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Saturday, August 1, 2020

“De-radicalization” of Terrorists Doesn’t Work

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The de-radicalization, rehabilitation, and reintegration of so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists have emerged as one of the centerpieces of the Buhari regime’s governance, which is not surprising given that Buhari had said in the past that government-sanctioned retaliatory aggression against Boko Haram terrorists was an attack on the North.

 Every sober observer knows that de-radicalizing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating remorselessly bloodstained mass murderers into the very societies they drowned in oceans of blood—especially without compensating and mollifying the people they displaced, widowed, and orphaned— is a singularly wooden-headed policy.

But it helps, nonetheless, to look at evidence from research— and from the experiential data of societies that attempted to de-radicalize terrorists. Since Nigeria isn’t the only country that grapples with the question of what to do with— and to—nabbed terrorists, what can we learn from other countries?

The UK has a program that it calls “Desistance and Disengagement Programme,” which works to de-radicalize terrorists. The US state of Minnesota, which has a large number of Somali immigrants and a fair amount of domestic terrorism, also has a “Terrorism Disengagement and Deradicalization Program” designed to jolt terrorists back from the precipice of fatal extremism. So do many countries in Europe and Asia.

The data from the UK is mixed, but it nevertheless provides a cautionary tale for Nigeria. For example, three past beneficiaries of the country’s “Desistance and Disengagement Programme” went on to murder 24 people between 2017 and 2019 in the aftermath of their “deradicalization.” Other countries have similar experiences.

Deradicalization of terrorists is not always a failure, of course. According to the Business Insider, “Between 2001-2012, Malaysia put 154 extremists through deradicalization schemes. Of those, 148 had ‘successfully completed the de-radicalisation programme and were released, without later re-offending,’ the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) wrote in a 2012 paper.”

However, an emerging consensus is that because terrorists are often animated by a single-minded, tunnel vision of society, it is often impossible to be certain that a deradicalization program can reverse their predilection for violence. A 2019 research by the European Union's Radicalization Awareness Network, for instance, concluded that, "Even after the very best of prevention efforts, some individuals still go on to become (violent) extremists."

The Center for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) also said there is "limited evidence about what supports positive change, which makes it difficult to determine if an intervention's approach is likely to be successful."

Similarly, the UK’s Christopher Dean, a psychologist who created a deradicalization program called the Healthy Identity Intervention (HII), admitted that it’s difficult to be certain that a terrorist has been completely deradicalized. “People can get more reassured and confident about change and progress that people are making, but I think we have to be very careful about saying someone has totally changed or has been cured,” the Independent of the UK quoted him as saying.

I don’t know how Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists are being deradicalized and rehabilitated—and I hope someone will systematically study this—but the result of their work stares us in the face. Many of the so-called deradicalized and reintegrated Boko Haram terrorists actually only reintegrate to their former terror cells from where they murder soldiers and civilians alike.

On July 26, for example, a soldier fighting Boko Haram in Borno sent the following social media message that tugged at my heart strings: “Good evening sir. I'm presently in Monguno. I've been wanting to hint you on the recent happenings. During the last two attacks June and July (in Monguno), some of the so called rehabilitated Boko Haram guys- Non State Armed Groups (NSAG) joined their former colleagues in attacking the community and ran back to the BUSH with them. This is to say that the whole rehabitation [sic] narrative is a sham.”

Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Senate, told ChannelsTV on July 30 that a recently “de-radicalized,” “rehabilitated,” and “reintegrated” Boko Haram terrorist murdered his father, stole his father’s cows, and vanished.

“Some of them that returned to Damboa, after two, three days, they disappeared,” he said. “I learnt reliably that even in the course of de-radicalisation, they said they are not willing to come to live with the infidels. This programme really needs to be looked into immediately. I am gathering information and position of my people and even go legal.”

Ndume’s observation has support in research. A German researcher by the name of Daniel Koehler who studied German neo-Nazis and terrorists inspired by religion found that, “The solitary problem for these individuals is always that there’s a global conspiracy against their race or religion; the solitary solution to such persecution is violence, with the goal of placing themselves and their group in control of a revamped society.”

They are not persuaded by moral or theological arguments, he said. He makes the case for “the careful reintroduction of problems and solutions into a radicalized person’s life, so that they can no longer devote all their mental energy to stewing over their paranoia.”

