In June, five aid workers have become the latest victims of an insurgent group in Borno State, Nigeria. A recording of the five men being executed was recently released. The five brave aid-workers Ishaku Yakubu, Abdulrahman Dungus, Luka Filibus, Joseph Prince, and Abdulrahman Bulama had worked to assist people in need. The Washington Post reported that they had been distributing essential food and medical supplies to remote areas in North-Eastern Nigeria.
The repetitive targeting of aid workers by non-state armed groups has a detrimental effect on peoples’ willingness to provide much needed humanitarian assistance to the region. Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, confirmed that the victims were members of the International Rescue Committee, Action against Hunger, RICH International and Nigeria’s State Emergency Management Agency.
Action against Hunger stated that the “unjustifiable assassination reflects the immense difficulty faced by independent and impartial humanitarian actors, and the violence we are exposed to every day to fulfil our mission, as well as to promote the values of humanity and solidarity that are more necessary than ever.”
Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria wrote in a statement “I strongly condemn all violence targeting aid workers and the civilians they are assisting.” He went on to say “This is tragically not the first killing of kidnapped aid workers. We have repeatedly called for such devastating fate and blatant violation of international humanitarian law to never happen again. And yet, it does. I implore all armed parties to step up to their responsibilities and stop targeting aid workers and civilians.”
“The perpetrators of this atrocity face the law,” read a statement from the Nigerian President’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu. The Nigerian Government attributed the callous act to a violent non-state armed group which has been responsible for multiple massacres and acts of terror throughout the region in the last decade. The Council on Foreign Relation’s Global Conflict Tracker reports that Boko Haram is responsible for the deaths of over 37 500 people since May 2011.
The video of the execution has been circulating the internet with some news agencies sharing it on their social media platforms. Both the public and organisations should refrain from viewing or sharing such objectionable material. Circulating the footage is not only disrespectful to the five men who tragically lost their lives, but also provides publicity for the extremist group and their cause. Videos such as these promote fear among civilians, furthering the insurgent group’s agenda. The humanitarian group, Action against Hunger requests that “the public and journalists respect the dignity and the privacy of the victims by not sharing images or videos that may circulate on the Internet.”
Organisations must uphold International Humanitarian Law and be held accountable when they fall short. Continued violence towards aid workers discourages humanitarian workers from assisting in the conflict-ridden region. As the global pandemic puts further pressure on strained social and medical services, aid workers are needed now more than ever. Reliefweb, an information service, reports that in the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa 10.6 million people require life-saving assistance. Immediate action is needed to stop insurgent groups from acts of brutality.
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