mercredi 7 mai 2014

#BringBackOurGirls : Finding the 223 #schoolgirls #Nigeria

On April 14th 2014 at night, schoolgirls were relaxing in their dorms at the Government Girls Secondary School in the northern Nigerian town of Chibok when gunmen arrived in trucks, cars and on motorcycles. After shooting the guards, and setting fire to houses, the heavily armed group kidnapped nearly 300 of the girls and drove off into the Nigerian bush. Few of them were able to flee but 223 girls haven't been heard from since.

And the media, for the most part, has remained largely silent. Coverage of the missing girls has been dwarfed by the other major stories of late — the racist NBA owner, the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, the South Korean ferry and the coming civil war in Ukraine. What if 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped the same way by a terrorist group in UK, Japan, Germany, Canada or South Africa ? According to CNN's Frida Ghitis, « if it had happened anywhere else, this would be the world's biggest story ».

Fortunately, three weeks later, a hashtag associated with their disappearance has been tweeted nearly 1 million times : #BringBackOurGirls . Many websites published the namelist or these missing schoolgirls.

Nigeria's Islamic extremist leader, Abubakar Shekau, has claimed responsibility for the abduction and has threatened to sell the girls (from 9 to 18). In a one hour video, he said: « By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace. » 

He also warned that Boko Haram will attack more schools and abduct more girls. Boko Haram means « Western education is sinful. »

Boko Haram is an extremist monster born from religious tensions between the islamic Northern Nigeria and the christian (catholic, protestant) Southern Nigeria. Moreover, female education is slowly getting better in many african countries (helped by their growing or emerging economies) then changing many issues in traditional rôle models. Such kind of girl/boy market (slavery, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, forced labour, etc) do exist between West and Central Africa - two regions much wider than US from east to west - for centuries. 

US officials, many African newspapers and few eyewitnesses have said they are worried that many of the schoolgirls who were abducted in Nigeria last month may have now been smuggled across Nigeria's borders into neighbouring countries (Cameroon, Chad) which could complicate the search to find them. The Nigerian and Cameroonian polices and armies were always unable to track or fight jihadist groups for one main reason : they are well trained for homeland repression and much less for border protection and antiterrorism. It's completely different for the Chadian army who bashed Kadhafi's army in the 1980s (with its very efficient Toyota war) and inflicted serious losses to jihadist groups in Mali and Niger on winter-spring 2013.

As anger and frustration escalates in Nigeria at the government's failure to find the girls, six US senators have introduced a resolution calling for action. Nigeria's president has appealed for international help to find, and ensure the release of, 276 schoolgirls abducted by suspected Boko Haram fighters. Jonathan Goodluck said on Sunday that he had sought help from the US President Barack Obama, and also approached other world powers including Britain, France and China for help on security issues. He assured that « the disappearance of the girls would not be another global mystery » in reference to the missing Malaysian passenger jet that has not been found despite the vast multi-national search deployed.

A statement from Jonathan's office said the US offer « includes the deployment of U.S. security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation. » The statement added that Nigeria's security agencies are working at « full capacity » to find the girls and welcomes the addition of American « counter-insurgency know-how and expertise. »

From Mali to Cameroon through Nigeria and Niger, the fight against multiple jihadist threats is just starting and too many African governements are not aware of the danger they represent for their security and their social landscapes. 

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