UAF-Africa Condemns Abduction of Chibok Schoolgirls in Borno
8th May 2014– On 14th April 2014, more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. The girls, aged between 16 and 18 years old, were rounded up at gunpoint in their hostel after armed militants overpowered the military guards outside their boarding school. As they made their escape, the militants burned down nearby buildings, and disappeared into Sambisa forest with the young female students.
The Government Secondary School, Chibok, an elite academy of both Muslim and Christian girls, had been closed for four weeks prior to the abduction due to increasingly deadly attacks by Boko Haram, but reopened to allow final-year students to take their exams.
Four days after the abduction, military spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade reported that 129 girls, which was the assumed number at the time, had been rescued. This statement was later retracted. Since the abduction, 53 students have escaped, leaving 220 hostages who are still in danger.
The mass kidnapping is one of the biggest attacks in Boko Haram’s five-year uprising, which has claimed thousands of lives across northern and central Nigeria. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, wants to impose a stricter enforcement of Shariah law in Nigeria. The group especially opposes the education of women. Under its version of Sharia law, women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write. The abduction not only shows the group’s hatred for Western education, but also their resentment towards educating young girls.
A recent spate of deadly attacks by the Islamist group has also terrorized the nation. On the same day in which the schoolgirls were kidnapped, a bomb blast in the capital, Abuja, also blamed on Boko Haram, killed 75 people, and marked the first attack on the capital in two years. Earlier this week, eight more girls between the ages of 12-15 were kidnapped from the village of Warabe in Borno. On Wednesday, 7 May, Boko Haram launched another grisly attack in Gamboru Ngala, an area that troops had been using as a base in the search for the missing schoolgirls.
In his 57-minute video obtained by Agence France-Presse (AFP), Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, threatened to sell the abducted girls, and warned that the group will attack more schools and kidnap more girls. “I will sell them in the market, by Allah. I will sell them off and marry them off. There is a market for selling humans,” said Shekau. This action is a clear violation of Article 21(2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which prohibits child marriage and violates Section 27 of the Child Rights Acts which provides that “No person shall remove or take a child out of the custody or protection of his father or mother, guardian or such other person having lawful care or in charge of the child against the will of the father, mother, guardian or other person.”
The plight of the kidnapped girls has drawn international attention and has sparked protests and global outrage, adding more pressure on the Nigerian government and international community to employ all its resources to the find the missing schoolgirls. In addition, a social media campaign to raise awareness globally about the kidnapping is gaining momentum, with celebrities and political figures adding their support using the trending hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. To date, over 1 million tweets have been posted using the hashtag.
On Sunday, 4 May 2014, three weeks after the abduction and international outcry, President Goodluck Jonathan finally broke his silence. In his presidential media chat, President Jonathan assured Nigerians that the young girls would be found and the abductors would be brought to justice. “We promise that, wherever these girls are, we’ll surely get them out,” said Jonathan. Since going public, the Nigerian government has taken gradual steps by creating a 30-member presidential fact-finding committee. The government is also setting up an information centre that will provide regular updates on the efforts to rescue the girls. The Nigerian police have also offered a $300,000 reward to anyone who could give information leading to the rescue of the abducted schoolgirls.
In addition, earlier this week, President Jonathan finally accepted the United States assistance after three weeks and repeated offers. The United States announced that it would assemble a special team comprised of military and law enforcement personnel skilled in intelligence, investigations, hostage negotiating, information sharing, and victim assistance. Also, in Washington, members of Congress have condemned the abduction in a bipartisan resolution, Res. 433, sponsored by Senators Landrieu, Boxer, Inhofe, Durbin, and Menendez.
In addition to the US stepping in to assist Nigeria in the search and rescue of the schoolgirls, the United Kingdom and China have also offered to assist Nigeria in finding and securing the release of the girls.
The kidnappings, and other recent attacks by Boko Haram, have overshadowed Nigeria’s hosting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) which kicked off on Wednesday evening.
At Urgent Action Fund-Africa (UAF-Africa), we support and join hands in solidarity with our Nigerian sisters and activists who are using every means, including street protest and social media to spur action so that the girls of Chibok are returned to their families. We are constantly monitoring this situation, and reaching out to civil society organizations and activists working on the issue and discussing how we can provide additional assistance.
Appropriate and urgent action must be taken to free these young women before they are trafficked or killed. Every day the schoolgirls are held captive, they are at greater risk of falling victim to forced child marriage. We urge the Nigerian government to take responsibility to locate the girls and to take steps to mitigate the impact of attacks on women and girls’ rights. We also call for the government to work closely with the Chibok community and to provide support to the families affected.
As Nigerians and the world community holds their breath for the safe return of the abducted schoolgirls, we also must hope that the kidnappers will be brought to justice and that Nigeria can lead the way on human rights protection.
Please join us by signing this petition. And, let’s continue to raise our voices.
For more information, contact:
Communications & Knowledge Management Program Officer, UAF-Africa
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