John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Nigeria: Kidnapping and Escape of Women and Girls

by John Campbell
July 8, 2014

Campaigners attend a speak-out session for the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign in the rain near Nigeria's Lagos Marina, July 5, 2014. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)


Western attention continues to focus on the kidnapping of up to three hundred school girls from the Chibok Secondary School in April. Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. There has been an international outcry and offers of assistance from Western countries. The United States offered surveillance aircraft and unmanned drones. Nevertheless, the girls have not been located, much less rescued.

The escape on July 4 or July 5 of some sixty-seven women and girls highlights that Boko Haram continues to target women. The media is reporting that the women took advantage of a reduction in their guards as many Boko Haram fighters deployed on an operation against a military facility. The remaining guards were weakened by fatigue caused by the Ramadan fast, which allowed the women and children to escape their camp. Some made their own ways home, others were subsequently found by military units.

The episode has thus had a happy ending, save for the five women and two girls who did not escape, according to the Nigerian media. But it highlights the suspicion and the lack of transparency that is characteristic of the struggle between the government and Boko Haram. The escaped women were among those kidnapped in mid-June from three villages. Initially, the security officials denied that the kidnapping had taken place. The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, insisted that it had. A subsequent investigating team determined that a total of seventy-one individuals had in fact been kidnapped. “The appearance of the sixty-three women is expected to go uncelebrated as the government would not want the attempt at a cover up to be made public,” reports This Day.

This Day also reports that the Borno state government had treated “with caution” the reported kidnapping of the seventy because the federal government had previously accused it of “masterminding” the kidnapping of the Chibok school girls. The Borno state governor, along with the two other governors of the states under the State of Emergency, belongs to the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, which will contest the presidency in February 2015.

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  • Posted by Ozichi Alimole, PhD

    Boko Haram is political terrorism, and this affirmation is getting clearer by the day. There’s a precedent in Nigeria to support this perspective. When some northern governors launched the sharia over a decade ago, the then president Obasanjo was asked to take stronger action to respond to sharia crisis. He ignored the pressures, declaring the brand of sharia emerging in Kaduna and other northern states as political sharia. What Obasanjo meant was that northern sharia was no more than a well-calculated strategy by ambitious governors to enhance their relevance in the Nigeria political architecture. Boko Haram has been following the same path.

    The dubious relationship between president Jonathan and the Borno State governor and a number of prominent northern leaders suggests that boko haram is more than an Al Qaeda affiliate. The organization may have been penetrated and hijacked by Al Qaeda just like the events we saw in Mali in 2013. But boko haram started out as a political terrorist pressure group to discredit the government of Nigeria.

    It seems quite obvious that boko haram enjoys the connivance and protection of powerful political groups in the north and elsewhere. Otherwise, how it is difficult to locate the terrorist hideout and the 300 hundred school children that were taken from Chibok?

    Until Nigeria and the international community recognize the political dimension of boko haram, the story of the missing children may repeat the mystery of the Malaysian Flight 370.

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