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.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs