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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
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 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.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs