The de-radicalization, rehabilitation, and reintegration of so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists have emerged as one of the centerpieces of the Buhari regime’s governance, which is not surprising given that Buhari had said in the past that government-sanctioned retaliatory aggression against Boko Haram terrorists was an attack on the North.
Every sober observer knows that de-radicalizing, rehab-ilitating, and reintegrating remorselessly bloodstained mass murderers into the very societies they drowned in oceans of blood especially without compensating and mollifying the people they displaced, widowed, and orphaned is a singularly wooden-headed policy.
But it helps, nonetheless, to look at evidence from research and from the experiential data of societies that attempted to de-radicalize terrorists. Since Nigeria isn’t the only country that grapples with the question of what to do with and to nabbed terrorists, what can we learn from other countries?
The UK has a program that it calls “Desistance and Disengagement Programme,” which works to de-radicalize terrorists. The US state of Minnesota, which has a large number of Somali immigrants and a fair amount of domestic terrorism, also has a “Terrorism Disengagement and Deradicalization Program” designed to jolt terrorists back from the precipice of fatal extremism.So do many countries in Europe and Asia.
The data from the UK is mixed, but it nevertheless provides a cautionary tale for Nigeria. For example, three past beneficiaries of the country’s “Desistance and Disengagement Programme” went on to murder 24 people between 2017 and 2019 in the aftermath of their “deradicalization.” Other countries have similar experiences.
Deradicalization of terrorists is not always a failure, of course. According to the Business Insider, “Between 2001-2012, Malaysia put 154 extremists through deradicalization schemes.Of those,148 had ‘successfully completed the de-radicalisation programme and were released, without later re-offending,’ the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) wrote in a 2012 paper.”
However, an emerging consensus is that because terrorists are often animated by a single-minded, tunnel vision of society, it is often impossible to be certain that a deradicalization program can reverse their predilection for violence.A 2019 research by the European Union’s Radicalization Awareness Network, concluded that, “Even after the very best of prevention efforts, some individuals still go on to become (violent) extremists.”
The Center for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) also said there is “limited evidence about what supports positive change, which makes it difficult to determine if an intervention’s approach is likely to be successful.”
Similarly, the UK’s Christopher Dean, a psychologist who created a deradicalization program called the Healthy Identity Intervention (HII), admitted that it’s difficult to be certain that a terrorist has been completely deradicalized “People can get more reassured and confident about change and progress that people are making, but I think we have to be very careful about saying someone has totally changed or has been cured,” the Independent of the UK quoted him as saying.
I don’t know how Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists are being deradicalized and rehabilitated & I hope someone will systematically study this but the result of their work stares us in the face. Many of the so-called deradicalized and reintegrated Boko Haram terrorists actually only reintegrate to their former terror cells from where they murder soldiers and civilians alike.