This article was written by Fifi Baleva. Fifi is an undergraduate student at the American University in Washington D.C.
On April 14th over 200 school girls were kidnapped by the extremist organization Boko Haram from their dormitory in Chibok, Nigeria. Rallies calling for the return of the girls have mobilized all over Nigeria and around the West. International leaders have supplied surveillance technology to help the search. France has promised to send a special team to Nigeria while China has assured that any satellite images which may be a lead will be given to the Nigerian government. Britain has sent spy planes which map the terrain and produce 3D images while the U.S. has sent an intelligence team of its own. Yet, despite these efforts, a month later the girls have not been found. And the reason for this may be the world’s unwillingness to acknowledge that Nigeria needs more help.
Evidence has mounted about Nigeria’s inability to handle the crisis which has unfolded in the past month. Human rights organizations have accused the Nigerian government of knowing about the attack before it happened but not acting adequately in response. According to Amnesty International the Nigerian military had more than four hours of warning about the raids but it did not do anything because of fear of engaging with the better armed militant group. One parent claimed he believes the kidnapping has a political stem since the military had prior information. In fact, Nigerians theorize that Boko Haram is being funded and encouraged by the current president’s adversaries who have vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable.
Yet, the international community does not know this because of the Nigerian government’s lack of transparency. Throughout the crisis the Nigerian government has appeared indecisive and unwilling to keep the world informed. After the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau,asked for an exchange of Boko Haram prisoners for the kidnapped girls president Goodluck Jonathan initially sent signals that he would be willing to negotiate. However, Britain’s minister of Africa, Mark Simmonds stated that he was told there would be no negotiations for a prisoner exchange. After the news of the girls’ disappearance first came to light the Nigerian military made a statement that the girls were discovered only to later detract it to say they were still missing. Most statements made by Nigerian authorities have been equally as unclear and misleading.
This lack of transparency has been coupled with high anxiety among military members. Stories have surfaced about conflict within the Nigerian military which is inadequately equipped to deal with Boko Haram. On Wednesday Major General Ahmed Mohammed was attacked by frustrated soldiers who blamed him for the death of their colleagues who were killed by Boko Haram in an ambush on their way back from Chibok town. The soldiers said they were not prepared to battle the extremists and they were not compensated for being on the front line as previously promised. The military’s hesitation to battle extremists has caused citizens to turn to self defense. Military presence in Borno state has been weak even after the Nigerian government declared a six month state of emergency in the region. This led the residents of three villages to form a vigilante group on Tuesday, killing 200 Boko Haram members on their own.
However, despite the shortcomings of Nigerian communication and military the Nigerian government has been reluctant to explicitly ask for more international aid. President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted intelligence and teams of experts from the West but such logistical aid has not been enough. Time is of the essence so the international community must do everything it can to assure the safe return of the girls. Many countries have spent years battling terrorism and can provide vital information to the Nigerian government such as how to conduct negotiations and capture terrorists. The international community can and should do more for Nigeria. But before more help can be sent, the world must recognize that in its current state the Nigerian government cannot resolve this crisis alone. And more importantly, it should not have to.
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