Program Insight: The screening process of disengaged Boko Haram associates in Niger
Keywords:Disengagement, Screening, Triage, Rehabilitation, Prosecution, Boko Haram, Niger
In an attempt to facilitate transition from conflict to peace, Disengagement, Disassociation, Reintegration and Reconciliation (DDRR) initiatives are key in fostering national dialogue and reconciliation. While much literature exists on the disengagement component of the process, very few scholars have documented in detail the screening phase and its challenges. Indeed, the screening phase is critical to ensure the success of a DDRR program, especially in contexts dominated by non-state armed groups (NSAGs). This publication examines how the Government of Niger (GoN) implements the screening process for disengaged combatants associated with Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa (BH/ISIS-WA). Thanks to the screening process, this article also explores the linkages between BH/ISIS-WA surrenders and judicial actors, as an opportunity to collect information on arrested associates in an environment with weak state presence characterized by heightened insecurity. The Government of Niger has made progress in the treatment of defectors by updating its legal framework, through the creation of a National Program on disengaged combatants and the set-up of an action plan to seek international support. The GoN is therefore trying to align itself based on respect for the International humanitarian laws and United Nations resolutions, in order to promote the human rights of both BH/ISIS-WA repentants and the communities into which they integrate. Additionally, the GoN strives to integrate lessons learnt from other Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programs dealing with Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) across the African continent, in particular the case of Somalia. The overall process is managed by the Ministry of the Interior (MoI) but includes several other governmental agencies as well. In some instances, parts of the DDR implementation chain benefit from the support of international partners. The author of this article was in charge of providing technical assistance to the Government of Niger in developing a national strategy for disengaged persons associated with BH/ISIS-WA. He also assisted state actors to implement program components, such as the screening phase and the legal framework.
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