Ifem & Ceiling 5

In May, we heard about the soldiers in Borno who shot at a car carrying their commanding officer. The commanding officer was not hurt. The soldiers were angry. Apparently because their (poorly-armed?) colleagues had been ambushed and killed on a road known to be Boko Haram territory.

But it was probably about much more than that single incident.

Their anger must have come from a sense of helplessness, of being poorly-led.

We often hear about soldiers not being paid their allowances, not being fed well, not having the arms and equipment they need, while fighting a guerilla war for which they are physically and mentally ill-equipped. And in territory that is vast and uneven, desert and forest.

Now twelve of them have been sentenced to death.

It feels wrong. It feels immoral.

Mutiny is to rebel or revolt against authority. To refuse to obey orders. It is a serious crime, but mutiny also assumes that the soldiers have been given fair orders.

If a General asks a group of soldiers to turn their guns to their chests and shoot, and they refuse, would that be considered mutiny? No, because it isn’t a fair order.

These men who have been sentenced to death represent the average Nigerian soldier who is fighting Boko Haram, dying, not being acknowledged.

It isn’t merely their orders that are unfair, their very condition of service is unfair.

They should not be killed. It achieves nothing. It will not act as a deterrent either, because if the circumstances remain the same, another group of soldiers will act from a sense of enraged helplessness. The solution is to improve soldier welfare. Give them what they need. Don’t send them to fight battles if they are not properly equipped.

The Army must do its own part, before it can demand so much of its soldiers.

Ceiling and I want to start a public campaign to overturn the death sentences. Question now is how best to do that?