I doubt that the people who are tasked with the responsibility to “deradicalize” Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria—if there are any, that is— have the intellectual resources to do what the German researcher suggested. How do the Boko Haram “deradicalizers” determine that “deradicalized” Boko Haram terrorists have “repented” and are ready to be unleashed to the societies they terrorized before their capture since even people who research the deradicalization of terrorists say no one can be certain that “deradicalized” terrorists won’t relapse to their old ways?

 Plus, people in the communities that the Nigerian government is reintegrating Boko Haram terrorists to don’t want these washed-up terrorists in their midst. Don’t the people’s opinions and preferences matter? TheCable of July 24 reported Borno residents to have told the government to integrate the terrorists back “to govt house or Aso Rock” instead of their communities.

The anger of the communities is understandable. While government is “reintegrating” terrorists, it is disintegrating the victims of the terrorists. While villainous Boko Haram terrorists are pampered, the surviving victims of Boko Haram’s murderous barbarism endure precarious existence in filthy, dangerous Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  It’s like they are being punished by the government for being victims of terrorists’ brutalities.

While Boko Haram terrorists are being treated with excessive indulgence, their victims in IDP camps are serially raped—both figuratively and literally. Babachir David Lawal stole millions from them, and he is still walking free. Umar Farouq Sadiya stole date palms (worth millions of naira) donated to them by Saudi Arabia. She has been rewarded with appointment as minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The cruel irony!

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), women in IDP camps in the Northeast “resort to transactional sex for survival.” Because of the unsanitary conditions of the IDPs, there are periodic outbreaks of cholera that kill scores of people. Plus, even in their state of helplessness, they are still subject to episodic Boko Haram murders.

When a Nigerian Airforce jet bombed an IDP camp in Rann, Borno State, on January 17, 2017 in error, which caused the death of at least 115 people, Buhari didn’t find it worth his while to console them, much less visit them. About three months later, on March 22, 2017, Boko Haram bombed another IDP camp in the Muna Garage area of Maiduguri. Again, there was insouciant silence from the same government that is bending over backwards to please Boko Haram terrorists.

Obviously, the Buhari regime rewards and celebrates homicidal outlaws. Its message to Nigerians is unmistakably this: if they want to be taken seriously and indulged by government, they should be organized, vicious mass murderers.

Boko Haram Rewarded When They Defeat-- and Are Defeated by--Nigeria

First posted on Facebook August 1, 2020

When Boko Haram terrorists capture civilians and soldiers alive, they either murder them in cold blood or release them only when government pays a handsome ransom.

But when Nigerian soldiers capture Boko Haram terrorists alive, they "deradicalize," "rehabilitate" and "integrate" them at the cost of millions. 

In other words, they get rewarded when they defeat Nigeria and again get rewarded when Nigeria defeats them. They win heads or tails. That's so bizarre and twisted!

6 comments:

  1. Well said Prof. I think the entire Presidency need more enlightenment on the nature, cause n intrigues of radicalization n the rise of insurgency.

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  2. The pictures in this article speak volume of what this administration considers to be more important. Examples abound to support Profs submission in the concluding remarks.
    Apart from the so called de-radicalization program, there has been complete silence from the administration on the persistent killings and displacement of farmers by Fulani herdsmen across the country even when the herders claim responsibility for these attacks. The administration instead of fishing out the perpetrator of these attacks and punishing them in accordance with the law of the land has in some instances justified the Herder's heinous actions as revenge killings. This is unheard of! But I guess there is a first for every thing.

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  3. Nothing deradicalises better than a life prison sentence, without the option of parole, which is served in a maximum security prison.

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  4. Prof, nice piece as always. However, there's nothing wrong with de-radicalization and reintegration if indeed the Boko Haram guys embrace it holistically and remorsefully. Your fears are truly allayed but since, it's the first time any government would initiate and implement this type of policy, and no history of same guys returning to radicalization and mayhem, let's just give it a try by keeping our fingers crossed.

    And for the IDPs, efforts should made by same government for reintegration and settlement; enough of the near-pigger-life conditions they've been subjected. I should think theirs should have been first. But honchos of policy makers in PMB's Government won't see it as a necessity because they won't see an avenue to heist the treasure hence they quickly put out this policy forward instead.

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  5. The whole thing about Bokoharam is very complicated with with implicit connivance of persons known but unknown.

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  6. Hmm these leaders call themselves "astute leaders", I doubt if they really and consciously understand what this expression means.

    Stories are circulating now that governor Masari is going to build houses, give cows and money to the repentant bandits that have killed tens of thousand of people in Katsina while the victims are out there roaming the streets and begging to survive.

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