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

“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.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs