News / Africa

Economic Summit Opens Amid Despair in Nigeria

An armored vehicle is stationed outside the venue for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) meeting in Abuja, May 7, 2014.
An armored vehicle is stationed outside the venue for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) meeting in Abuja, May 7, 2014.
Heather Murdock
The World Economic Forum on Africa opens in Nigeria's capital today amid growing despair over hundreds of schoolgirls still missing after being kidnapped by Islamist militants three weeks ago.  Analysts say the event highlights Nigeria's increasing duality: It is the biggest economy in Africa, but authorities can not even keep children safe in their schools. 
 
In five years of insurgency, emotions have never been more raw in Nigeria than the past three weeks as the country waits and prays for the rescue of the girls.
 
Protests have grown bolder and the government does not seem to, or cannot object. 
 
Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade speaks to people at a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls from the Chibok government secondary school, outside the defense headquarters, in Abuja, May 6, 2014.Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade speaks to people at a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls from the Chibok government secondary school, outside the defense headquarters, in Abuja, May 6, 2014.
x
Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade speaks to people at a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls from the Chibok government secondary school, outside the defense headquarters, in Abuja, May 6, 2014.
Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade speaks to people at a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls from the Chibok government secondary school, outside the defense headquarters, in Abuja, May 6, 2014.
Major General Chris Olukolade, the director of defense information, stands by quietly until protest leaders hand him the bullhorn at a protest Tuesday evening outside army headquarters.
 
“Be sure that we listen to you and your protest is understood.  Thank you," he said.

He promises to meet privately with protest leaders to discuss the rescue of the girls.  

Boko Haram, a Islamist militant group, claims to be holding the girls as “slaves” to be sold at the market.

“All we are saying is bring back our girls," sing the protesters.  "Alive! Now!  All we are saying is bring back our girls. Alive! Now!”

The next morning, the city is quiet as the World Economic Forum on Africa opens.  Schools, government offices and many businesses are closed. 

The roads are mostly empty, but the number of large black SUVs and truckloads of
Oba Otudeko (2nd L), chairman of Nigeria's Honeywell Group, arrives for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Abuja, May 7, 2014.Oba Otudeko (2nd L), chairman of Nigeria's Honeywell Group, arrives for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Abuja, May 7, 2014.
x
Oba Otudeko (2nd L), chairman of Nigeria's Honeywell Group, arrives for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Abuja, May 7, 2014.
Oba Otudeko (2nd L), chairman of Nigeria's Honeywell Group, arrives for the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) in Abuja, May 7, 2014.
heavily armed soldiers is notable.  
 
More than a thousand business leaders, officials and heads of state gather in Abuja’s posh hotels for the first day of the forum.  They discuss not just how to grow African economies, but how to include the regular people in growth on the world’s poorest continent.

“The March news about Nigeria becoming Africa’s largest economy, the hosting of the World Economic Forum at the same time that this security situation is evolving, potentially escalating, it really highlights the stark contrast that you have in Nigeria.  It really is a country of extremes," said Elizabeth Donnelly, a research fellow at Chatham House, a London-based think tank.

Outside the hotels, military men wear flak jackets, aware that this international conference would be an obvious terrorist target, and they would be the obvious victims.
 
Campaign of terror

Boko Haram has killed thousands of people in five years of insurgency, including hundreds of school children.

Last month nearly a hundred people were killed in bombings just outside the capital
A crowd gathers at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja, Nigeria, April 14, 2014.A crowd gathers at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja, Nigeria, April 14, 2014.
x
A crowd gathers at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja, Nigeria, April 14, 2014.
A crowd gathers at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja, Nigeria, April 14, 2014.
and Boko Haram has threatened more attacks in Abuja.
 
Some activists say the security personnel amassed for the forum should be out searching for the girls.
 
“It’s very painful because we have a crisis on the ground that we need something to be done about the girls by now,” said Candy Nathan at a protest, now known as a #BringBackOurGirls rally.
 
Forum, a prestige event

Other protesters say the economic summit will boost Nigeria’s international prominence and its economy, a task that should not stop because of terrorists.

Ojonwa Miachi is an activist carrying a sign that says “Bring back our girls.  Now and
Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, May 6, 2014.Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, May 6, 2014.
x
Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, May 6, 2014.
Women attend a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, May 6, 2014.
alive!”

“I feel that the World Economic Forum, it’s a symbol that… life can’t stop.  The country has to run and the country has go on.  The country has to also find its girls,” said Miachi.

Eight more girls were kidnapped Tuesday in northeast Nigeria, a region where three states have been under emergency rule for almost a year.  On Tuesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announced the United States had offered to send “security personnel and assets” to help rescue the girls and Nigeria accepted.
 
  • Former French first ladies Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (left) and Valerie Trierweiler (right) stand with politicians and entertainment artists holding a banner that reads "Leaders, bring back our girls" during a demonstration near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, May 13, 2014.
  • Former French first lady Valerie Trierweiler stands near a placard that reads "Bring back our girls" during a demonstration to pressure government leaders to help search for the Nigerian schoolgirls, near the Eiffel Tower, Paris, May 13, 2014. 
  • Nigerians take part in a protest, called by Malaga's Nigerian women Association, for the release of the abducted schoolgirls, at La Merced square in Malaga, southern Spain May 13, 2014. 
  • Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, Nigeria's top military spokesman (left), Director General, National Orientation Agency, Mike Omeri (center) Frank Mba National police spokesman attend a press conference on the abducted school girls in Abuja, Nigeria, May 12, 2014.
  • Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, speaks to the camera in a video released by the extremist militant group, May 12, 2014.
  • This video released by the extremist militant group, Boko Haram, shows the alleged missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok, May 12, 2014.
  • Demonstrators carry a banner with an image of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau as they demand the release of the abducted schoolgirls, Lagos, Nigeria, May 12, 2014.
  • Protesters demonstrate against the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in Nigeria, outside the Nigerian Embassy, London May 9, 2014.
  • A sign is pinned to a tree during a demonstration against the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria, outside the Nigerian Embassy, in London, May 9, 2014. 
  • People carry signs as they attend a protest demanding the release of the schoolgirls who were abducted from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos, May 9, 2014.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs