Nigeria's Boko Haram Kidnapping Outrage

May 15, 2014
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While Chicagoans are hoping and praying that the violence here subsides, thousands of miles away Nigerians are tormented with the horrifying kidnapping of young girls that have garnered international headlines.

Suspected Boko Haram Islamists have kidnapped more than 208 girls from Nigeria’s embattled northeast. 200 schoolgirls were abducted on April 14th from the town of Chibok. 8 girls were taken from their village in Warabe this week. Many say the international attention getting headlines of the ongoing kidnappings of schoolgirls is an all out grim taunting of the government of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Boko Haram chief Abubakar Shekau said the extremist Islamist group was holding the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok on April 14 as “slaves,” and threatened to “sell them in the market, “ in a video obtained by Agence France-Presse. The parents of those taken from Chibok said Shekau’s video had made an already horrifying situation even worse.” This only brought more fear and realism to the to the parents of the hostages as they try not to think of what just may happen to their daughters.

The latest kidnappings also took place in Borno state, the home base of the Islamist group. The gunmen moved from door to door looking for girls late Sunday. The girls were taken by force and surprisingly no one was killed. The motive was simply abducting girls. The military and police had not yet deployed to the area which has no security. There’s no one there to stop the girls from being taken.

Outrage builds

Initially slow to emerge, global outrage has flared over the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls when Boko Haram stormed their school and loaded them onto trucks.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday called the kidnappings “disgusting” while US senators urged Washington to intervene.

“We cannot close our eyes to the clear evidence of barbarity unfolding before us in Nigeria,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, her voice breaking as she addressed the Senate on Monday. The United Nations warned that the sale of the girls could be a crime against humanity.

Egypt’s prestigious Islamic institute Al-Azhar which runs the main Sunni Islamic university in the region, said harming the girls “completely contradicts the teachings of Islam.”

Angelina Jolie, speaking in Paris about her latest film “Maleficent”, condemned the Chibok abductions as “unthinkable cruelty and evil.”

Taken abroad?

Just as many Chicagoans have criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago police Superintendent GarryMcCarthy for failing to seek additional help with the violence, parents of the abductees have criticized the military’s rescue mission, saying there had been a lack of urgency from the outset.

The military said it had launched a major search operation, including in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno, where Boko Haram has well-fortified camps. The US State Department said there were indications the girls had been moved into neighboring countries, echoing unconfirmed reports from local leaders in Chibok who claimed the hostages had been sold as brides to Islamist fighters in Cameroon and Chad.

One of the parents Enoch Mark, has become an outspoken government critic since his daughter was kidnapped, said that the military was still not doing nearly enough. “Boko Haram are not spirits or extra-terrestrial creatures that cannot be tracked and subdued.”

President under pressure

Pressure on Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been building since the kidnapping. In April a car bombing ripped through a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Abuja killing 75 people, (the deadliest attack ever in the capital) and a copycat bombing at the same station killed 19 people on May 1st.

Jonathan had hoped that a World Economic Forum summit which opened in Abuja on Wednesday May 7th, would highlight Nigeria’s economic progress.

Amid the bloodshed, there is an economic story to tell. Nigeria’s economy is among the fastest-growing in the world, with gross domestic product rising at more than 7 percent per year. The per capita GDP has nearly tripled since 2000, and a Citigroup report published two years ago predicted the economy would be the world’s fastest-growing between 2010–2050.  Although Nigeria is the world’s eighth-largest exporter of oil, its economy is diverse. Agriculture, minerals, gold, coal, telecommunications and banking have all grown rapidly in recent years.

The recent violence has many questioning whether Nigeria has the capacity to contain the insurgents who have killed thousands since 2009. Boko Haram’s group which says it wants to create an Islamic state in mainly Muslim northern Nigeria, has vowed to carryout further attacks across the country, including in the Niger Delta, home to Africa’s largest oil industry.

The Jonathan administration’s apparent bungling of the kidnappings, only the latest in a long series of atrocities committed by Boko Haram, runs counter to the image of competence Nigeria desperately seeks to portray to the international community.

The administration created a credibility problem when it claimed that most of the girls had been rescued and then retracting the statement after the school’s principal and the parents refuted the claim. The outrage against the government increased when parents who had embarked on a self-help rescue mission to Sambisa forest with the help of local hunters, had to turn back out of fear that Boko Haram would kill not only them but also their daughters.

Prosperity not to be highlighted

The prosperity is not center stage in Abuja, after Boko Haram’s latest acts of brutality. Humanitarian groups say the group has the potential for destabilizing the new economic engine of Africa.

“Nigerian could potentially go the way of Syria, civil war between a weak government and emboldened terrorists,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, a Christian advocacy group. “Instability is growing because of the failure of western governments, including the US government, to forcefully identify the clear and present danger Boko Haram is to a peaceful Nigeria.”

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