ALL ABOUT THE KIDNAP CHIBOK GIRLS IN NIGERIA
On the night of 14–15 April 2014, 276 female students were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. Responsibility for the kidnappings was claimed by Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization based in northeast Nigeria.
As of 29 June, more than 200 students were still missing. Boko Haram has said that it wants to sell the girls.
Since 2010, Boko Haram has targeted schools, killing hundreds of students. A spokesperson for the group said such attacks would continue as long as the Nigerian government continued to interfere with traditional Islamic education. 10,000 children have been unable to attend school as a result of activities by Boko Haram. Boko Haram has also been known to kidnap girls, whom it believes should not be educated, and use them as cooks or sex slaves.
On the night of 14–15 April 2014, a group of militants attacked the Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Nigeria. They broke into the school, pretending to be guards, telling the girls to get out and come with them. A large number of students were taken away in trucks, possibly into the Konduga area of the Sambisa Forest where Boko Haram were known to have fortified camps. Houses in Chibok were also burned down in the incident. The school had been closed for four weeks prior to the attack due to the deteriorating security situation, but students from multiple schools had been called in to take final exams in physics.
There were 530 students from multiple villages registered for the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination, although it is unclear how many were in attendance at the time of the attack. The children were aged 16 to 18 and were in their final year of school. Initial reports said 85 students had been kidnapped in the attack. Over the 19–20 April weekend, the military released a statement that said more than 100 of 129 kidnapped girls had been freed. However, the statement was retracted, and on 21 April, parents said 234 girls were missing. A number of the students escaped the kidnappers in two groups. According to the police, approximately 276 children were taken in the attack, of whom 53 had escaped as of 2 May. Other reports said that 329 girls were kidnapped, 53 had escaped and 276 were still missing.
Amnesty International said it believes the Nigerian military had four hours advanced warning of the kidnapping, but failed to send reinforcements to protect the school. Nigeria’s armed forces have confirmed that the Nigerian military had four hour advance notice of the attack but said that their over-extended forces were unable to mobilize reinforcements.
Jonathan N.C. Hill of King’s College, London, has pointed out that Boko Haram kidnapped these girls after coming increasingly under the influence of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and asserts that the group’s goal is to use girls and young women as sexual objects and as a means of intimidating the civilian population into non-resistance. Hill describes the attacks as similar to Islamist kidnappings of girls in Algeria in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The students have been forced to convert to Islam and into marriage with members of Boko Haram, with a reputed “bride price” of ₦2,000 each ($12.50/£7.50). Many of the students were taken to the neighbouring countries of Chad and Cameroon, with sightings reported of the students crossing borders with the militants, and sightings of the students by villagers living in the Sambisa Forest. The forest is considered a refuge for Boko Haram. Local residents have been able to track the movements of the students with the help of contacts across north eastern Nigeria.
On 2 May, police said they were still unclear as to the exact number of students kidnapped. They asked parents to provide documents so an official count could be made, as school records had been damaged in the attack. On 4 May, the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, spoke publicly about the kidnapping for the first time, saying the government was doing everything it could to find the missing girls. At the same time, he blamed parents for not supplying enough information about their missing children to the police.
On 5 May, a video in which Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnappings emerged. Shekau claimed that “Allah instructed me to sell them…I will carry out his instructions.” and “Slavery is allowed in my religion, and I shall capture people and make them slaves.” He said the girls should not have been in school and instead should have been married since girls as young as nine are suitable for marriage.
Following the kidnapping incident, Boko Haram again abducted another eight girls, aged between 12–15, from northeastern Nigeria, a number later raised to eleven.
Chibok is primarily a Christian village and Shekau acknowledged that many of the girls seized were not Muslims: “The girls that have not accepted Islam, they are now gathered in numbers…and we treat them well the way the Prophet Muhammad treated the infidels he seized.”
On 5 May, at least 300 residents of the nearby town of Gamboru Ngala were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants after Nigerian security forces had left the town to search for the kidnapped students. On 9 May, former Boko Haram negotiator, Shehu Sani, stated that the group wanted to swap the abducted girls for its jailed members. On 11 May, Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State in Nigeria, said that he had sighted the abducted girls and that the girls were not taken across the borders of Cameroon or Chad. On 12 May, Boko Haram released a video showing about 130 kidnapped girls, each clad in a hijab and a long Islamic chador, and demanded a prisoner exchange.
