World News / Africa

    Mass Abduction Confounds Desperate Families, Nigerian Politics

    Borno State governor Kashim Shettima (left) visited the Chibok school where gunmen abducted more than 200 girls early last week.
    Borno State governor Kashim Shettima (left) visited the Chibok school where gunmen abducted more than 200 girls early last week.
    Ashenafi Abedje
    The long and violent insurgency of the militant Islamist Boko Haram in Nigeria’s northern states is focused on the April 14 kidnapping of more than 200 public school girls. The students were taken by gunmen from a state boarding school in Chibok, Borno State. The kidnappers are believed to be holding the girls captive in a vast forest near the Cameroon border.
     
    Boko Haram insurgents are believed to have conducted the night-time kidnapping, but no group has declared responsibility. Of an estimated 230 students aged 15 to 19 who were taken captive, about 5O are reported to have escaped and returned to their families. The Joint Task Force of Nigeria’s armed forces who claimed to be in hot pursuit has been silent of late. Earlier, a military spokesman claimed most of the girls had been freed. The government withdrew that statement when school officials and parents disputed their claim.
     
    Voice of America’s Ashenafi Abedje asked Chatham House’s Boko Haram expert, Elizabeth Donnelly, about the kidnapping and the events that followed.
     
    “It is most likely, yes, that this is a Boko Haram attack,” Donnelly said. “Simply to mention the scale of the attack … because they would need the transportation and the weaponry to carry out this attack.”
     
    Nigeria needs more statesmanship
     
    The Chatham House scholar discounted the notion that the rise of Boko Haram violence parallels the unusual move by President Goodluck Jonathan to extended rule of a Christian southern presidency.
     
    Elizabeth Donnelly explains Chibok kidnappings crisis to Ashenafi Abedje
    Elizabeth Donnelly explains Chibok kidnappings crisis to Ashenafi Abedjei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    “Leadership is certainly relevant here. Who is president does matter but it is not about where the president comes from necessarily. It’s about the statesmanship of the president. It’s about the president’s capacity to lead effectively, to deal with this crisis effectively,” she said.
     
    “It’s important to note that the group really emerged as a violent organization under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who, of course, was a northern president.”
     
    Boko Haram has consistently vowed that its goal is an independent Islamic state under sharia law.
     
    “I think it would be a mistake to think that if a northern president was elected in 2015 that Boko Haram crisis would go away,” Donnelly said.
     
    Desperate parents sought their own solution
     
    Donnelly said families of the Chibok students are frustrated that the abducted girls are still missing. After days of waiting for government action, some of the girls’ parents rode by motorcycle more than 50 kilometers into the Sambisa Forest in search of their daughters.
     
    “It is a real sign, I think, of the desperation of the parents that they are making this journey, seeking to go into the forest themselves,” Donnelly said.
     
    “This really shows the lack of trust they have in the security services in rescuing their daughters and that they feel that they would have to do this themselves. Because they would also know how lethal, how violent Boko Haram is.”
     
    She added, “Boko Haram is not a group that negotiates. Boko Haram has spent months, years rampaging, killing civilians. So it is a real risk for the parents. It would be a real surprise if they themselves would be able to locate their children. It is a real sign of their desperation.”
     
    Nigerian military faces new kind of threat
     
    Abedje asked Donnelly if Nigeria’s military can resolve the Chibok crisis.
     
    “I would say it does have the capability,” she said, but Nigeria’s air power is ineffective over the dense cover of the forest where they are believed to be held. “So it’s harder to locate them.”
     
    The greater challenge is mounting an assault without jeopardizing the lives of the girls.
     
    “It’s not to say they joint task force is necessarily short on equipment, but in many respects part of the difficulty in dealing with Boko Haram is it is a new kind of threat for Nigeria and for its security services,” said Donnelly.
     
     “At this moment, if this is a rescue operation, it is very much about prioritizing the safety of the girls rather than killing Boko Haram.”
     
    Northern governors playing a role
     
    Domestic politics are a key factor in a nation facing a security crisis with emergency rule and a president in Abuja who is considering a re-election bid in 2015.
     
    “In Borno State and Yobe State, the governors belong to opposition parties. Now, what it significant about the emergency rule that has been in place for almost a year now, is that ordinarily governors would be removed from those positions of power. This hasn’t been the case so far, which I would argue is a positive.”
     
    Donnelly believes the northern governors have “played a very significant role in terms of engaging with the Joint Task Force on the ground.”
    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora