Take a sought-after architect, add the king of “new Africa cuisine” and a smattering of famous designers, and you get a concept-store in Lagos that seeks to bring modern African luxury to Nigeria’s ultra-rich.
The chaotic, cosmopolitan metropolis has largely failed to cater for its mega-rich minority despite a big appetite for high-end shopping and eating in a country that houses 11 of Africa’s 50 biggest fortunes, according to Forbes magazine.
So, Reni Folawiyo, a businesswoman married to one of the 11 – multi-millionaire Tunde Folawiyo – decided to create Alara, a four-storey building housing a mix of African fashion, design and art and a selection of work by Western designers, complete with a gourmet restaurant.
Nestled in the heart of Lagos, the store does not attract droves of shoppers in a country where the vast majority still lives on less than $2 a day, but it already has its share of discreet regulars who rarely leave the building empty-handed.
David Adjaye building
The price tags are in dollars and often count several zeroes, aimed at customers who are used to travelling far and wide and shopping abroad.
But while they can afford items in New York and Paris luxury stores, these don’t necessarily always cater for the tastes of African women or their body shape.
“We like colour, we’re dramatic, adornment is our way of expression,” says Folawiyo.
Enter Alara, which she says is geared towards “the flamboyance of the Africans”, from the retro, multi-coloured dresses by Italian-Haitian designer Stella Jean, futuristic glasses by Kenya’s Cyrus Kabiru to the python bags made by Nigeria’s Zashadu.
The store also has a personal shopping service on offer to cater for customers’ varying needs.
“We are specific in terms of our bodies. We don’t necessarily fit into a sort of international mould, in terms of the size and shape,” says Folawiyo.
The building itself – an imposing black and orange-ochre bloc whose square, openwork patterns bring to mind Nigeria’s traditional Adire textile – was designed by David Adjaye.
The store is the first major work on African soil by the British architect of Ghanaian origin, who is also behind Washington’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others.
‘A cultural re-awakening’
It’s a first for Nigerian designer Duro Olowu too, who grew up in Lagos but now spends his time between London and New York.
The man who counts US First Lady Michelle Obama among his customers had initially refused to have his creations sold in Lagos, but was so taken by Alara that he allowed the store to showcase them.
“Lagos was seen as a mishmash of badly presented things,” Olowu says of the 20-million-strong heaving city better known for its giant traffic jams and poor infrastructure.
“I wanted my clothes to be stocked somewhere that represented everything I believed in. And Alara is stylish but also cultural.
“This store is also a place where young people can walk in and be inspired,” he added.
Fashion aside, a gourmet restaurant is also due to open soon on the ground floor.
The menu will be drawn up by Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam, one of the biggest names in contemporary African cuisine who owns several restaurants in New York.
Like Olowu, this is his first collaboration in Africa, which he left in 1989 but still remains his main source of inspiration.
On the menu, dishes that blend African street food with Western classics such as millet and peanut lamb risotto, quail grilled with suya spices typical of northern Nigeria, hibiscus tart served with palm leaf, coconut and lime flavoured ice cream.
“I wanted this place to be a cultural reawakening, bringing what we’ve known as Africans into the new world,” says Folawiyo.
Nigeria on Tuesday marks the first anniversary of Boko Haram’s abduction of 219 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok, as part of a series of events planned around the world.
The commemoration and renewed calls for their release came as Amnesty International said the Islamists had kidnapped at least 2 000 women and girls since the beginning of last year.
The UN and African rights groups also called for an end to the targeting of boys and girls in the conflict, which has left at least 15 000 dead and some 1.5 million people homeless, 800 000 of them children.
The focus of the one-year commemoration was on Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, where a vigil has been held demanding the girls’ immediate release almost every day since they were kidnapped.
In New York, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign said the Empire State Building would be lit in its colours of red and purple, to symbolise an end to violence against women.
Prayers, candlelit vigils and marches have been held or are planned and campaign group member Habiba Balogun said it was important to mark the anniversary.
“It’s wonderful that the world is remembering and… sending the message that we are not going to forget and we are not going to stop until we know what has happened to our girls,” she told AFP.
Boko Haram fighters stormed the Government Secondary School in the remote town in Borno state on the evening of April 14 last year, seizing 276 girls who were preparing for end-of-year exams.
Fifty-seven escaped but nothing has been heard of the 219 others since May last year, when about 100 of them appeared in a Boko Haram video, dressed in Muslim attire and reciting the Koran.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has since said they have all converted to Islam and been “married off”.
The mass abduction brought the brutality of the Islamist insurgency unprecedented worldwide attention and prompted a viral social media campaign demanding their immediate release.
Nigeria’s government was criticised for its initial response to the crisis and was forced into accepting foreign help in the rescue effort after a groundswell of global outrage.
The military has said it knows where the girls are but has ruled out a rescue effort because of the dangers to the girls’ lives.
In a new report published on Tuesday, Amnesty quoted a senior military officer as saying the girls were being held at different Boko Haram camps, including in Cameroon and possibly Chad.
The Chibok abduction was one of 38 it had documented since the beginning of last year, with women and girls who escaped saying they were subject to forced labour and marriage, as well as rape.
‘I forgive Boko Haram’
#BringBackOurGirls organisers thanked supporters across the world, from ordinary men, women and children to public figures such as US First Lady Michelle Obama and Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.
The girls were “the symbol for the defence of the dignity and sanctity of human life, of the girl child, women, for all those oppressed, repressed, disadvantaged, hurting, unsafe,” they said.
“We must prioritise their safe return,” they said in a statement last week.
Malala, who was shot and nearly killed by the Pakistani Taliban for advocating girls’ education, on Monday published an open letter to the Chibok girls, describing them as “my brave sisters”.
The 17-year-old criticised Nigerian and world leaders for not doing enough to help secure their release and called the girls “my heroes”.
Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan’s government has been accused of indifference to the fate of the girls after initially trying to downplay the size of the kidnapping and even deny it had happened.
Jonathan’s election defeat last month to former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari has raised hopes of a breakthrough. He has vowed to “spare no effort” to destroy the militants.
Twenty-one of the 57 girls who escaped are currently studying at the American University of Nigeria in Yola, the capital of neighbouring Adamawa state.
They told AFP in an email exchange with university staff they were hoping to make “positive future changes, not just in Chibok, but in our country and the world”.
The kidnapped girls were in their thoughts and prayers every day, they said, but they did not blame Boko Haram foot soldiers.
“I forgive Boko Haram for what they have done and I pray God forgives them, too,” said one.
Maimuna Abdulmunini was just 13 when she was arrested for burning her 35-year-old husband to death.
The legal process dragged out over five years. Finally in 2012, when she turned 18, Abdulmunini was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Today, despite a court ruling six months ago that the sentence is a violation of her rights, she is still on death row, waiting.
Wasila Tasi’u is 14 but has been in a prison in Gezawa, outside the city of Kano, for the last five months. She too faces the death penalty for allegedly murdering her 35-year-old husband, Umar Sani, and three others at her own wedding party.
Soon after she was arrested, Tasi’u told her lawyer Hussaina Ibrahim that she had been tied to the bed and raped by Sani on their wedding night. When she appeared in Gezawa high court for the first time back in the autumn, she could barely say her own name, turning her back to the court when the charges were read, breaking down in tears.
Her trial resumes on Wednesday, March 11. A strike by judicial staff, coupled with the customary delays in the Nigerian legal system, has meant that she has been incarcerated since October, with limited access to her mother and father. Tasi’u is struggling to cope with her current situation, according to Ibrahim. Once described as a “jovial” and “intelligent” teenager, Tasi’u is now withdrawn and scared.
Nigeria’s legislation The Nigerian government made child marriage illegal in 2003, but according to campaigners from Girls Not Brides, 39% of girls in the country are still married before the age of 15. In the Muslim-dominated northwest, 48% of girls are married by the age of 15 and 78% are married by the time they hit 18. In Kibbe state, the average age of marriage for girls is just 11 .
The Child Rights Act, which raises the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18, was introduced in 2003. But the legislation, which was created at a federal level, is only effective if it is passed by state governments. To date, only 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states have passed the act . The legislation is yet to be passed in either Abdulmunini or Tasiu’s home states.
Within Nigerian politics the issue has proved controversial, not least because politicians have a habit of marrying teenagers. Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, representative for Zamfara West in northern Nigeria, made headlines back in 2010 when he married a 13-year-old Egyptian girl. Three years later he persuaded his fellow Senators to defeat a motion that would have removed a constitutional loophole that means girls under the age of 18 are considered adults as soon as they get married.
Now, with less than three weeks to go before the country goes to polls in the presidential election, the issue has taken on a political edge. Ibrahim says the government doesn’t care about the girls forced into marriage, claiming that politicians could have Tasi’u released if they really wanted to.
A senior lawyer at the International Federation of Women Lawyers in Kano, Ibrahim is currently dealing with 54 cases related to child marriage, including a 12-year-old charged with attempted murder and an 11-year-old who attempted suicide and ran away from home a week before she was due to marry a 45-year-old.
Ibrahim starts her working day at three in the morning, before prayers and taking her children to school. As a woman in a high-powered job, she faces regular harassment from opponents, as well as the general sexism that punctuates her dealings with state officials and members of the police force.
“I am frustrated. There is a real problem with access to education in this region. The government could take steps to address this, but it is yet to do so. Better access to education could have a real impact on child marriage. It’s easy to get the sense that those in charge in the south don’t care about the people of the north. The election has been so focused on terrorism and Boko Haram that other issues are being lost,” she says.
Reluctant politicians Maryam Uwais, a lawyer based in northern Nigeria, who “grew up watching girls being married off all around” her, suggests that politicians in the north of the country are reluctant to come out against child marriage for fear of losing popular support. “Many of our northern politicians seem to think that taking a stand against pegging the minimum age for marriage would be synonymous with taking a stand against the Muslim faith. The religion has been misinterpreted to convey that child marriage is encouraged in Islam, whereas contextual interpretations would suggest the opposite,” she says.
“Child marriage is prevalent in many of the communities where poverty is endemic. Parents (and fathers especially) actually benefit from the dowry and extras that their daughter’s suitor contributes to the family of the girl child.”
The lawyers representing Maimuna Abdulmunini are equally frustrated with the Nigerian political system. Angela Uwandu works with Avocats Sans Frontières in Abuja. Together with Jean-Sebastian Mariez, who works for the organisation from Paris, she took Abdulmunini’s case to the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) Court of Justice.
Attempts to have Abdulmunini released In June 2014, after granting her an injunction to prevent her being executed four months earlier, the court said the decision to sentence Abdulmunini to death for a crime committed when she was a minor was a violation of her rights. In its judgement, the court also noted a number of flaws in the original trial. The issue of her age had been ignored by both sides, while lawyers for the prosecution argued that Abdulmunini’s desire to keep her newborn baby with her while she was incarcerated was just a cynical attempt to gain sympathy.
Lacking the authority to order her release, the Ecowas court can only urge the Nigerian government to follow its judgment. ASF’s lawyers have been lobbying to ensure this happens but so far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
A separate criminal appeal has been filed by Abdulmunini’s lawyer at the national level challenging the death sentence conviction by the High Court.
Abdulmunini, who Uwandu described as being “overjoyed” when she heard the regional court had decided to strike down her sentence back in June, is now dejected.
She is currently separated from her three-year-old daughter – the result of a relationship she had while out on bail – and is living in an overcrowded cell with six other inmates.
Françoise Kpeglo Moudouthe, head of Africa engagement at Girls Not Bride, is calling on the Nigerian government to do more to tackle child marriage.“If nothing is done, it’s clear that Nigeria – and other countries where child marriage is prevalent – will continue to fall short in its efforts to improve the education, health and wellbeing of millions of its citizens.“It’s important to remember that many parents marry off their daughter as a child because they believe it is the best and safest option for her future. The government of Nigeria must do more to empower girls and ensure their access to safe secondary schools, and other services, if parents are to see that they and their daughters have other options to child marriage.”
Asking about them in polite society usually causes raised eyebrows and mumbles about their inappropriateness, but you don’t need to be a private detective to discover that they’re bought, sold and used almost anywhere you care to look on the continent.
At the same time though, the sale of sex toys is illegal in many countries where they’re being sold, although some governments don’t even bother putting the trade on the books, seemingly relying on social shame – which is fading fast – as a means of regulation. Nonetheless, even where selling them remains illegal, sex toys still manage to creep across the border.
Basically, what seems to be happening is that the governments are anti-sex toys, but the people aren’t. The internet has made it easier for anyone who wants a sex toy to bypass the law, but it is the importers who shoulder the risks, since they’re the ones likely to have their good seized at Customs. This probably accounts for the relatively high prices of sex toys in many countries.
So what does this mean for the continent’s sex toy trade, where there’s a market but being a supplier isn’t always something you can broadcast in public?
Countries such as Zimbabwe and Mauritius have actively said “no” to bedroom trinkets but, being popular holiday destinations, there are websites that offer tips on how to “sneak your sex toy in when going on holiday”.
The situation in a few countries:
South Africa says OK to a little sexual aid
Sex toys are very much legal in South Africa. But before you shout “Of course they are, it’s South Africa!”, you might be surprised to learn that it’s only in the last decade that it stopped being illegal for South Africans to manufacture or sell sex toys. We have the enlightened apartheid government for the Immorality Amendment Act of 1969 prohibiting the sale of any item “intended to be used to perform an unnatural sexual act,” an amendment apparently intended to prevent the use of dildos by lesbians. Gratifying to be able to report that South Africa now has one of the most liberal constitutional and legal frameworks in the world on matters sexual.
What that means in South Africa today is that you cannot throw a stone anywhere in the country without hitting an Adult World, its branches so dark and seedy (at least all the ones I’ve seen) that you worry you’ll catch an STD just walking in. If they own any chic, couples-friendly branches, I haven’t come across them yet, and don’t know anyone who has. (Incidentally, the chain, which has 60 stores nationwide, is currently embroiled in a tiff with the ANC for opening a store opposite Parliament in Cape Town.)
Adult World’s selection of products ranges from videos for all tastes (BDSM, lesbian porn, women in cheerleader outfits) all the way to 10-inch long replicas of male genitalia.
There are more tasteful shops around, such as the Whet Sensuality Emporium in Cape Town (more tasteful, no doubt, because it’s women- and couples-oriented; they even manufacture their own lubricant) whose owner also gives advice to couples in her consultation room. This is beautiful cream room decorated with orchids, lounge chairs and futuristic sci-fi sex toys that look like they travelled back in time from the year 2085.
There is also the annual Sexpo, showcasing the best of the best in terms of sex toys, clothing (costumes) and general erotica. Then there are clubs like the Pharoah Private Fantasy Club where they ask “Whats your flava?” Okay, I’m not sure if that has anything to do with sex toys, but I like their opening question. Not to mention the hundreds of online stores such as HoneyHoney and FemmeSensuelle.
Discreet unmarked packages
Taboo surrounding sex toys in Kenya has pretty much faded, especially in Nairobi where more and more sex shops are opening, offline (River Road is where to go, although be warned, it’s also where to go for anything from AK47s to fake death certificates or Harvard Masters certificates, printed while you wait, no less) and online. The latest to join the online fray is wittily called Bored of Men.
Kenyan laws prohibit the sale of pornography and “obscene materials,” but according to Nairobi lawyer Humprey Manyange, there is no law in Kenya that prohibits the sale, distribution or circulation of sex toys under the Penal Code or any other law. He added, though, that “…there should be caution on the mode of display and selling to avoid the disturbance of public peace and breach of public morality”.
Kenyans are spoilt for choice online with stores like Doctor Crocodildo, Pazuri Place (who claim to have delivered over 1 300 packages since 2009), RahaToys (“If you are in Nairobi, we send the delivery guy to bring the item to you” – now that’s service!) , The Secret Kenya and kenyasecrets.com (“the finest and biggest collection of sex toys in Kenya,” with same-day deliveries) – don’t ask me why my Kenyan brothers and sisters are in such a hurry to get hold of their sex toys. Door-to-door delivery and the more relaxed attitude towards sex toys means Kenyans no longer need to have their sex toys mailed in “discreet unmarked packages,” which was the case for years. Women are now spending up to 10 000ksh ($112) on vibrating bullets, but you also have shops like RahaToys where you can get a super stretchy gel erection ring for the low low price of 420 Ksh ($4) or a ‘Fetish Fantasy Series Door Swing’ for 5 590 Ksh.
And if you’re after a sex doll, you can get one of those, too.
Sex toys on the (not so open) market
In Zimbabwe, Vannessa Chiyangwa, the daughter of a well known businessman (who also happens to be a former Zanu-PF MP as well as a cousin of Robert Mugabe) caused tongues to wag not too long ago for holding sex toy auctions in Harare . If you’re going to sell them, might as well keep it classy with an auction. She also held peep shows whilst selling a selection of lingerie to further boost business. All of which was labelled “immoral” by government officials.
