The very worst moment

A piece by channel4 news on April 25th:

Amid mounting public fury and an international outcry over the fate of 230 kidnapped Nigerian teenaged girls – now missing for nearly two weeks – the mother of one of the girls has warned that unless they are rescued urgently, she and other parents would likely be collecting their children’s dead bodies.

Speaking by telephone from Chibok, the town in north-eastern Borno state where the girls were kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night, a distressed Mrs Rahila Bitrus told Channel 4 News of her family’s anguish and accused the Nigeriangovernment of failing to act fast enough.

“They’d assured us they would rescue our children but today, it’s 11 days since the abductions and we still haven’t seen our daughters,” she said. “We are going through the very worst moment of our lives.

“The kidnapping has caused us great pain and sorrow,” said Mrs Bitrus. “We are praying and fasting for the safe return of our daughters.”

Her 17-year-old daughter, Ruth, an art student at Chibok Government Girls’ Secondary School, was about to sit exams. Insurgents suspected of belonging to the jihadi group Boko Haram – whose name means “western education is forbidden” – abducted the girls from their dormitories, loading them onto trucks, before setting the boarding school ablaze.

The girls, who are all aged between 16 and 18 and mostly come from Christian families, are thought to be held captive in a notorious region of difficult, rough terrain called the Sembisa Forest, a known jungle hideout of Boko Haram in Borno State. Around 40 girls escaped early on. Their accounts appeared to confirm that the kidnappers were from Boko Haram.

I suppose their being mostly from Christian families makes them all the more likely to be badly treated – although Boko Haram seems to be eager to treat everyone as badly as possible, so maybe the religion doesn’t make any difference. Boko Haram doesn’t leave itself room to treat some people even worse than others.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he is “appalled” by the abductions. In a statement on Friday to Channel 4 News, he said he had discussed the kidnappings with the Nigerian foreign minister and was talking to the authorities about “how best to assist in their efforts to secure the girls’ release.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking as the United Nations special envoy for global education, said he too was in contact with the Nigerian authorities and had offered assistance. He told Channel 4 News: “The world must wake up to the escalating tragedy now engulfing Nigeria. Today the lives of 230 teenage schoolgirls hang in the balance.”

The Islamist militant sect’s escalating campaign of terror has killed more than 4,000 civilians in just four years. It claims to be fighting for an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, with strict adherence to Sharia law.

Wole Soyinka, Gordon Brown and human rights activists have expressed the widely-held fear that the girls could already be imprisoned in unreachable bush camps and held for years to be used as sex slaves. There is also speculation in Borno State that the girls are being used as human shields to deter military action against Boko Haram camps.

(One of the pictures being used on Twitter to petition for more efforts to find the missing schoolgirls).

There is much anger at the government.

Women’s rights activists – whose number include some of the missing girls’ mothers – have condemned the government’s rescue efforts as incompetent. They say they are ready to risk their own lives by storming the insurgents’ hideout themselves to persuade Boko Haram to release the girls.

“We are very angry,” women’s rights lawyer Hauwa Shekarau told Channel 4 News. “We are not happy with efforts so far and we are demanding the government do more.”

Ms Shekarau, who is President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers Nigeria, said civil society groups felt powerless in the face of deep-seated public mistrust of the federal government’s rescue efforts.

“Eleven days have gone by and we still have no information about the whereabouts of these girls,” she said.

Now it’s fifteen days.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    I can’t help noticing that “praying and fasting” isn’t doing diddly squat…

    So much of this has to do with economics. I think about what I, as a parent of a teenage daughter, would do in that situation. I’d go! I’d chase them down and do whatever it took! But these people can’t! To go takes wheels, to chase takes money. And they have none. They’re sitting ducks.

    Why is no one in the government willing to take matters into their own hands and go chase them down?? Isn’t there someone in the military who will go off the reservation, so to speak, go AWOL with whoever else can be talked into it and as many vehicles and weapons as they can gather, and risk the fallout of being the only person who is willing to do the right thing?

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Blanche Quizno @ # 1: Isn’t there someone in the military who will go off the reservation, so to speak, go AWOL with whoever else can be talked into it and as many vehicles and weapons as they can gather, and risk the fallout of being the only person who is willing to do the right thing?

    Calculate the probabilities of getting a large-enough armed force to defeat a sizable group of Boko Haram guerrillas close enough to where(ver) the hostages are being held to effect a rescue before their captors kill them, in rough terrain that only BH knows well.

    A big team of US Navy SEALs or suchlike “special forces”, fully equipped with a fleet of attack copters and reconnaissance drones and a well-supplied nearby staging area, with a great deal of luck might be able to pull off such a mission with less than 50% of the hostages dying. Nigeria has little to no resources of that sort available.

  3. says

    A plane with 239 people on board disappears from the sky and the media goes crazy for a month and more. The international mobilization of resources in search of the aircraft has been phenomenal, and continues to date, long after its passengers have been presumed dead. “I can tell you the United States is absolutely committed to providing whatever resources and assets that we can,” U.S. President Obama told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, with the Malaysian Prime Minister by his side just a few days ago.

    230+ girls are kidnapped a month later in Chibok, Nigeria, and are possibly raped, tortured, or killed as I write this. They could have been rescued with a fraction of the resources deployed for the search of MH370, if only there has been political will.

    Life, especially African girls’, is cheap.

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