More Voices: Refugee Stories

A further void of enduring relevance are the evolving contexts and experiences of refugees and displaced people. This includes not just the million refugees flowing through Colombia, but the complementary stories from other areas experiencing conflict. For example, the conflict in the North East region of Nigeria is notable for many troubling statistics – over 22,000 people killed, thousands kidnapped, and 1.6 million displaced. Against the 8.5 million people in need of assistance, it can be tough to conceptualize the actual experiences faced on the ground. Yet as the insurgency persists into its ninth year, it is essential to not lose sight of the profound and personalized impacts of armed conflict within the wider context.


“Amina,” born in Gwoza 25 years ago, now resides as many others do within an IDP camp in Maiduguri. Yet like many displaced Nigerians in Borno, this was not a direct nor secure trip from her home LGA. When Amina was 13 she was first married and moved to Bama Town, the home of her first husband, where she resided and raised three boys over the ensuing eight years. Yet when Amina was 21 and eight months pregnant with her fourth child, AOGs attacked Bama Town, killing Amina’s husband, father-in-law, and two eldest sons, while dislodging Amina along with 1.8 million others throughout Borno. Amina and her youngest son’s path, like many others, was tragic in that it involved being forcibly relocated to Halka, an AOG camp in the outskirts of Bama LGA, to endure what would become four years of transitory adversity. “After being kidnapped I was kept under close watch and asked to marry one of my captors, but I refused. But those of us that refused to accept our captor’s ideology were given less food to eat. We were intimidated to marry their members or continue in hunger. I gave birth to my baby in the insurgent’s camp. Unfortunately, the conditions were harsh and my baby died a week after delivery.”

Over the seven months that followed Amina’s arrival in Halka decisions were made to relocate the entire AOG camp to Dirfada, close to the border with Cameroon, a move that further isolated her and pressured her into assimilating into the group. “I was separated from my child who was with me during the move to Dirfada. In Dirfada town I was finally forced to marry one of their members – a commander that lead a whole battalion of AOGs. I eventually took everything in good faith, however, because of the situation I found myself in.” This integration within the AOGs over six months in Dirfada led Amina to follow her husband to Sabir Huda, a camp close to Sambisa Forest. After a year there an attack by security forces evolved into a protracted battle, and their camp was moved yet again father into Sambisa. “It was amidst the fighting that I discovered I was pregnant. My insurgent husband was killed, again, as I was eight months pregnant, while my mother in law helped me give birth to a baby boy and nurse afterwards in the forest. I waited patiently for an opportunity to escape, and fortunately a counter-attack by the Security Forces, as well as the help of my mother-in-law, gave me the opportunity to do so.”

Amina’s journey

Following this latest upheaval, and a two-day walk, Amina found herself in Gajibo, Dikwa LGA, where she was isolated from other IDPs and interrogated. Then after sharing she was from Bama Town, security forces later relocated her there. From Bama, she was finally brought to Bakassi IDP Camp in Maiduguri. “After three years away, I was finally reunited with some of my relations and extended family. But after everything I’ve been through the most painful part of this experience is how I’ve now been rejected by my family because of the child I bore to an insurgent. I’m now all alone in the camp with my baby.”

Where and when she will go next, Amina, like many others, is unsure. For now she cannot leave Bakassi because of the “heterogeneous nature of the community” will stigmatize her child, while similarly being rejected by family members within the camp. “I chose to stay in a neutral ground with cohorts like me so that my relevance will be felt as a human being. I am waiting for government to officially take us back to our ancestral domain so that I can start life all over again.”