That enterprising lady’s case actually revealed a contradiction in the government’s official position on sex toys. According to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s director of legal and corporate services Florence Jambwa, the importation of the toys into the country is prohibited under the Customs and Excise Act. However, Censorship Board secretary Isaac Chiranganyika said whoever intended to import or trade in sex toys had to seek permission from the board. He also said, “Anyone who wants to do that business should first bring them [toys] to our offices for approval.” The Board’s staff members must test drive the products, after all. For quality control purposes, of course. But joking aside, this is confusing. It’s illegal to import sex toys but you must have your sex toys approved by the board before you’re allowed to sell the illegal imports? Perhaps the government is trying to encourage local sex-toy manufacturing.
According to this article in The Standard, people have been caught smuggling sex toys into Zimbabwe, and some of the main culprits have been foreigners attending the Harare International Festival of The Arts (Hifa). Apparently, it’s during the festival that officials confiscate the highest number of sex toys. Arty folk, eh? But seriously, this is probably an attempt to diss lefty Hifa with it’s “foreign” connections.
The board says they’ve kept all the vibrators and dildos impounded over the past two years (most of the sex toys are for use by women, but there are some ‘female organs’ among the contraband), a claim contradicted by Florence Jambwa who says they destroy all the sex toys they confiscate. Sounds like the Censorship Board members are having a whale of a time at home.
Sex dolls, door swings and same day delivery
If you read about Nigerians and their sex toys on This Is Africa recently, you probably assumed sex toys were legal in Nigeria. Nope. Contraband, according to government officials.
Nigerians might come over all abashed when you raise the topic in public, but sex toys are starting to become more popular in the country, even in the northern States that abide by Sharia law, but either government officials have enough wahala on their hands to add chasing after sex toy importers to the list or they know they’ll be onto a losing battle if they do.
The ownership of sex toys knows no age, social class or marital status barriers in Nigeria. In Lagos, one newspaper journalist found more than 20 shops selling sex toys (mostly small stalls), and one trader, who preferred to remain anonymous, said most of his customers were couples, with the male partners saying they preferred to have a toy as a “competitor,” rather than another man. On the other hand, another trader said she had to take her business online because people who had the “balls” to enter her shop just browsed a lot without buying much. Her sales went up by 120% with the move.
They reportedly saw this as “a sign of the end and the beginning of Sodom and Gomorrah” aka “Jesus is coming”.
According to the product specifications, the dolls’ skin texture was “99.8% human texture,” but with a price tag of $6 000 they’d better be, right? Clearly imported for the rich, these super dolls. What about the man on the street, I ask. The dolls last two years, are completely adjustable to any position, have a hundred sensors all over the body (including thirty in/on the private parts), get “wet,” and moan when penetrated. The “best money you will ever spend,” according to one man who is either the sole importer or a very, very happy customer. No wonder my Nigerian sisters were in an uproar.
One woman wondered “…what technology is turning the world into; even my husband saw it on the internet and he developed interest in it. My fear is if he gets it, it will be the end of our marriage.” Another was certain her husband would go for it, but said it was none of her business. One randy commenter said he’d forego a car to buy such a doll!
For those not wishing to sell or forego their car or break the bank, there’s Intimate Pleasures (Nigeria’s first online sex shop catering specifically to women), the owner of which, feminist writer and human rights activist Iheoma Obibi, also holds “Wellness and Intimacy” afternoon sessions.
There are shops selling sex toys in Ghana, offline (in Accra, at least; some street hawkers even sell them) and online (Area 51, GH erotic; you can even WhatsApp your order), though, again, the government considers sex toys “obscene” and has been known to close down sex shops. Women in Swaziland throw “product parties,” and have been calling on the government for years to legalise the sale of sex toys, stating that there’s no valid reason why women should be deprived of their inviolable right to choose how they pleasure themselves.
This appears to be a case of governments failing to move with the times, and to comprehend the reasonable desires of their citizens. I’m willing to bet that all the officials making it unnecessarily difficult to get hold of sex toys own sex toys themselves.
Governments, we want our sex toys, and we will get them any way we can, whether you like it or not!
Kagure Mugo is a freelance writer and co-founder and curator of holaafrica.org, a Pan-Africanist queer women’s collective which engages in activism and awareness-building around issues of African women’s identity, experiences and sexuality. Connect with her on Twitter: @tiffmugo
Boko Haram says it is building an Islamic state that will revive the glory days of northern Nigeria’s medieval Muslim empires, but for those in its territory life is a litany of killings, kidnappings, hunger and economic collapse.
The Islamist group’s five-year-old campaign has become one of the deadliest in the world, with around 10 000 people killed last year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Hundreds, mostly women and children, have been kidnapped.
It remains the biggest threat to the stability of Africa’s biggest economy ahead of a vote on February 14 in which President Goodluck Jonathan will seek re-election.
But while it has matched Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in its brutality – it beheads its enemies on camera – it has seriously lagged in the more mundane business of state building.
“The Islamic state is a figment of their imagination. They are just going into your house and saying they have taken over,” said Phineas Elisha, government spokesperson for Adamawa state, one of three states under emergency rule to fight the insurgency.
Unlike its Middle East counterparts wooing locals with a semblance of administration, villagers trapped by Boko Haram face food shortages, slavery, killing and a lock down on economic activity, those who escaped say.
“(They) have no form of government,” Elisha, who saw the devastation caused by Boko Haram after government forces recaptured the town of Mubi in November.
Boko Haram, which never talks to media except to deliver jihadist videos to local journalists, could not be reached for comment.
‘Muslim territory’ Boko Haram’s leaders talk about reviving one of the West African Islamic empires that for centuries prospered off the Saharan trade in slaves, ivory and gold, but they demonstrate little evidence of state building.
In August a man saying he was Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau – the military says it killed Shekau – issued a video declaring a “Muslim territory” in Gwoza, by the Cameroon border.
There were echoes of Islamic State’s proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria two months earlier. Boko Haram controls an area just over 30000 square km of territory, about the size of Belgium, according to a Reuters calculation based on security sources and government data.
But while in Syria, after initially brutal takeovers, Islamic State has tried to win over communities, those who escaped Boko Haram say the rebels do little for them beyond forcing them to adopt their brand of Islam.
“They provide raw rice to cook, the rice that they stole from the shops. They provide a kettle and … scarves to cover up the women,” said Maryam Peter from Pambla village.
“People are going hungry. They are only feeding on corn and squash. No meat, nothing like that. The insurgents are not providing anything else,” she added.
Maryam said most daily interactions with the militants involved them questioning villagers on their movements and forbidding them from trying to escape – a rule she managed to flout when she fled a week ago.
A government-run camp in a former school is now her home, along with 1 000 others, where mothers cook on outdoor fires while children run around. Some 1.5 million people have been rendered homeless by the war,Oxfam says.
Bodies pile up And those the militants kill, they often fail to bury. The first thing the Nigerian Red Cross has to do when a town falls back into government hands is clear the corpses, Aliyu Maikano, a Red Cross official, told Reuters.
After the army recaptured Mubi in November, Maikano had to cover his nose to avoid the stench of rotting corpses.
Those still alive “were starved for food, water, almost everything there. There’s no drinking water because (in) most of the wells there you’ll find dead bodies,” Maikano said.
Many residents looked tattered and malnourished, and some were unable to speak.
“They are heartless. ISIS (Islamic State) is a kind of organised group, it’s a business. These guys are not.”
A former resident of Mubi said the rebels had renamed the town “Madinatul Islam” or “City of Islam”.
But when government spokesperson Phineas Elisha walked into the Emir’s palace after its recapture, everything had been looted, even the windows and doors.
“Mubi was a ghost town … Virtually all the shops were looted.” he said. It took him hours to find a bottle of water.
Sometimes the rebels simply loot the unprotected villages and hide out in bush camps, security sources say.Murna Philip, who escaped the occupied town of Michika five months ago, said a few dozen fighters had occupied an abattoir, a school and a lodge, but little else.
To survive under their watch you have to pretend to support them, said Andrew Miyanda, who escaped the rebels last week, walking for days to the Benue river.
“They would write Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (Boko Haram’s full name) on their trouser legs in marker or the back of their shirts,” he said. “You had to turn up your trousers with the marker on to show that you are a member.”
Buildings were torched and boys were abducted for “training”, he said, a practice reminiscent of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army.
Slowly, with the help of traditional hunters armed with home made guns and a reputation for magic powers, government forces have pushed Boko Haram out of some of its southern possessions.
Morris Enoch, a leader of the hunters, says they found an arsenal of military weapons: rocket launchers, machine guns, dynamite, anti-aircraft guns and grenades.