Days of Their Lives

Stories From A Summer in North-East Nigeria

From Baga to Jerusalem

Dorcas Musa was scheduled to be sold on a Thursday. And she knew.

The 13-year old had eavesdropped on a conversation in Kanuri between two members of Boko Haram, the insurgency group that had kidnapped her and four others from her hometown of Baga a few months earlier. One of them had been sold the week before so Dorcas knew that it was only a matter of time before she became a sex slave or child bride.

So she later that night she ran, keeping to the bushes and walking when she felt her energy levels dropping, then running again when she heard any sound. Two days later, she stopped in one of the villages exhausted but luckily she got a free ride to Maiduguri.

Her mother, Esther remembers that they came on the 3rd of May, 2014. They had gone to the farm that morning at 5am and were already working when they heard shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar’. Even before they looked up, they knew that they had company. It was Boko Haram troops.

They killed a lot of the men and boys in Baga who did not manage to escape in time and abducted five teenage girls. Her husband and her seven-year old son were killed and Dorcas, her teenage daughter was one of five abducted girls.

“We ran”, Esther narrates. “We ran all the way out of town, stopping to catch our breaths then running again, until we reached Monguno. Thankfully, the government had sent vehicles there to carry displaced people and so we joined them to Maiduguri.”

In the capital, they were soon relocated to a camp for internally Displaced People just on its outskirts by the bypass. At the camp, someone who had escaped from Chibok mentioned that there was a camp being run by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno State chapter in an area called Jerusalem Wulari. Things were better there, he insisted.

“So we spoke to the camp officials about relocating there and one of the churches under CAN sent a car to take us there.”

One day, they were at the camp when Dorcas walked in. It felt like a dream to a mother who was learning to live with the fact she would never see two of her four children again. A happy dream.

Living in the camp and depending on someone else for life’s basic necessities is strange to her. Before the crisis, she was a petty trader with a thriving business while her husband was a prosperous farmer growing plenty of food for his family and for the markets. In the camp, resources are stretched thin by the increasing number of IDPs coming in.

“Living in the camp is never like living in your own home. Before, they would cook and serve us food, but that is no longer the case. There’s no food here.”

Recently, some officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) visited the camp and drew up a list of widows to be given grants that would empower them to fund their own small businesses.

But Esther’s name didn’t make the list. “They said they would take it in another batch. We are still waiting.”

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