

“If it is argued that they are still in Borno, one many then ask where in Borno? The group that is responsible for the kidnap of over 200 schoolgirls and has been holding them hostage since April last year also has the capacity to oversee the kidnap of 500 women and keep them somewhere.

“As far as I am concerned, I don’t believe the women are still in Borno, and if yes, they must have been made to see hell fire, and if released, their lives can never be the same again,” Gana added.

Yohanna Biswak disagreed that the abducted women married off by the insurgents, arguing that most of the women were past their marriageable years.

“Some of them are in their 60s; this makes it difficult for me to believe that they were abducted just because the insurgents were looking for wives. I’m not saying the abduction did not take place; however, its purpose is what I’m confused about here.

“There is more to this abduction. One, 98 per cent of the people abducted are women, the remaining ones are children. Two, the trend of this abduction shows that the insurgents don’t target any particular age group.

“Their interest is mainly in women, either young or old. What this suggests to me is that some of the women are kept for sex, while others are sold. After all, the leader of the group once boasted that he was going to sell the women into slavery,” the civil servant, who resident in Maiduguri, said.

Exodus of people into Maiduguri…

Sunday Tribune finds out that there is exodus of people from most of the Borno villages to the state capital, Maiduguri, for fear of being attacked by the dreaded Islamic sect. Nearly hundreds of people are daily in most motor parks either just arriving or leaving Maiduguri for other towns outside the state.

“Since the villages have been under constant attacks of Boko Haram, it is safer to leave the countryside for towns, though some of the towns are not safe either. However, security of lives and property is more guaranteed in bigger towns than in villages,” Angela Mrs Mathew noted.

Mrs Mathew, who lost her husband in Shuwa when the insurgents attacked it last year, said she took to her heels after the gory encounter her family had with the insurgents.

“I have been living in Maiduguri since May last year when Boko Haram attacked Shuwa. I was born and grew up in Shuwa, same with my husband. One night, the insurgents invaded the village and left many people dead; my husband was one of the affected people. It was God who saved us from the hands of the evil people.

“Maiduguri is relatively better, though it has its own security challenges. I now stay with my husband’s younger sister with our three children,” she said.

Why most of the kidnap cases are not reported

It was also learnt that most of the kidnap perpetrated by the insurgents are left unreported because of the remoteness of the villages where their victims are gripped and taken away.

Most villages in Borno are not accessible, this, it was learnt, explains why government troops have been having difficulty in getting to these villages when Boko Haram strikes.

“I can say categorically that abductions are carried out daily in Borno, and most of the abducted are women,” said Reverend John Damlong of ECWA, Maiduguri.

“It is what you see on the pages of newspapers that you know or made public, but hundreds of women have been taken captive by Boko Haram. What they do with them, I don’t know, but they enjoy coming for them daily,” the cleric noted.