World Community Galvanizes Against Emboldened Boko Haram Terrorists
By Mary Alice Miller
Nigeria has offered $300,000US for information leading to the return of almost 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. In response, Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram, has released a video saying he will release the schoolgirls in exchange for the freedom of imprisoned Boko Haram militants. The video depicts some 130 girls dressed in full-length hijabs while reading from the Koran. The Boko Haram leader declared that the girls had been converted to Islam. Three girls spoke in the video; two said they were Christian and had converted, one practiced Islam when she was kidnapped. The number of kidnapped schoolgirls – both Christian and Muslim – has grown from 234 to 276 because students from other schools were testing at the Chibok Government School for Girls at the time of the incident.
The Nigerian Government has rejected Boko Haram’s prisoner exchange offer, then seemed to backtrack as hostage negotiators (from all around the world) trek to that nation’s capital. At the World Economic Forum hosted by Nigeria last week, President Goodluck Jonathan said, “Let me take the opportunity to appreciate other countries that expressed their commitment to help us, especially in terms of rescuing these girls who were kidnapped from one of our secondary schools. I believe the kidnapping of these girls will be the beginning of the end of terror in Nigeria.”
If the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls and threatening to sell them into slavery wasn’t bad enough, last week the terrorist group kidnapped another eight girls (ages 12-15) from their individual homes in the village of Warabe. The group then waited until Nigerian security forces left Gamboru, a village in northeast Nigeria near the Cameroon border (presumably to search for the missing girls), circled the bustling merchant town and leveled it, slaughtering some 375 people.
It is suspected that Boko Haram has infiltrated all levels of the Nigerian Government.
The scale of Boko Haram savagery is not new, but the mass kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls caught the world’s attention in a way that the group’s other human rights violations have not.
Ordinary women in Nigeria and around the world raised awareness with the #bringbackourgirls Twitter campaign. Rallies in Nigeria, the United States and abroad have taken place at consulate offices to put pressure on the Nigerian Government to act.
Here in the United States, a bipartisan group of all 20 women U.S. senators called for the girl’s release. “We are outraged and horrified that these young women have been kidnapped, sold into slavery, had their education curtailed and may even have been forced into marriages,” said Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Education is a basic right for boys and girls who deserve an equal opportunity to pursue their education without fear of violence or retribution – no matter where they live. The Senate women stand united in condemning this reprehensible crime and are firm in our resolve that it will not be tolerated. We will not stand by and allow the Nigerian people to continue to be terrorized by Boko Haram and will continue to lead the effort to impose tough economic sanctions against this group.”
Calling Shekau “the lowest and worst type of human being,” the Congressional Black Caucus released a statement that said in part, “We are particularly troubled that Boko Haram is targeting girls, as girls around the world are the most in need of protection to feel safe when they attend school. Children’s rights are human rights, and every child has an absolute right to receive an education in a safe and protected environment.”
The CBC supports Secretary of State John Kerry’s decision to send a security team to Nigeria that includes military and law enforcement personnel capable of sharing expertise in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating and victim assistance with the Nigerian Government.
Nigeria, which has the largest economy and strongest military on the African continent, was at first hesitant to accept assistance with finding the kidnapped girls from the U.S. Government. In fact, President Goodluck Jonathan did not publicly acknowledge the kidnapped girls for two weeks. Additionally, First Lady Patience Jonathan had a protest organizer arrested for calling the kidnapped girls “our girls” and accused the organizer of posing as a parent.
Amnesty International has accused the Nigerian Government of botching an opportunity to prevent the kidnappings, stating that the Nigerian military had a four-hour advance notice of the Chibok kidnapping, yet took no action. The Nigerian Government denies the findings of Amnesty International’s investigation.
But worldwide public pressure has persuaded President Jonathan to acquiesce and accept help finding the missing girls.
In a statement the United Nations Security Council demanded the “immediate and unconditional release of all abducted girls still in captivity” and “further expressed their deep concern at statements made by the alleged leader of Boko Haram threatening to sell these girls as slaves.” Members of the Council expressed “profound outrage at and condemned in the strongest terms” the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls. The Council stated it intends to “actively follow the situation of the abducted girls and to consider appropriate measures against Boko Haram.”
