MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday…

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday praised Nigerian authorities’ ongoing reintegration of defectors from the jihadist group Boko Haram, which has led a decade-long insurgency, as “the best thing we can do for peace”. .”

Speaking to reporters in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state where the insurgency is centred, António Guterres also called for more global funding to help rebuild lives in northeast Nigeria, where rebels operate.

“The best thing we can do for peace is to reintegrate those who, in a moment of desperation, became terrorists but now want to…contribute to the well-being of their brothers and sisters,” said the head of the UN after meeting ex-militants at a rehabilitation camp in Maiduguri.

The Nigerian military said in March that 1,629 of the veterans had so far graduated from the reintegration programme.

In the final leg of his three-nation West African tour, the UN chief visits Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, for the first time, where he appealed to the world’s donors to support humanitarian aid in the northeast.

Boko Haram, Nigeria’s Islamic extremist rebels, launched an insurgency in 2009, to fight against Western education and to establish Islamic Sharia in Nigeria.

Their rebellion has spread over the years to neighboring West African countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Boko Haram was condemned by the international community in 2014 when it abducted 276 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok, more than 100 of whom are still missing.

Ahead of his trip to Nigeria, Guterres was in Niger on Monday where he expressed deep concern over jihadist violence in the Sahel, the vast semi-arid area south of the Sahara Desert. “The international community must realize that this is no longer just a regional or African problem, but a global threat,” he said.

In Nigeria, António Guterres visited a camp for people displaced by violence.

“People I met today want to go home,” he said. But before they return, he said, the authorities must put in place the necessary conditions – “security conditions, development conditions”.

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Jihadist violence has directly led to the deaths of around 35,000 people and the displacement of at least 2.1 million people, according to data from UN agencies in Nigeria.

“I will be your advocate in asking the international community to support and invest in the Borno of Hope,” António Guterres told Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, who led efforts to resettle the people. displaced people in their communities.

Amid efforts to return displaced people to the homes they fled years earlier, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said on Sunday that the war against the militants was “nearing its end”.

But according to the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, the jihadist group – particularly its most dominant faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) – is “consolidating its grip on new rural areas in Borno State, central and southern Nigeria.”

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