Maiduguri, Nigeria

03 May 2022

Secretary-General's opening remarks at Press encounter with the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Umara Zulump

António Guterres

This visit was supposed to take place last week. Unfortunately, I had to go to Moscow and Kyiv, as you know.

It was a visit of solidarity, especially with the victims of terrorism, in the holy month of Ramadan. The fact that I came to Borno State is symbolic of our priority to the world to fight terrorism and to create solutions for the victims of terrorism.

Now, the Borno State I have heard about in many circumstances around my life as High Commissioner for Refugees and then as Secretary-General was a Borno State of terrorism, of violence, of displacement, of despair.

This is not the Borno that I found today.

The Borno I found today is a Borno of hope. It’s a Borno with future and I was very impressed to see the policy that is being applied here, recognizing that we don’t fight terrorism just by military means.

In fact, terrorism – addressing the root causes of terrorism – and the policy of the government, which is aiming at reestablishing fully the confidence between the people and the government is an essential element that I witnessed today being implemented in reality.

And on the other hand, it is absolutely essential to understand that, in a situation like this, it’s not enough to provide humanitarian assistance. I am grateful to all those from the international community that have supported the people of Borno with humanitarian assistance.

But the people I met today want more than that. The people I met today in reality want to go back home in safety and dignity.  And when one looks at the State, one understands that the way to [fight] terrorism effectively, is to provide not only hope, but a future of reality. It is to invest in livelihoods, it is to invest in the reintegration of those that have been in the past recruited by these terrorist groups, by Boko Haram.

I was amazed to see today in the centre [that] those that have been terrorists, they want to integrate in the society and contribute to society. And the policy that is in place here is a policy of reconciliation, it is a policy of reintegration and it is a policy aiming at a development perspective to allow for terrorism to be definitely eliminated …thank to the fact that people are able to construct their future in confidence with those that are governing them.

I want to congratulate the Governor for what I have seen today and to tell him that I want to appeal strongly to the international community to understand Borno as a state of hope, to support humanitarian action in Borno and to recognize the enormous challenges that Borno faces with climate change, with still Boko Haram active even if weakened, and to invest in the Borno of hope, to provide support to the projects of the government of Borno and of the civil society in Borno in order to create the conditions for real development; to create the conditions in which schools work, hospitals work, jobs exist. In which people get to live in peace and people get to live in solidarity.

So, I will be your advocate, Mr. Governor. Your advocate within the international community, asking the international community to support and to invest in the Borno of hope.