“This may be the event that mobilizes the entire international community to do something against this horrendous organization that has perpetrated such a terrible crime,” said President Barack Obama. “We have already sent in a team to Nigeria… a combination of military, law enforcement and other agencies that are going in, trying to identify where in fact these girls might be.”
Michelle Obama used the President’s Weekly Address to call for the release of the schoolgirls. “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now,” said the First Lady. “This unconscionable act was committed by a terrorist group determined to keep these girls from getting an education – grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls. Let us hold their families in our hearts during this very difficult time, and let us show just a fraction of their courage in fighting to give every girl on this planet the education that is her birthright.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. “has no intention to put American boots on the ground” to find the kidnapped girls, but will “bring to bear every asset” to assist in finding them and returning them home.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder offered law enforcement assistance to assist the return of the girls and ordered an intelligence assessment of Boko Haram.
Secretary of State John Kerry said, “The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian Government to return these young women to their homes.”
The State Department’s annual report on global terrorism found that Boko Haram “receives the bulk of its funding from bank robberies and related criminal activities, including extortion and kidnapping for ransoms.”
The foundation for U.S. involvement began long before Boko Haram’s recent atrocities.
The initial iteration of Boko Haram was formed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. During the last five years, Boko Haram has engaged in attacks against schools, churches, military targets, government officials and Christian and Muslim civilians. The group is suspected of being supplied with weaponry as an al-Qaeda affiliate and sees itself as the Taliban of Nigeria. The group has attacked polio vaccine health workers and schools for girls in Nigeria just as those health workers and schools for girls are attacked in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
According to the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) in Nigeria – which has negotiated with Boko Haram – the group has a theocratic agenda to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state. Ironically, although Boko Haram rails against Western education, the Civil Rights Congress found several members of Boko Haram are educated with more than one academic degree.
While CRC/Boko Haram negotiations were taking place, both the United States (under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) and the Nigerian Government hesitated naming Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization for fear of lending legitimacy to the organization, among other concerns. The CRC/Boko Haram negotiations abruptly ended when the Nigerian Government engaged in a scorched Earth policy of mass arrests and gunfights in response to Boko Haram bombings, burnings and killings.
The United States named Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization in 2013.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for world engagement against Boko Haram’s terrorism. Israel has sent intelligence and security personnel to Nigeria. And in a few days France will host President Jonathan and neighboring countries Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin in a high-level strategy session to assist in crafting a response to Boko Haram’s terrorism. China has also offered assistance.
Normally, Black Nationalists and Pan-Africanists call for the United States to refrain from military engagement in Africa, as they did when Islamic terrorists used weaponry from Gaddafi’s arsenal to engage in terror inducing attacks in Timbuktu, Mali last year. But that same strategy of Western non-engagement led to 100 days of mass slaughter in Rwanda.
This time, if Black Nationalists and Pan-Africanists are calling for Western military nonengagement, their voices are being drowned out by the worldwide outrage from Black women and others in Nigeria and around the world. Black Nationalists and Pan-Africanists have no strategy for freeing the kidnapped girls or making the world safe for Black schoolgirls anywhere. Military nonengagement is not a proper response to Boko Haram’s terror tactics against girls.
Black cultural leadership can wax profoundly about European colonial expansion in Africa, but they don’t seem to have historical memories of Islam’s expansionist tactics in Africa centuries before colonialism. Most notably, media-savvy Minister Louis Farrakhan has not publicly said one word about the kidnapped schoolgirls.
Boko Haram’s kidnapping of girls is a classic expansionist tactic. When girls as young as 9 years old are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and then sold for a bride price, the girl’s resulting children are raised in Islam. Two generations later, the forced conversion is forgotten. Kidnapping girls is the chief method utilized by Islam to conquer large swaths of Africa.
“The worst human rights abuse on Earth right now is by far the abuse of women and girls,” said President Jimmy Carter. “And this takes place not only in every foreign country but also in the United States, quite severely.” Carter says one root cause of the abuse of women is the misreading of Scripture or sacred texts, legitimizing male dominance over females. “The great religions misinterpret their Scripture,” said Carter recently. “The male leaders of the great religions select verses from the Holy Bible, or from the Koran, that shows that women should be relegated to a secondary position in the eyes of God.”
“Women are more champions of peace on average, I would say, than men,” said Carter. “In every way, women need to be extolled, and they’ll make our society better.”