By Kieran Guilbert
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nigerian musician Femi Kuti on Monday urged his fellow celebrities and their fans to take to social media and pressure the government to do more to help millions of people struggling to survive in Boko Haram-hit northeast Nigeria.
The Lagos-based Afrobeat star said he wanted to raise awareness among young Nigerians and encourage them to demand a greater humanitarian response, having visited Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, on Monday.
“People need to have a sense of the reality in the northeast – from people walking around hungry to mothers with malnourished children,” Kuti said during his visit to Borno, the heart of Boko Haram’s seven-year campaign to create an Islamic caliphate.
“I hope more celebrities will visit and engage with their fans,” Kuti told the Thomson Reuters Foundation after accompanying the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on visits to local communities hosting the displaced and a health clinic.
“Then more people will see what is going on, share it on social media, and put pressure on the government to do more.”
Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed about 15,000 people and forced more than two million to flee their homes since 2009.
The Nigerian army, backed up by neighbours, has retaken most areas held by the Islamist militants. Yet the jihadist group has stepped up attacks and suicide bombings in the past few weeks as the end of the rainy season facilitates movements in the bush.
While calling on more support and aid for people in the northeast, Kuti said he was struck by the generosity of local communities towards those who uprooted by the insurgency.
“It is heartening to see so many displaced people welcomed into the homes of local families … and community elders offering to give up land to displaced for farming,” Kuti said.
In Maiduguri, which has seen its population almost triple to five million in recent years, there are signs a sense of normality is gradually returning to the city.
The curfew has been pushed back to 10 pm, from 6 pm, and clubs are packed and pulsating as DJs play the tunes of artists like Kuti and his late father Fela, the 1970s Afrobeat pioneer.
Yet there is still much to be done, and many people to help, before Maiduguri can be considered back to normal, Kuti said.
“There are still so many young people who are displaced, who have lost their parents, who cannot go home yet.” he said.” They cannot party, and it is them we must worry about the most.”
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)