A journalist-brokered deal to secure the release of the girls in exchange for prisoners held in Nigerian jails was scrapped at a late stage on 24 May after President Goodluck Jonathan consulted with U.S., Israeli, French and British foreign ministers in Paris, where the consensus was that no deals should be struck with terrorists, and that a solution involving force was required.
On 26 May, the Nigerian Chief of Defence Staff announced that the Nigerian security forces had located the kidnapped girls, but ruled out a forceful rescue attempt for fears of collateral damage.
On 30 May, it was reported that a civilian militia in the Baale region of Northeastern Nigeria found two of the kidnapped girls raped, “half-dead,” and tied to a tree. Villagers said the Boko Haram group had left the two girls, and killed four other disobedient girls and buried them. 223 were still missing.
On 24 June, it was reported that 91 more women and children were abducted in other areas of Borno State. On 26 June, it was announced that Levick, a Washington, D.C. public relations firm, had received “a contract worth more than $1.2 million” from the government of Nigeria to work on “the international and local media narrative” surrounding the Chibok schoolgirl kidnapping.
On July 1, a businessman suspected of carrying out the kidnappings of the school girls, as well as the bombing of a busy market in northeastern Nigeria, was arrested. Military sources said that he was also accused of helping the Islamist militant group kill the traditional leader Emir of Gwoza.
On 15 July, Mohammed Zakari, a high-ranking member of Boko Haram was arrested at Darazo-Basrika Road while fleeing from the counter insurgency operations going on around the Balmo Forest.
After the kidnapping, Governor Kashim Shettima demanded to visit Chibok, despite being advised that it was too dangerous. The military was working with vigilantes and volunteers to search the forest near the Nigeria-Cameroon border on 21 April. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNICEF condemned the abduction, as did former Nigerian military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The UN Security Council also condemned the attack and warned of action against Boko Haram Militants for abducting the girls.
Parents and others took to social media to complain about the government’s perceived slow and inadequate response. The news caused international outrage against Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. On 30 April and 1 May, protests demanding greater government action were held in several Nigerian cities. Most parents, however, were afraid to speak publicly for fear their daughters would be targeted for reprisal. On 3 and 4 May, protests were held in major Western cities including Los Angeles and London. At the same time, the hash tag #BringBackOurGirls began to trend globally on Twitter as the story continued to spread and by 11 May it had attracted 2.3 million tweets. A woman who helped organise protests was detained by the police, apparently because the First Lady of Nigeria, Patience Jonathan, felt slighted when the woman showed up for a meeting instead of the mothers of victims. The woman was released soon after. Reports said the First Lady had further incensed protestors by suggesting some abduction reports were faked by Boko Haram supporters. Several online petitions were created to pressure the Nigerian government to act against the kidnapping. On 30 April, hundreds marched on the National Assembly to demand government and military action against the kidnappers.
The President of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria called on Muslims to fast and pray “in order to seek Allah’s intervention in this precarious time.” Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, also called for prayers and intensified efforts to rescue the students. On 9 May, Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State called on all Muslims and Christians to join in “three days of prayers and fasting.” On the same day, Muslims in Cameroon called on fellow believers not to marry any of the girls should they be offered to them. On the same day, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, joined other religious leaders in the Muslim world in condemning the kidnappings, describing Boko Haram as misguided and intent on smearing the name of Islam. He stated that Islam is against kidnapping, and that marrying kidnapped girls is not permitted.
The scale of the kidnapping was unprecedented, which led former United States Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell to declare that Boko Haram’s strength “appears to be increasing. The government’s ability to provide security to its citizens appears to be decreasing.” Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, J. Peter Pham, said “The failure of the government to even get a clear count further reinforces a perception of systemic governmental failure”.The Economist “labeled President Goodluck Jonathan as incompetent,” saying that Jonathan and the Nigerian military “cannot be trusted any longer to guarantee security for Nigerians,” adding that “the worst aspect of the Nigerian government’s handling of the abduction is its seeming indifference to the plight of the girls’ families. It took more than two weeks before Jonathan addressed the matter in public.” Jonathan later attributed his silence to his desire not to compromise the details of security efforts carried out to rescue the girls. President Jonathan also engaged a public relations firm, Levick, for $1.2m to improve the public presentation of his handling of the crisis.
On 22 July, the militant group again attacked the nearby villages, killing at least 51 people including 11 parents of the abducted girls. On 23 and 24 July, vigils and protests were held around the world to mark 100 days since the kidnapping.
ALL ABOUT THE KIDNAP CHIBOK GIRLS IN NIGERIA