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

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs