from Africa in Transition

Nigeria: Kidnapping and Escape of Women and Girls

July 08, 2014

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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.