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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs